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University of Phoenix recognized as a Top Performer on Social Mobility by U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings

By Sharla Hooper

Ranking based on Pell Grant graduation rates underscored by how University of Phoenix diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging commitments support student success

University of Phoenix has been recognized as a Top Performer on Social Mobility by the latest U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, based on its graduation rates and graduation rate performance for Pell Grant students. The rankings identified the University as #160 of Top Performers on Social Mobility, from a field of 439 institutions.

As an open access institution serving working adult students, University of Phoenix has long used the innovative approach to flexible, adaptable online learning as an equitable environment. The University has continued to advance in its progress creating a diverse, equitable, inclusive and belonging (DEIB) learning environment for student success, most recently with the establishment of the President’s Advisory Council on DEIB in 2021 with its six working groups as a representative, cross-functional body that works to develop and promote strategies that foster a community of inclusion, value diversity of thought, experiences and culture, and lead to a sense of belonging for all.

“The University of Phoenix mission is to provide access to higher education opportunities that enable students to develop knowledge and skills necessary to achieve their professional goals,” states John Woods, Ph.D., provost and Chief Academic Officer. “We deliver on that mission by striving for both equitable access as well as equitable success in all our efforts across disciplines and operations, from our student support resources to faculty training to an extensive and ongoing approach to designing curriculum that reflects and respects the diversity of our students. Our DEIB Council and working groups identify opportunities and develop goals that help us continuously improve and enhance our student support and success.”

The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Social Mobility rankings factors are based on Pell Grant graduation rates, measuring a school’s success at graduating Pell Grant students, who are from low-income backgrounds, and on Pell Grant graduation rate performance which assesses success at achieving equitable outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds. For both Pell graduation ranking factors, a two-year, non-weighted average of scores was calculated.

More than half of University of Phoenix students report as ethnic minorities, with nearly 60 percent reporting as first generation college attendees, and seven in 10 are women. About 64 percent of students have dependents.

“University of Phoenix serves a diverse student body,” states Kelly Hermann, vice president of Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion at the University. “We operate under a sense of responsibility to understand where our working adult students are coming from and identify what they need to successfully complete their programs with us.”

The University’s Office of Educational Equity (OEE) serves the University’s students, alumni, community and alliances with support and accessibility resources as well as leading internal and external initiatives promoting understanding and inclusive practices throughout the University. OEE hosts the University’s monthly Educational Equity webinar series and led the planning of the University-wide initiative, the Inclusive Leadership Summit. OEE also hosts the Inclusive Café, a virtual place for staff to gather, connect, and build community through biweekly sessions focused on topics designed to discuss diverse perspectives and generate compassionate conversation. Additionally, the OEE collaborates with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), the Center for Workplace and Diversity Inclusion Research, and other departments across the university to design programs and services that promote understanding and appreciation of diverse perspectives.

The workforce market has been shifting for some time toward recognizing skills, and opportunity, gaps for workers, accelerated by the pandemic, and illustrated in the results of the University of Phoenix’s Career Optimism Index® study.

As employers of all types are beginning to value how skills can be obtained without a degree, University of Phoenix has approached the mapping of skills within the curriculum and recognition through digital badges as an issue of equity as well as career mobility. “When our students are able to provide evidence of their acquired skills through digital badges, they are given an equitable opportunity to share those achievements and academic progress in their networks, and to their employers,” states Woods.

University of Phoenix has practitioner faculty who bring more than an advanced degree to the classroom. As working professionals who are encouraged to stay current in their professions and participate in academic and scholarly activities, the University’s faculty bridge the gap between theory and practice.

“University of Phoenix practitioner-based programming helps us provide both the educational component as well as the social component necessary to be successful in the workplace,” states Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., MBA, chair, Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR) in the College of Doctoral Studies. “Our programs are taught by faculty with extensive, hands-on experience within the workforce, which helps ensure that our students have the opportunity to gain an understanding of the social as well as technical skills necessary to navigate within their chosen industry.”

University of Phoenix continues to build its capacity and presence on issues relating to DEIB.

In April 2022, University of Phoenix held its first annual Inclusive Leadership Summit and Career Fair, welcoming 1415 participants from 22 countries at the virtual, free event focused on developing skills as an inclusive leader and providing opportunities for networking connection and employment. The Inclusive Leadership Summit integrated research findings from University of Phoenix Career Institute® and Research Centers to inform topics addressed and highlight DEIB within the academic fields of study offered at the University.

The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Social Mobility rankings determined University of Phoenix as a Top Performer at #160, tied with Georgia Southern University, Immaculata University, Northern Illinois University, Roosevelt University, Touro University, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, and University of South Alabama, and with Arizona State University listed as #168.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit