Many people like to bash the University of Phoenix. In some ways I’m one of them. I still feel that for someone coming out of high school trying to get a “real” education, i.e. life experience, exposure to different personalities and cultures, etc., a traditional school is far superior.
But I’m not trying to learn anything right now; I’m already in the professional world and am trying to finish the last year of my bachelors (after three years in a traditional school) without getting scammed by by some lame “mail-order degree” program. As such, I set out to objectively research UoP’s legitimacy. My thought process and conclusion follow below.
The first thing we need to do is agree on what “legit” is. In other words, what’s the standard for a degree program? What’s the desired outcome? Luckily, this is actually pretty easy to define and there isn’t much disagreement on the matter. The purpose of a degree for probably over 95% of adult college goers is to check the box where the degree should be. Do you have your bachelors? Yes? Good. Do you have your masters? Good. That’s what a degree is for in today’s working world — career advancement. It’s not about education — not really.
People who want to learn can do so on their own. Degrees, like all credentials, are for showing other people. That is what defines our standard; all that matters is whether or not a given degree is accepted by the people that you want to accept it.
With that agreed upon, let’s move on.
- UoP Is Designed For Adult Education Most people going to UoP are either trying to finish their bachelors or get a masters. These people already have full-time jobs, and they seek online schooling because it’s convenient. This is an adult issue — one based on having existing responsibilities that cannot be dropped in order to live the college life (which is ideal).
- The School is Regionally Accredited UOP is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The school gets audited constantly because of how many students they have (over 300,000), and the fact that they are for-profit. In short, they’ve been under the microscope for a very long time.
University of Phoenix is easily the most examined university in American higher education. Since its regional accreditation was awarded in 1978, the University has participated in over 30 accreditation visits, 35 evaluations by state education agencies and 10 program reviews by the U.S. Department of Education. And, despite frequent bias against the for-profit education sector among many reviewers from the traditional academic sector, the University has repeatedly met or exceeded the requirements of this astonishing number and variety of reviews. It is currently in good standing academically with all of its accrediting bodies as well as among the state boards of higher education in the states where it has campus locations.
…and now for the bit that most people don’t know…
- A Significant Number of Fortune 500 Companies Have a Direct Pay Relationship With UoP Read that again. What this means is that companies like Hewlett Packard, Pfizer, Cisco, etc. 1 (real companies) have programs in place that facilitate their employees get degrees from the University of Phoenix while they pay the bill. One more time — Fortune 500 companies pay for their employees to get a UoP degree as part of their official continuing education programs. Ask yourself one question: why would these ultra-elite companies be paying for their employees to achieve degrees that they don’t accept in their own human resources departments? They wouldn’t. If the school wasn’t legitimate in the business world then these companies wouldn’t be sending their employees there and footing the bill. It’s just that simple. They pay for UoP degrees because they count just the same as any other non-elite school 2.
And there’s a simple reason for this. Once you’re already in the business world you are no longer defined by your education. At that point your individual talent, experience, performance and industry-specific certifications matter most. Additional education becomes a performance review talking point, and little else. All they want to know is that you are improving yourself, and any accepted degree program qualifies. It’s a check box. Degree? Check.
Real quick, here are two situations where I would recommend not getting a UoP degree:
- If you’re just out of high school. Go to a regular college. 75% of the college benefit is the stuff you don’t learn in class anyway. Interacting with cool professors, making life-long friends, and exposing yourself to stuff you never saw back home — that’s what college is about.
- If you’re going into a field that looks at paper credentials. If you’re going to be an investment banker in some big firm, for example, don’t expect to get a job if you went to UoP or Smalltown, USA University. They want to see big names. Anything less is a non-degree.
Other than that, yes. If you are in the professional world already and trying to get a bachelors or masters, UoP is probably going to be just as good as a small to medium-sized state or private university. The odds of your company not accepting what’s embraced by tons of Fortune 500 companies are slim.
One last point: if your argument is that the education at UoP isn’t as good, I’d agree with you. But consider that Harvard, MIT, and Stanford are offering their content for free. If learning is your goal, you have no boundaries. And besides, if you’re confusing learning with getting a degree then there’s not much a piece of paper is going to do for you anyway.:
— 1 I’m trying to find a full list of major companies that have direct pay relationships with UoP. If anyone knows how to get this list I’d appreciate the info so I can add it to the article.
2 Intel dropped their direct pay support for UoP in November 2006 because there’s a special accredidation that they want UoP to have. At the time there were 600 Intel employees enrolled at UoP, which I think lends to my argument. I doubt it will be long before UoP gets that specialized accredidation and gets back in good standing with Intel. In the meantime, countless other massive companies have the same relationship.