Don’t Throw Your Money Away on University of Phoenix


The University of Phoenix is the largest for-profit college in the United States, with enrollment in 2010 coming in at over 430,000 students. Most of these students are older than the average undergraduate, with situations that make a traditional university program impractical. Full-time jobs, children, low income, or a spotty academic history make a college such as the University of Phoenix appealing to adults who want to earn an associate’s, bachelor’s, or even a master’s degree.

Students sign up for University of Phoenix seeking to improve their lives in a practical way. They want career training, a higher paying job, or the ability to provide for their family. What they find, too often, is debilitating student loan debt, little career guidance, and almost no support to help with the adjustment to the life of a college student.

If you’re looking for a degree program to fit into a busy schedule, Phoenix probably looks tempting, but this is definitely a case of buyer beware.

Poor Customer Service

Consumer Affairs, a consumer news and advocacy site, lists hundreds of complaints from Phoenix students dating back to 2007. These include misused student aid funds, rude and unhelpful counselors, program and credit misinformation, and countless other errors that made completion of a degree program difficult, if not impossible, for many students. Ripoff Report has nearly 600 similar complaints. Misinformation from admissions counselors is one of the most common, followed by poor instruction quality and misuse of student loan funds. Incoming students are led to believe their credits will transfer to other institutions or qualify for various certifications in their field when that may not be the case.

Questionable Practices

Speaking of misuse of funds, the University of Phoenix has found itself in trouble with the federal government for that very thing. Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows the University of Phoenix received more $1 billion in Pell Grant money in the 2009-2010 school years. Several class-action lawsuits have accused Phoenix of illegally accepting money from Pell Grants and other federal student loan programs.

A whistleblower lawsuit, alleging recruiters’ pay was illegally tied to enrollment numbers, was settled for nearly $10 million in 2004. The university settled a similar lawsuit for nearly $80 million in 2009. While the University of Phoenix admitted no wrongdoing in either of those settlements, the accusation has arisen again that recruiters and counselors give potential students misleading information about transferable credits, program accreditation, and financial aid. Recruiters used sales techniques to pressure students into signing up, including hinting at near-full programs and “one seat left” in upcoming classes. Another whistleblower lawsuit was filed in May 2011 in California, charging that the university continues to ignore the ban on tying recruiters’ pay to number of students enrolled.

Quality of Education

These lawsuits allege that the pressure is on for University of Phoenix recruiters to enroll more students, and that they aren’t looking at whether a student is qualified or if the program is a good fit–they just want to boost their numbers. There’s a vicious cycle at work; students enroll in non-traditional programs to finish an abandoned degree, change careers, or improve their earning power; but they may be forced to drop out when they can’t keep up with the program, or they may graduate with a degree in a field where they cannot find work.

What’s even worse is that for a school with such a questionable reputation, its tuition isn’t even cheap (compared to similar programs at community and state colleges), which means students run up student loan debt they may later be unable to pay. After defaulting on student loans, Phoenix alums may end up in worse financial shape than before they went back to school.

The quality of a University of Phoenix education, therefore, is debatable, and open enrollment isn’t the only reason. Many of the faculty members are part-time, and the classes are taught at an accelerated rate. Instructional hours for one course average between 20 and 24, compared to 40 hours for a semester course at a traditional institution.

Additionally, some companies that provide their employees with tuition reimbursement have dropped Phoenix from their programs due to lack of accreditation in many subject areas.

Federal Investigations

Lawmakers in Congress continue to investigate for-profit universities, particularly the University of Phoenix, for issues ranging from high loan default rates to reports of exploitative sales pitches to military veterans. The Obama administration has recently toughened eligibility rules, potentially cutting off government aid for programs with low post-graduation employment and high rates of drop-outs and student loan defaults.

Think about it. Do you want a degree from a university that repeatedly faces accusations of illegally accepted federal student loan funds and questionable recruitment practices? That may knowingly saddle you with excessive student loan debt? A prospective employer in the business world will certainly have heard about Phoenix’s reputation, and it may not be a good thing. Do you want your name associated with University of Phoenix when you’re trying to get a job?


  1. 1

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  7. 7

    O.k. I don’t know either way, but what I do know is that some folks on here who are or have been college students apparently didn’t learn spelling at ANY school, from kindergarten through college.

