The University of Phoenix and the Economic Organization of Higher Education

12 February 2007 at 3:29 pm 39 comments

| Peter Klein |

The Sunday New York Times features a lengthy, and mostly unflattering, look at the University of Phoenix, the world’s largest for-profit university. The tenor of the Times piece is set by the headline, “Troubles Grow for a University Built on Profits” — the p-word clearly chosen to shock the Times’s modal reader. (Where were the stories on the Times’s Judith Miller scandal titled “Troubles Grow for a Newspaper Built on Profits”?)

What’s remarkable about the article is not the conclusion, which is largely predictable, but the form of the argument. There is no attempt to evaluate the University of Phoenix’s efficiency or profitability, the quality of its product, or the value added of its degree. (Just a few quotes from disgruntled students, taken at face value; obviously no one at the Times reads Rather, the focus is on the production function. Because Phoenix uses an unusual production technology, the Times implies, its product is suspect.

Consider the specific complaints listed in the article. The University of Phoenix:

1. Relies on part-time, contract faculty.

2. Uses an accelerated schedule, in which students graduate in about half the time as traditional programs.

3. Eschews expensive campus facilities by locating in suburban office buildings, close to freeways.

4. Exploits economies of scale by centralizing course design, using a standard syllabus for each course at all campuses.

5. Relies heavily on online instruction, with reduced in-class interaction between students and professors.

None of this strikes the organizational economist as strange or suspicious. On the contrary, the fact that universities have changed their basic production and delivery systems so little, in the face of rapid technological change, increased global competition, and the like, is a testament to the highly regulated, bureaucratized, and stiflingly inefficient structure of the higher-education market. 

Is the Phoenix model better or worse than the traditional model? Who knows. No one is compelled to attend the University of Phoenix. Why not let a thousand flowers bloom? Universities claim to promote experimentation, creativity, and diversity, but when it comes to experimentation and diversity in the production and delivery of higher education, the established universities express shock and alarm. “Their business degree is an M.B.A. Lite,” says Columbia University education professor Henry Levin. “I’ve looked at their course materials. It’s a very low level of instruction.” Well, sure, compared to what Columbia University offers. Likewise, a Toyota Corolla doesn’t measure up to a 7-series BMW. Must we all drive BMWs, or go without a car?

To its credit, the Times does mention that schools like Phoenix serve a very different clientele — working adults, going to school part-time — than that served by Princeton or INSEAD or the University of Missouri. But the writer forgets about selection bias in comparing Phoenix’s low graduation rate to the national average. The appropriate question there is how well the students attending Phoenix would do if they attended Princeton, not how well they do compared to the students currently attending Princeton. I think I’ll send the writer a copy of Phil Rosenzweig’s book.

Update: The UoP has released this response, calling the Times piece “ridden with factual errors and misrepresentations.” For instance:

The 16 percent graduation rate cited by the New York Times applies to only 7 percent of University of Phoenix’s total student population. The federal standard used to calculate this rate requires universities to report only those students with no prior college experience. The vast majority of students attending University of Phoenix enrolled with a significant level of prior college course work as well as professional experience and therefore cannot be reported into the federal database.

Counting all students, the university says, its graduation rate averages 50 to 60 percent, about the same as that for traditional public colleges.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions, Management Theory, Teaching, Theory of the Firm.

Most Interesting Syllabus I Saw Today Which Economies do Economists Study?

39 Comments Add your own

  • 1. spostrel  |  12 February 2007 at 5:15 pm

    I’m all for a thousand flowers blooming and open competition in education. I’m not so excited about my tax money being pumped into UOP at such a high rate without some indication that a public purpose is being served.

    I’d trust UOP, or any private alternative, a lot more if they refused government loan subsidies. I also noted that the new CEO didn’t exactly give a ringing defense of their past practices, although that could be the New York Times’s anti-market bias filtering out his best lines.

  • […] Klein at the always excellent Organizations & Markets Blog has a characteristically excellent post on the New York Times’ characteristically anti-market article on the University of Phoenix […]

  • 3. Nelson-Porter  |  13 February 2007 at 9:48 am

    Is the New York Times considered a peer-reviewed or scholarly source? Can the article written by Dillon be considered and referenced (cited) as a scholarly piece of work in a dissertation or thesis?

    According to ProQuest in 2003, a peer-reviewed article has gone through an official editorial process that involved review and approval by the author’s peers, whom were experts in the same subject matter (Nelson-Porter, 2004).

  • 4. Nick Schulz  |  13 February 2007 at 11:35 am

    When I read the piece, I thought it was so bad I had to be missing something. I am glad that others saw it the same way. It’s insane how the press covers any innovation in education. I have no idea if Univ. of Phx is a good value or not, but after reaidng the Times piece I wasn’t any closer to knowing.

  • 5. Sandy Vensland  |  13 February 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I am a student in the educational doctorate program at the University of Phoenix. Both my undergrad and graduate degrees were obtained at on-campus universities in Minnesota, which is well-known for its high educational standards. This is my first on-line experience. I have also taught at the post secondary level for over twenty years. I do not care what type of academic institution one attends – students get out of their education what THEY put into it. When students evaluate my performance in the classroom, I have seen time and time, again, an interesting phenomenon. Students who put everything they have into their educational process give me very high performance ratings. Students who fail to put effort into their assignments and tests give me low ratings. So in essence, I am not evaluated on MY performance in the classroom, but on theirs. I am constantly challenged in my doctorate work at UOP. And everyone, from my enrollment counselor, to financial aid, to academic advising has stood on their heads to make sure I have the tools I need to succeed. They recognize intelligence, perseverance and tenacity in a student when they see it.

