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When ABC News first contacted the University in late July, they invited us to respond to allegations that our counselors had misled potential students. We cooperated with them immediately, which took ABC's producers by surprise. In fact, ABC told University of Phoenix President Bill Pepicello they were surprised he agreed to answer their questions.
We have strong and unambiguous policies in place to prevent potential students from receiving misleading information about the University. But we know that sometimes, our employees do not adhere to these policies. That's not acceptable, and we've undertaken a series of initiatives to make sure it doesn't happen again.
That's why we were eager to share our story with ABC News.
Unfortunately, ABC News did not fully report our side of the story. After numerous interactions with ABC's production staff, including a lengthy interview with Dr. Pepicello, the network chose to omit important facts and context in its coverage of the University, focusing instead almost exclusively on sensationalized, negative and one-sided aspects of the story.
Finally, the ABC news coverage gave the false impression that all of the hidden videos they presented of recruiter infractions were from our University. In fact, some of the video footage was taken from other academic institutions.
We would like to share directly with our community the facts and information ABC News left out.
Fact: Thousands of University of Phoenix graduates are credentialed teachers.
Since 2004, we have graduated more than 25,000 students from our College of Education. Our teaching program is accredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. Becoming a teacher requires a bachelor’s degree and the ability to pass the state credentialing requirements where you wish to teach. While each state has its own teacher credentialing standards, thousands of our bachelor’s and master’s graduates have gone on to graduate, pass their state credentialing exam, complete further requirements such as student teaching, and become credentialed to teach in their state of residence.
Fact: Our programs are held to the same rigorous accreditation standards as public four-year colleges and universities.
University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association, whose members also include Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame, University of Michigan, Ohio State University and University of Arizona, to name a few. In addition to our institutional accreditation, the University has been granted programmatic accreditation for several academic disciplines:
Nursing – The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Counseling – Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
Business – Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs
Teaching – Teacher Education Accreditation Council
Fact: We are committed to enhancing financial literacy and reducing student debt.
University of Phoenix recently introduced a financial literacy program and a set of tools to help students better understand how much it costs to receive a college education, including a user-friendly financial aid calculator that helps students better manage debt levels. Since launching these tools, the number of students who take out the maximum loan amount has dropped by approximately 30 percent. Understanding the hard working student population we serve, we have always strived to maintain tuition costs in the mid range nationally. It does not serve our students or us when our students take on excessive debt loads. However, colleges and universities cannot legally prohibit students from taking out the maximum amount of loan dollars for which they are eligible.
Fact: University of Phoenix graduates are highly successful.
During their enrollment, our students experience significant salary increases; in fact, in 2008, bachelor’s students saw an 8.7% salary increase, while master’s students saw an increase of 9.7%. In addition, our alumni hold highly responsible positions in business and government. Our graduates include CEOs, successful entrepreneurs and senior White House staffers. And, our students rate University of Phoenix more highly than their peers at other institutions, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.
Fact: We are dedicated to ensuring that students understand what it takes to succeed at University of Phoenix, before they enroll.
University of Phoenix has established a free program called University Orientation – available to anyone with fewer than 24 college credits beginning in November – that enables students to experience our University before they make any financial commitment. This helps students fully understand the commitment it takes to attend classes and see if it’s right for them.
Fact: Our enrollment advisors are motivated by one thing: the success of our students.
We support the federal government’s proposed regulations on incentive compensation and 18 months ago we began piloting an evaluation and compensation system for our enrollment advisors which removes the “recruitment factor” from the enrollment process. We are firmly committed to changing the way enrollment advisors are paid and evaluated. As we announced several months ago, beginning this fall, we are eliminating enrollment targets as a component of our enrollment advisor’s compensation and evaluation. We believe this will eliminate speculation about enrollment advisor’s motivations and ensure that their focus is squarely on the needs and interests of students.
Fact: We are committed to ensuring that prospective students receive factual, useful information about the University.
We have strong student protection policies in place, and we do not tolerate deceptive practices by any employee. We take swift and immediate action when we discover any violation of these policies, up to and including termination of employees involved.
Additionally, we have rolled out an extensive digital call-monitoring system that tracks and records tens of thousands of calls every day between enrollment advisors and potential students, to detect any evidence of false or misleading information.
Fact: We do not recruit residents of homeless or transitional housing facilities, under any circumstances.
Our policy is clear and unambiguous: we do not allow our employees to visit such facilities for the purposes of recruiting or attracting students. We do not tolerate such activity, and any employee who violates this policy faces disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Benson Rollins, the homeless individual interviewed by ABC, has made repeated attempts to discredit and entrap our employees. Although we have made clear to Mr. Rollins that he is not eligible for admission to the University because he does not have a high school diploma, he routinely makes contact with the University, sometimes using an alias. We informed ABC News of Mr. Rollin’s lack of credibility, which was already well documented in an article by Pro Publica, which they chose to ignore.
Fact: Every student should be given complete and accurate information about financial aid and program requirements. If we failed at this then we must do better.
We are extremely embarrassed and apologetic to our students, faculty and staff that we were unable to prevent infractions which led to this highly sensationalist media. The management of Apollo Group and University of Phoenix have pledged to take a leadership role in ensuring student protections, in overseeing compliance to our policies, and in providing the best educational and student experience possible.
Read a letter from University of Phoenix president, Dr. Pepicello, to ABC News that reflects his position on the investigation and highlights what the University is currently doing to protect students.