Serving Our Students: Stimulus or Not

Re “For-profit Colleges: Scooping up the Stimulus” (March 12, 2009)

To the Editor:

In their pursuit to vilify private sector higher education, Ben Elgin and Jessica Silver-Greenberg open with the factually incorrect premise that the Stimulus will somehow enrich for-profit schools when in fact the legislation’s $500 Pell increase serves to replace existing Stafford dollars for low-income students. One form of funding replaces the other; there is no net gain.

The reporters spend the balance of the story exploring a philosophical opposition to student recruitment, rendering the hard academic work of almost a million students and alumni – and their committed faculty – irrelevant. It is not the private sector, nor their student recruitment methods that are responsible for the current state of America’s higher education system, which has become increasingly unattainable to more and more students. And it is not just the private sector that needs to ramp up their every available resource to accommodate the massive amount of education and training our nation requires in today’s economic environment.

University of Phoenix has become the preeminent laboratory for education innovation. Our for-profit structure has enabled us to revolutionize higher education without taking short cuts, making us more accessible than conventional schools, especially for students who need to work and raise a family while pursuing their degrees, which is the majority of students today. We provide an alternative for working people, with flexible schedules, a combination of online and on-campus courses, small, highly interactive classes and innovative education technologies, all while providing extensive student support services.

We continuously calibrate our curriculum to the current job market, expanding our programs in fast-growing occupations facing resource shortages, such as healthcare, education and information technology, and developing new programs in emerging fields, such as green industries and clean technologies.

As the largest institution within the for-profit sector, we take our responsibility to students seriously and have assumed a leadership role in providing greater accountability for student learning and achievement through a comprehensive assessment system. Our Academic Annual Report, available here http://www.phoenix.edu/about_us/academic-annual-report.aspx, includes a transparent look at academic quality measures, including student performance and satisfaction, graduation rates, how we are faring in achieving our mission of accessibility, our diversity and inclusion of underrepresented populations, and our affordability compared to other institutions. We invite other colleges to do the same.

In terms of outcomes, for-profit schools are required as a matter of accreditation and regulation to provide the same measures of quality as those in the public sector and University of Phoenix has again and again met or exceeded the standards set out by our regional and programmatic accrediting bodies as well as the myriad regulatory standards of the 39 states in which we have campuses.

And while our for-profit status makes it possible for us to spend dollars on advertising, the real testament to our marketing success is the number of enrollments generated by referrals from satisfied students and alumni – and their employers. They are the most honest arbiters of our academic quality and they will always be the final arbiters of where they wish to spend their tuition dollars. Shouldn’t we be rooting for them?

Dr.William J. Pepicello
President, University of Phoenix
4025 S. Riverpoint
Phoenix, AZ 85040
(818) 326-1871 daytime/evening

Submitted to BusinessWeek, March 13, 2009

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