  • 6. Cliff Grammich  |  15 February 2007 at 10:58 am

    I loved this comment from the Times story:

    “One [professor] returned a 2,500-word essay on performance-enhancing drugs with an A but not one comment, [a student] said.”

    Nope, I’ve never, ever seen that done anywhere. Seriously, should a prof offer extensive critiques of essays by an A student, or on those by a C student who perhaps could become a B student? Should I even waste bandwidth asking the question?

    I actually admire the U of P’s approach to big-time collegiate sports: just buy a stadium name and forget the teams . . .

  • 7. Mike Hewitt  |  19 February 2007 at 8:33 pm

    We are thinking of encouraging our daughter to work and “attend” the U. of Phoenix. Comments? How do I get a copy of the Times article on line? Thanks.

  • 8. Peter Klein  |  19 February 2007 at 8:58 pm

    The Times has now gated it, unfortunately. If anybody has the text perhaps they could post it here as a comment.

  • 9. Kevin Carson  |  19 February 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Your criticisms of the conventional university apply just as well to the conventional public school model. Information is the cheapest thing in the world to move–far cheaper than transporting people to a central location for being processed into human resources on the factory model. As a thought experiment, try figuring the cost if a couple dozen parents tried to form a cooperative school with their own money, perhaps using modestly priced rental housing for classroom space, hiring a few full- and part-time teachers in different subject areas, and making maximum advantage of freely available information outside the state’s monopoly textbook suppliers. It’s instructive trying to come up with a per-pupil cost anywhere near the $8000 or more spent by the government. The average urban school system has to have buildings specially designed by an architect, located on the most expensive real estate in town. It has layers and layers of administrative overhead. It’s a textbook example of Milton Friedman’s observation about spending other people’s money on other people.

    I agree with Steve Postrel that the taxpayer connection is a big downside to this. The real problem is not that U of P is so much of a departure from the conventional academic model, but that it’s not enough of a departure. It still seems to have quite a bit in common with the conventional public or private university, and more generally with large for-profit and non-profit organizations. The features were described by Paul Goodman in People or Personnel: top-heavy hierarchies with prestige salaries, Weberian bureaucratic rationality, etc.

    It seems to me that, if information can be organized and exchanged at virtually zero marginal cost, there’s little need for most of the other administrative overhead and human machinery involved in supervising the delivery of information at a physical location. And a great deal of the bureaucratic overhead involves, not the actual organization and delivery of information itself, but rather the machinery for maintaining control of those processes on behalf of the university’s absentee owners.

    I’d like to see the university go further in breaking free of the state accreditation system and the bureaucratic model of organization. Your earlier Wiki University post is one possibility. Rather than acting as glorified temps employed by a corporation, faculty could cut out the middleman altogether and market an education directly on the model of peer-group production. Things like open-source textbooks, freely available online syllabi and lecture notes, etc., could drastically lower the actual cost of a college education. Instructors might generate most of their income through individualized follow-up interaction with students, providing input to research, and other forms of individual mentoring (sort of applying the Phish marketing model to the academic realm). In a way, this would be a return to the late medieval model of the university as producers’ or consumers’ co-op–guilds of scholars or students–which is how they started out before boards of regents were imposed from above to represent church or state, or whatever other interest claimed rights of visitation. Come to think of it, this sort of brings us back to Paul Goodman, I guess.

  • 10. Valerie  |  4 March 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I am considering attending the University Of Phoenix, but I”m doing my research first. There were several complaints documented on the Better Bussiness Bureau, and it makes me a little leary. I am a single mother working full-time, and this seems like the most conveinant way to obtain a degree. My question is: Is the degree obtained from UOP reguarded as equal to a degree from a major university? Granted UOP is accredited but after graduation who is more likely to get the job; a UOP graduate or an Ohio State University graduate? Are we compairing apples to apples?

  • 11. mark  |  19 March 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Perhaps the Times was criticizing the UOP and its business practices in particular, not all for profit education institutions. A for profit school can certainly be the right choice for many, and the market place will decide if the UOP will win or lose.

    It’s the stuff (lawsuits etc…)preceding the Times piece which both gives it context and makes one think perhaps the UOP is not producing the right kind, or high enough quality education, that will ensure its survival..

    To provide more context, I reprinting part of a summation of a U.S. Department of Education 45 page report on the school, but please google it and read it in its entirety. The report sets a scene of regular or common deception at the school in an effort to enroll students and still receive government funds.

    The DOE review was conducted in the summer of 03 to determine UOP’s compliance with the Higher Education Act…One of the requirements makes it against the law for educational institutions like the UOP to pay enrollment counselors compensation based solely on obtaining enrollments. In summarizing the UOP’s compensation system the report states, “The actions of UOP and the system it has established cultivates and maintains a corporate culture of defiance of UOP’s fiduciary duty. UOP has created an environment that pits the strong motivation of individual gain against its fiduciary duty to the Department. It is one that flaunts the Departments regulations and the prohibition against incentive compensation based on enrollments.”

    The DOE begins its report asserting that when the UOP is hiring recruiters, they promise substantial income opportunities, and could “double or triple thier salary in three to six months.”

    The report explains new trainees quickly learn income potential is specifically tied to number of enrollments achieved. Recruiters learn a system called matrix, which supposedly supplies numerous factors in determining a recruiters compensation. However, “The matrix sets forth the rating (“meets,” etc.) associated with the number of enrollments, and it is these criteria that supercede all others and actually determine salary.” Indeed one recruiter recalls the Director of Enrollment saying “we’re flying under the radar of the Department,” believes that the “matrix is a way to deceive the Department.” (Department refers to DOE)

    The DOE describes daily morning meetings where managers “…serve to motivate or humiliate the recruiters based on their activities.” Managers use large boards to post statistics for each employee, “Except when “visitors” are expected, UOP managers prominently post the board…” “UOP used these frequent meetings to drive home the message that a recruiters success in securing enrollments would equate to success..” in reaching salary goals. “One enrollment manager puts a spreadsheet on her recruiters’ computer desktops that shows how many enrollments each recruiter needs to reach the next salary level.”

    The report describes intimidation tactics used by managers. One admissions director tells students who are not meeting required enrollment they are, “”stealing from Brian Mueller” (CEO of UOP on line.)”

    The “red room” was a place reserved for punishment for those not meeting required sales figures. The room was a glassed in enclosure so those outside could look in. Tables were placed in the middle where recruits were made to sit and make calls, while fellow co-workers looked on. Those sent to this room had to report immeadiatly and would be closely monitered by management. THis practice was eliminated in 2002.

    SOme recruiters point out management would become intimidating when enrollment numbers were down, saying their “heads would be on a chopping block” if numbers weren’t reached. One recruiter recalls explaining she may need to fly home to attend here grandmas funeral and was told by her manager, “YOu can’t afford the time away…” and …”if you go, you have to prove that you went to the funeral and that she is dead.”

    As to recruiter evaluations, the report describes, “More than 70% of the recruiters reported that they were unaware of any basis for compensation other than enrollment numbers and recruiting activities. It is remarkable that the only recruiters who said that their salary also included qualitative factors, such as customer service, were recruiters chosen by UOP to be interviewed by the reviewers. Literally every recruiter interviewed randomly or outside of the work premises said that the number of enrollments determined their salary.” One manager when asked by a recruiter about compensation stated “its enrollments. You know its enrollments. It will always be enrollments.”
    “From its monthly commissionable sales reports, to its admissions counselor policy guide, to its repeated reminders from managers, UOP reinforces to recruiters that UOP evaluates and pays them solely on the basis of how many students they enroll” the report concludes.

    The report asserts, “The sales philosophy at UOP and practice is designed around evasion and relies upon euphemisms to avoid detection by the Department. UOP systematically established terminology and procedures to hide the fact that UOP pays distinct and significant financial incentives solely based on recruiters’ success in securing enrollments.” To avoid detection, the UOP uses euphemisms to describe enrollments, such as “activities or “level one student information cards.”

    The report goes on to describe how recruiters with the highest enrollments get massive pay raises. It describes managements pressure to recruit unqualified students. That recruiters are coached when officials from government or accrediting agencies were visiting. And in response to DOE questions, “Literally every current UOP employee who has worked longer than a year, expressed anxiety over possible retaliation by the UOP.”

    The report goes on to describe a cover up during the DOE review, “UOP’s behavior during the program review process further substantiates the ethical concerns expressed by both current and former employees.” When one manager knew of the review, she coached two employees what to say, that salaries were based on numerous factors, not just enrollments. She further instructed they were not to speak to former UOP employees about what goes on at the UOP.

    Recruiters were told if they were contacted by DOE personell, they were first to report this to management before participating in an interview. Recruiters uniformly said they felt intimidated by this practice.

    After managers were told the DOE review would be conducted as schools in Northern California and Phoenix, UOP management told some recruiters at the California locations they should take leave. When interviewed, these recruiters indicated they were absent as they had reputations for being honest and frank.

  • 12. Cheryl Montgomery  |  19 March 2007 at 4:42 pm

    I aquired a BSA in Health Care Admisistration and will aquire my MBA in June 2007 at the University of Phoenix. I am proud to be a student and have increased my technological skills as well as my creative thinking and management knowledge, awareness, and practices in the business arena. I thank God and my mother for the opportunity that I have and congradulate all those graduating with me this summer in 2007! Thank you University of Phoenix for my success and accomplishments that help me in my career in the health field at my job. My co-workers respect my advice, my patients love me and I received a nice evaluation at work as well as a raise. My efficiency, accuracy, and promptness at work and school has resulted in the pride that I have for my attendance at the UOP and I advise anyone who respects research, teamwork, values, morals and ethics, and technological and or Global research should come on board. Mrs. Cheryl R. Montgomery

  • 13. Joyce  |  24 March 2007 at 10:26 am

    I graduated August 2003 form UOPHX. I was the first group to complete the FlexNet program. It was demanding. I had to be on line at least 5 times a week and make adequate contributions on line. The clasess were 6 week. You meet on campus the first a and 6th week. With my class, we did have someone who decided to switch to the regular on campus program. She said the online was definitely much hard. I liked to things about the classes. First the instructors are professionals in their fields. Second, you can network with your classmates, many are heads, directors, or VP’s.

    Being a for profit organization, seems to be a problem for some to understand. Keep in mind that in your classic universities, like Harvard, Standford, Univ of Chicago, most professors have salaries and get money to also support their research. Keep in mind, all higher places of learning, need money. Also since most students at UOPHX are mature professionals, they are probably more educated, better trained, and emotionally mature, where their learning is different that an 18 year old at a regular university. UOPHX met my needs, because could not take 1 1/2 to 2 years of not working to pursue my graduate work.

  • 14. Bo  |  25 March 2007 at 1:59 pm

    I think that most large universities are already doing what UoP is doing more or less – that is cater to a diverse market of potential students, who are no longer restricted in time and (geographic) space. In a world of globalization and wireless technology, why should a business (or other) students be restricted to attending universities that are in close proximity to their home (or place of work) etc?

    Most large universities have both executive programs, continuous education, and distance learning programs offering flexibility to an increasingly diverse student body. I myself have taught in CBS’s distance learning “higher diploma” program for years and it is a wonderful opportunity for particularly managers working abroad (expats) for MNCs to upgrade their skills and continue to learn and grow as individuals and managers. In a society which has been dupped “knowledge economy” it is time that we realize that the days of the ivory tower universities may be over and a new breed of high quality universities, offering flexibility in time and space, will prevail…

    In fact, as I have questioned before, why should a professor be tied into ONE university only via tenure and contract? Would it not make more sense to let market mechanisms determine the true value of the knowledge and skills of a professor? Would it be more efficient if we adopted a “comparative advantage” system where professors specialize and teach only what they are truly (that is proven on the market place) experts in? Why should students at CBS be the only ones to be “exposed” to Nicolai Foss, when clearly so many others could benefit from a dose of Foss?

    As information technologies develop further I think we will see the traditional boundaries of the university erode and this may call for some new reforms at the local, national and supra-national level…

  • 15. Chris  |  29 March 2007 at 3:46 pm

    I worked at the University of Phoenix for two years, and trust me, the New York Times article does not even scratch the surface of the fraud and deception that is occuring there. I have seem first hand the enrollment counselors sign up students who had no qualifications, and had no income base to pay off the student loans. The enrollment counselors are compensated by how many students they enroll, and the managers push them to enroll anyone who has not been convicted of durg sales ( you cannot recieve federal funds if convicted of this). The fraud is rampant, and the academic quality is questionable at best!

  • 16. Ron  |  29 March 2007 at 9:13 pm

    I am a current MBA student at UoP. I am five classes away from completing my MBA and so far I have had no complaints about the classes. The University uses the Problem Based Learning model to help students tackle realistic scenarios and develop solutions for those problems. Academically the classes are essentially self taught. Students are encouraged to read course materials and teach themselves and other students topics from the syllabus. UoP does not necessarily use “instructors” in the strictest sense of the word, instead they use facilitators whose role is to guide online discussions and to interject when discussions tend to stray from the path. Some argue that the high tuition required by UoP should be put to better use by allowing more instructor based training. While this is a logical argument, one has to realize that UoP has always been touted as a univeristy for the working adult. Working adults who prefer the opportunity to “attend” class when their time permits, not constrained to when an instructor teaches the class. UoP has never advertised anything else. If students come here expecting traditional learning, they quickly learn that it is not the case.

    Without the normal hand holding and big brother teaching methods many of today’s brick and mortar institutions use, this university is bound to be attacked and criticized by traditional educators. What you get out of this University is exactly what you put into it. Does the University have problems with it’s financial operations? I honestly don’t know the answer to that, but academically, I can tell you that this university affords me the opportunity to meet my advanced education goals.

  • 17. Terry  |  6 April 2007 at 7:32 am

    I graduated from UOP Southern Colorado in 2004 with my MBA. I worked hard to gain that degree. However, because of the team system employed I felt some of my team members were being “carried” through the program, and did not belong there. I felt some people in the program should not have even gained their Bachelor degree. The level of effort these people put in was minimal. I began to believe UOP was all about the sale about half-way through my program.
    I was also displeased because while my group was completing our fees went up painfully and suddenly we were told our books would be online. Shortly thereafter, UOP attempted to force us to take online classes when we were in an on-campus program. The class rebelled and teachers were put in the classroom for us. The caliber of teacher during the program spanned from great to who is this guy? For example, I object to being taught global business from people who had little experience globally but for their for Air Force experience which is military and not commercial. My last three classes were taught by the same person and I didn’t feel I got much benefit from the teacher. I could have skipped the classroom, researched and read to complete my work.
    I was so incredibly proud to to graduate. I worked so hard. Now several years later I am still looking for work to use my MBA. I really believe this degree would help me with my career. (Ah well.) I have been snickered at by State University graduates, and in order to get work I am removing my MBA from my resume. I was very concerned about the quality of my degree from a fast track school when I went to investigate. I was assured by my managers at the time and the school that UOP was a well known and useful resource. I would never give up what I have learned there, because I did learn! If I were to redo my program today I would go to a state university. I believe the MBA program at UOP is not respected in the academic world or the work place. I also believe the job market has changed drastically (middle management) is almost extinct and too many MBAs are flooding the market because of schools like UOP. Hiring firms will seek out a Harvard or MIT MBA at the school, no such thing will happen at UOP.

  • 18. Irene  |  9 April 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I completed my UOP MBA coursework on April 2 and am awaiting the posting of my degree. Like several other responders, I was a little taken aback by the lack of critical thinking evidenced in the NYT article. The guy who uses the term “MBA-Lite” makes this published and well respected statement after – reading some of the course descriptions? Hunh? He teaches at Columbia and he’s going to utter some silly, blanket, uninformed statement like that and not understand that it refutes his whole point? Seriously, the newspaper that arguably holds the place of the most respected daily in the country went after a considered academic statement on the quality of the UOP degree and the best it could find was a guy who had glanced at a catalog? Really? Nobody who did a study, nobody who conducted a poll or engaged in a scientific assessment of any kind? Heck, I like the school and I could have given them more concrete criticism than that.

    The University of Phoenix, like any other institution, has its share of ugliness, cheaters, bad people, lazy so-and-so’s and other riff-raff. Its policies are designed to get the job done, which has run up against my need to get MY job done on more than one occasion. I viewed this imperfection as part of my education. And certainly, these elements are not caused by the medium itself. I can tell you that the school’s for-profit character meant that I didn’t have to do any of the chasing-down of my old transcripts or silly bureaucratic paperwork. They hire people to do those things for you because they don’t want the red tape to become a deal-breaker. I worried about the academic side of it and my advisor did everything else. Not many people in the traditional grad-school environment have it so easy. Now, will I get a job as CEO of Aetna with my U of P MBA? Nah, but I wasn’t on that track anyway.

    The U of P is a perfect example of a time-based, rather than money-based, disruptive innovation in that it competes against non-usage more than against incumbents in the competitive marketplace. Had I not had an option to complete both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees online, I would not have quit my job and moved to Cambridge, Mass. to go to Harvard. I would have waited until my children were fully grown. For my family and me, the option of distance learning was much better on all levels than a traditional set-up because it allowed me to model good study behavior on a daily basis at a crucial time in my kids’ lives. Would it have been better had I gone to Columbia B-school? Well, sure, if it was $16K for an MBA and I could do it anywhere I had a broadband connection. Otherwise, the reality is, it’s not worth the difference for me.

    Here’s what I don’t get: why is it that teachers are the ones whacking this concept? As a polity, we’ve been involved for 50 years in in-depth study of how we can improve our ability to learn and all the different ways to impart knowledge and communicate. Our government spends loads of cash on it, our public-school teachers take oodles of time off to go study it and everybody in the industry seems to be constantly harping on the necessity of improving how we teach and how we learn. Why is it now such a shocker to them that we’ve figured out a lot of ways to do it differently with good outcomes? If education was supposed to stay the same, what on earth have we been spending all this time and money studying for the past half-century? Personally, I think that more teachers are wedded to the status quo (“I’m the teacher, so I own all the knowledge and you don’t.”) than should be the case.

  • 19. Joseph Wang  |  9 April 2007 at 1:23 pm

    I worked at the University of Phoenix for a while. I don’t have any problem with the for-profit business model that UoP has since every university I’ve seen is for-profit, it is just that most attempt to make their profit through alumni donations rather than up-front.

    I do think that University of Phoenix is not a particularly well run company and has some major corporate issues that are not inherent in the “for-profit education” model, and it’s likely to get its rear end kicked in by another school. One basic problem is that UoP is nearing the limits of its expansion. One other problem is that education requires social structures and interaction between teachers, and UoP does everything that it can to control those interactions. The problem is that once teachers start talking about better ways of teaching students, the discussion will very quickly turn into “why are we getting paid this badly.”

    It’s the educational equivalent of “McDonald’s.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because McDonald’s gives you a nice hot, reasonably quality meal, but there is a limit to the number of Big Macs that people are willing to eat.

    Teachers tend to hate UoP because teachers get treated like expendable burger flippers there, and the pay is lousy.

  • 20. Joseph Wang  |  9 April 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Information is easy to transmit, but education is more than transmitting information. Education requires social networks and these can be tough to set up.

    There are a lot of missing support services that a university provides. I could theoretically teach the same Algebra I class I did at UoP, but there is problem of keeping records and then monetizing the knowledge. Without a piece of paper that allows someone to turn the class to cash, people are not willing to spend large amounts on a class, and UoP makes some pretty huge profits by holding the keys to turn knowledge into cash.

  • 21. Irene  |  9 April 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Joseph, you make a good point about why teachers aren’t keen on going to the U of P. I have often wondered why the teachers I had were doing it. I had some pretty good teachers who were making peanuts.

    Your other point, about setting up social networks, is a little tougher for me to agree with. I work for a very large, multinational corporation in a group of 45 people. Most of my group works from geographically disparate locations and most of us work from home. This group structure is fairly common now and I think most people will agree is becoming more common. Figuring how to get your point across via email and/or telephone and to make real interpersonal connections in a “virtual” environment is pretty much required for today’s business professional. This will become more true as budgets for traveling to face-to-face meetings are cut and telecommunications connectivity improves even more. This is the sort of thing that I learned in an on-line graduate-school environment. I’ve made “friends” with whom I keep in touch via email from all over the globe, and I must confess that there were people I couldn’t stand (having never laid eyes on them or heard their voices) just because of the way they presented themselves in written communication. I have run into some folks who extol the virtues of face-to-face communication and interaction simply because they are not willing to devote time and energy to learning the important nuances involved in written interaction.

    I also think that part of why we’re more likely to forgo the whole social-network route at the U of P is that we’re older, working professionals with full lives and plenty of friends already. We’re not the same as when we first went to college at 18 and made our lifelong friends during those first three years. So we don’t really NEED drinking buddies or best-friends-forever to come out of our supply-chain management class. We just need the supply-chain management part of it.

    I know that you weren’t saying that forming a good-old-boy system is a benefit of a brick-and-mortar institution, but I often hear that point of view advanced as a disadvantage of on-line learning, that students are missing the whole “college experience”. Further, they won’t be able to rely on their U of P buddies to get them jobs the way they could impose upon their Cornell cronies to hire them over other candidates. I think the old fraternity system of loyalty-by-club is on its way to extinction anyway. I don’t know of many people who get jobs today because somebody they didn’t know went to the same school they did ten years prior and they can talk about where the local watering holes are. There are just too many other good ways to check out somebody’s credentials and abilities in this day and age.

  • 22. Joseph Wang  |  9 April 2007 at 2:44 pm

    The reason that UoP teachers do it is to learn things. I learned a *HUGE* amount about online learning the first few classes I taught. After the fifth class, I wasn’t getting anything new out of it.

    As far as social networks, it is reasonably easy to set up a social network online which is why it is a shame that the UoP refuses to do it for teachers. The student social support networks that exist for students are great, which is why I believe that there is a semi-conscious corporate reason why UoP doesn’t do this with teachers. The problem is that if UoP starts allowing social networks among teachers to form, the administration is going to quickly lose control of the university. There are huge numbers of adjuncts and a very, very tiny number of administrators, and the only way that the administrators can keep control is to keep the adjuncts from talking with each other and organizing. I wanted UoP to teach business calculus. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only adjunct that thought the same way.

    The problem with preventing teacher networks also applies to alumni networks. There are starting to be enough UoP alumni in enough places that UoP could certainly create a very powerful alumni association. The problem again is that the alumni association would very quickly take control of university from the administration.

    The ultimate problem is that unless UoP allows teacher networks and alumni networks to form, it’s role is going to be vastly limited. The problem is that UoP is reaching the limits of what it can teach with its current model, and the pressure that people are putting on recruiters and the 40% of its income that UoP spends on recruitment is a symptom of this.

  • 23. Jacqueline  |  22 April 2007 at 11:12 am

    I am a graduate of UOP on ground learning. Most of the negative feedbacks that I’ve encountered, were geared towards the online learning program. Nevertheless, I must reiterate what so many has done before, and that is “what you put in is what you get out.”

    I love the fact that my facilitators are “Experienced” professionals in their fields and not just a professor with a Harvard degree. I believe that the best teachers in life are those whom have endured the hardship of experience.

    We must ask ourselves, what if our driving instructors only took driving lessons but never actually had the experience of everyday driving, would you feel comfortable with having him or her teach you? What if the surgeons and doctors were only graduates but no intern experience, would you allow he or she to examine or perform surgery on you? Sure Ivy league colleges are great, but would it make sense that I’ve graduated with a C average and have learned nothing?

    I have had no problem with my learning experience at UOP and found the professors more willing to work with you to gain a better understanding of what they are trying to teach you.

    I have been to both traditional and non-traditional classes and UOP is no different apart from the way their classes are structured. There are papers to write, books to read, exams to take ( in some cases), in class discussions and so forth. The only difference with what I have learned at UOP from what I learned from a “traditional college”, is that there are learning simulations which gives you real life scenarios in which you are placed as a major deciding factor in problem solving; that experience, I did not get from a traditional college.

    Sure UOP is a bit expensive, but when you think of all the pre-requisites that you are forced to take at the traditional college and the cose of books, y ou are basically spending the same amount of money or even more.

    Another encouraging thing is that UOP is listed on my resume as my graduating school, and I have been called for numerous job interviews, and am happy to say that approximately 65% of those who
    interviewed me were UOP graduates or are taking advanced degree classes with UOP.

    The bottom line is, there will always be those who will try to discredit that which is over taking the traditional way of doing things, I just basically sum it up as fear of change. Moreover, theose who are criticizing the UOP way of doing things are secretly adopting to the UOP way. They are now seeing the need to cater to the working adult as more and more people, working adults as well as freshly graduated high school students, are looking for ways to get their education without having to take pre-requisites that has no relations to their field of study as well as are looking for the ability to work and attend school full time without having to sacrafice 4-5 days out of a week in a classroom.
    UOP has introduced an innovative way to cater to eduacational needs, this innovation is digging into the pockets of the traditional way of learning……….wouldn’t you criticise and try to discredit those who are taking away your business?

    This attempt to discredit is just another tactic to put fear into the hearts and minds of those individuals looking into UOP as another way of obtaining their degree..yet in the meantime, those who are discrediting are ALSO offering the same structured curriculum.

    Whichever way you choose, I say do your research and then decide. Research both the pro’s and the cons of traditional and non-traditional education.

  • 24. Irene  |  24 April 2007 at 9:09 am

    All great points, Jacqueline. Certainly, I owe much of my good experience with the U of P to my pre-existing facility with on-line interfaces. I would not advise people who are not comfortable on the Internet to go this route.

    One thing I just learned that I found interesting is that Columbia University, the home of the business professor who called the U of P MBA an “MBA-Lite”, attempted to launch an online product but closed their virtual school in 2003 because of lack of interest. The NYT article did not mention Columbia’s failed attempt, an omission I find inappropriate and unprofessional as it certainly has the potential of changing the faculty’s opinion of firms that have succeeded in the field.

    I’m delighted to hear that you are having no problems with credibility with your degree. I’m fortunate enough to already have a great job (one that paid for my UoP degree, in fact), and so I haven’t had to test-drive my diploma’s value on a resume. It’s good to know that it’s well regarded. Good luck with your search.


  • 25. peter  |  23 May 2007 at 9:51 am

    Accreditation is a scam anyways. Athabasca university just got their accreditation also Mount Royal, and a few others just got this. What this means is if you got it before they got accredited, the degree is worthless. Companies are always asking for accredited degrees, I would like to ask a HR person, name 2 accreditation bodies? or what is the criteria for accreditation?

  • 26. thomas  |  29 January 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Jacqueline wrote: “Another encouraging thing is that UOP is listed on my resume as my graduating school, and I have been called for numerous job interviews, and am happy to say that approximately 65% of those who
    interviewed me were UOP graduates or are taking advanced degree classes with UOP.”

    I have had the same experience with my UOP education degree. I am 32 years old and starting out. My only problem is that I have so many tests to take. As a result, I am working as a substitute teacher. I also placed my resume on careerbuilder and have been contacted numerouss times from different places, even from places not in my field.

  • 27. Cathy  |  2 March 2008 at 12:30 am

    The problems with UOP are deeper than most here realize. In a case out of California, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. )
    the tremendous amount of fraud is being exposed in a case the US Supreme Court ruled needed to be heard when they tried to dismiss it. We are not speaking of they have problems, we are talking of an enormous case of fraud committed against consumers and the United States Government itself. Adding to that the United States Justice Department informed the Judges, they agree and support the lawsuit as did the Federal Board of Education against Apollo Group Inc. the parent of UOP. There is noted an apparent increase since the case came to light against students who may or may not provide potential testimony as the case grows. Few if any of the Professors have been certified to teach a class. Lee Finkel head of the Office Of Dispute Management is actually an INsurance Liability Attorney in Arizona, so the odds of a student resolution appearing from work, he has published, is always going to be in favor of UOP to increase stock for stockholders. The majority of their counselors are not qualified to recommend anything to anyone and the financial has a goal to increase stock pay offs for stock holders. Their own stock holders sued them for fraud and won just months ago. The Founder John Fueler has failed at almost all other enterprises he has engaged in. One involved charging 50k for the cloning of pets, folded. He promotes the legalization of illegal drugs on the Street and has a open attitude of I can do as I wish irregardless of Government laws, which has been published repeatedly. They hire those associated with Government connections from the inside in order to gain clout to pull of what any other College would be prosecuted for. Though they receive accrediting, that involves a ten year span for recertification between. At this time, with the rulings and investigations by the Fed. Dept. Of Education, whatever accrediting they have received is overthrown by fines and charges from 9 million dollar fines of EEOC violations to fines for stealing from the Government. Why actual prosecution has not occurred to key figures in this scam is something that has never been addressed.

  • 28. sage  |  12 April 2008 at 5:04 pm

    For some UoP students, preparation may make a difference in their UoP experience. For preparation, e.g. discussing syllabus with upcoming classmates, you can try this:

  • 29. mari  |  18 May 2008 at 6:58 pm

    I too graduated from UOP with my Masters in 2004. I have a very great job as a financial analysis . While attending UOP, I learned so much from other students, who were mostly working professionals. The discussions were so indepth and filled with real world experiences. The reason I am stating this is because I was very impressed with the caliber of knowledge some of my classmates were bringing to the discussion. These were people who were managers, and seasoned employees of some very reputable companies. I, like the poster a few comments above, also loved the fact that the professors were teaching on subjects they knew through work. They were doing and performing the job on a daily basis bringing real relevance to the subject,and not just teaching subjects they learned about while pursuing a teaching degree. Though the class discussions, I felt the passion some of my professors had for the subject because they are doing a job they loved and fetl passionate about. The team work part of the curriculum was very effectual for me because it was modeled off of what really goes on in the real world in regards to business projects. In order for a project to be successful, there has to be a team assembled to get it done. As with any team you are going to have your slackers who may ride along for the time being, eventually that person gets caught because they will have to do their own individual project and if they consistently don’t deliver , then it is clear that they are not operating up to standard. I agree that a degree from the UOP is not for everyone. I think it suits those individuals who are more open to independent learning and to those who like new challenges and experiences. I got my undergrad from a brick and mortar institution and my grad from UOP. I can truly say that I got more of a well rounded education at UOP and found the professors to be more knowledgeable on the subjects from a real world point of view.

  • 30. mari  |  19 May 2008 at 11:18 am

    I am sorry, it should have read financial analyst.

  • 31. kevin  |  21 November 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Education is a complex good/product/service/artifact and using mass production methods can only work if what the student wants is tuition of a set standard to standardised material. But if they wanted that, why not buy a textbook and read it or watch a few documentaries. Ah, I forget, they want the stamp of approval of an educational institution. I once asked my set of MBA students whether they would prefer a. the diploma without the need to attend classes, do any work or pass any exams; or b. excellent classes, great lecturers, deep insights and no diploma. Guess what they all wanted? So perhaps mass production is the answer – why don’t we just print out their pieces of paper and issue them on submission of a fee oh, I forgot again, we already have UOP.

  • 32. Moby Dick  |  8 November 2009 at 7:30 pm

    The University of Phoenix functions under a culture or fear and intimidation. Students are intimidated into signng up of extra classes which are not related to their specialization whereas staff if intmidated into trying to sign up prospective students by hook or by crook. The faculty is not spared either and professional teachers who try to give the student’s their money’s worth in education are often sidelined and insted preference is given to those who indulge in brown nosing the administration, even if these teachers may not be good teachers and get poor reviews from the students.

    This is not the opinion of one but many teachers who give up valuable time from their high paying professions, to help adult students in their quest for higher education, even at low monetary teaching compensations.

    Perhaps fear is the best way of running a business.

  • 33. Brenda  |  15 January 2010 at 9:05 pm

    I am BS Marketing candidate with 2 1/2 weeks left. I have been with UoP since March 2007. Prior to that I attended Axia (Apollo’s Associate program). I did not receive my Associate degree as I was convinced by UoP enrollment counselors to not waste my time- just go on for the Bachelor’s. I took their advice and started my BS program. And what a ride it has been. First of all, anyone who reads this post should know that, personally, I am very secure in the value of my education. But, I give very little credit to the UoP. I worked my rear off for this degree and from the start, I set a goal to graduate with honors. I am proud that my GPA is 3.9. It was all the effort that I applied. Unfortunately, I feel as if I may have earned the degrees for many of my peers (team members). Not all, because I have met many students who I believe are absolutely brilliant. They taught me a great deal. However, I am not surprised by all the negative criticisms that the University has received especially the fact that the enrollment counselor’s main source of pay (not sure if this is true today) was based on the number of enrollments they had for a given period. This explains the many students who barely could read or write that I ended up on a team with. My academic advisers assured me that students such as this are usually weeded out after the first few courses. That struck me as odd because my grade is based at least in part by the effort and skill of team members. A student who can not speak the English language, or write it, has no place in a US higher learning institution. But, on more than one occasion there were students who wrote essays in broken English! The only reason we got the grades that we did (A’s and B’s) is because I elected myself as the editor, and what an ordeal. If I changed their improper English, I got scolded by the instructor. After a while, I finally gave up on the editing. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. I can not tell you the headaches, nor the volume of Tylenol I have been through since my start at UoP. For the teaming aspect alone I would not attend this institution. I plan to go on for my Masters, but will not go through UoP to do so. Recall how I said I am confident in the value of my education? Well, it really doesn’t matter what I think of my education now does it? What matters is how managers and executives looking to fill their marketing position’s feel about UoP and the quality of students they produce. However, now that we are in a depressed economy, and so many people holding Bachelor degrees are looking for employment, I am concerned about how my degree will measure up to the degrees earned at traditional schools practicing less controversial business practices.

  • 34. David Hoopes  |  16 January 2010 at 2:46 am

    The key point above is that you worked your ass off and got a lot out of going to school. Perhaps if you got to do it over again you would go somewhere else.

    If you apply your work ethic to finding and doing a job it will turn out. Plenty of very successful people don’t finish school at all.

    When you go on to grad school: 1) Prepare for GMATs as best you can; 2) Find a school that really fits your needs; 3) You don’t say how old you are or how much work experience you have but… get A LOT more out of an MBA program if you have 4 or 5 years work experience.

    You’ll be great! Effort and focus are more important then anything else. Really really.

  • 35. paul  |  4 April 2010 at 1:36 am

    University of Phoenix is a scam and defrauds the American taxpayers. This business should not recieve a dime from Title 10 funding. The university MBA program is not AACSB accredited. The UoP is not an institution of higher education, it is a company that answers to shareholders. I would rather attend a local community college than attend this company.

    Please, Google “University of Phoenix scam” or “…fraud” or “…terrible” or “…inflates grades.”

    Now, Google “Univeristy of Georgia scam” and so on…what’s the difference.

    This company is overprices, it over promises, and devalues higher education in America.

  • 36. paul  |  4 April 2010 at 1:38 am

    I apologize, my previous post should read:

    Please, Google “University of Georgia scam” and so on…what’s the difference?

    This company is overpriced, it over promises, and devalues higher education in America.

  • 37. Jean  |  25 July 2010 at 11:13 pm

    I second that. I am presently with U of P and I find the pace, teaching, materials, faculties, and etc. professional, updated, top of the line, and student orient staff.
    According to 5. Sandy Vensland | 13 February 2007 at 2:02 pm….”students get out of their education what THEY put into it. When students evaluate my performance in the classroom, I have seen time and time, again, an interesting phenomenon. Students who put everything they have into their educational process give me very high performance ratings. Students who fail to put effort into their assignments and tests give me low ratings. So in essence, I am not evaluated on MY performance in the classroom, but on theirs.” This is very true. This needs to stop!


  • […] though, I am a big fan of DeVry and others like it. Their product is quite different from that offered by the University of Missouri and other […]

  • […] as putting some existing courses online, while trying to suppress the innovative outsiders like Phoenix, DeVry, TED, Kahn Academy, etc. It’s a classic example of what Clayton Christensen calls […]

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