  8. 8

    I attended the University of Phoenix online for my Masters and my Doctorate and I feel I learned more from UOP than I learned when I earned y Bachelors. The rigourous ciruculum required by UOP for participation, discussion questions, team projects, and individual assignments was challenging, insightful, and applied to what was happening in the current global economy. The theory, knowledge, and answers provided by each instructor was very thought provoking. The most impressive knowledge achieved was from the participation necessary from each student. the interaction with each student in the online classroom added more knowledge than in a physical classroom, where most students are wall-flowers.

    Every school has students who are not successful in their environment. Every school has issues with student loans, paper work propblems, and unhapy students. Is their a big issue because UOP is successful? I think so. The business model of UOP meets the needs of students all around the world. If I could have attended another university that fit the same usiness model, I may have given them a chance a measured who offered the best program. At the time, there was no other program that offered or meet the needs of a full-time mom, full-time working adult, who wanted to continue on with her education.

    Online learning is not for everyone, but it meet my needs and I have flourised, excelled, and meet people from all over the world.

    I am a Phoenix and Proud!!

  9. 9

    Sketchy school with sketchy graduates posting sketchy comments. Go figure.

  10. 10

    Satisfied Phoenix do you work for U of P lol

  11. 11

    Interesting ! How is this different than a group of unscrupulous attorneys writing a scathing article (advertisement) based on dramatized data that they know could never pass for evidence in a courtroom and could even be considered libelous if not posed as a question. Is this not an attempt by a bunch of fortune-hunting lawyers who can’t get hired based on their reputation for a solid, ethical practice to drum up business? Give me a break!

  12. 12
    Satisfied Phoenix

    Fact is, while many solid points were presented, over-generalization and editorializing do not provide evidence.

    Fact is, this Phoenix was not PAID to post positive comments about the UoP program.

    Fact is, this argument would be more convincing with more solid evidence concerning why student succeed or fail in various venues.

    Fact is, some students speak well of UoP because they actually had a good learning experience and others speak up because they did not. Whether a good or bad experience, neither side can invalidate the experience of others.

    Wisdom is, to always proceed with caution in choosing educational programs and do a cost/benefit analysis to make a wise decision.

  13. 13

    Personal experience will vary, that’s why personal anecdotes, while interesting, are not considered evidence. For example, a popular restaurant may have been cited by the Health dept. many times for unsafe and unsanitary conditions, even as restaurant fans claim, “I never got sick there and I eat there at least twice a week.”

    Fact is, UoP has been cited and charged many times, and has chosen to settle out of court many times, which means they don’t have to admit any wrongdoing. The settlement amounts, while they seem like a lot of money, are NOTHING compared to the profits they rake in off students.

    Fact is, UoP is more expensive than the same education you will get at a community college or four year state college.

    Fact is, UoP is a profit-making business while your local college is NOT, so UoP charges you more so they can pay their stockholders a return. Ten-year average returns have been whopping- 10-20%- where else can people with money put their money so it will make more money? If you want to pay tuition to support that, fine, your choice.

    Fact is, students at public colleges will usually get a financial aid package that includes some grants, some work-study, some expected personal or family contribution, and some loans, which lowers your overall debt load on graduation, while most for-profit colleges like UoP will push loans only. Why? They make more money that way.

    Fact is, student loan debt can NEVER be discharged, not in bankruptcy, and not even in DEATH, where if that unfortunate situation should occur, your descendants are responsible. Should you or your descendants be unable to pay your student loans, the feds will come after you (or them) and garnish what ever wages you (or they) have. Meanwhile, UoP has got their money off you, and most likely re-sold your debt. What do they care? Why should they?

    Fact is, many for-profits fudge it when you ask about accreditation or certification. There are different kinds of accreditation and certification, they will NOT tell you which is required for your occupational goal, they will NOT tell you if their programs have that required type of certification but they WILL boast about whatever kind of accreditation they do have. Some accreditations require nothing more from the college than a subscription or annual payment to some important-sounding organization with a fancy web site.

    Fact is, most for-profits spend at least 20% if not more operating expenses on slick ad and marketing campaigns. How much do you think those deeply moving “I am a Pheonix” ads cost? Do you really think TV ads are true?

    Fact is, their claims to serve an “under-served” population of adults, returning and/or working, rural, remote, poor, unprepared, first-time college goers, etc., whatever, community colleges have been serving these same populations for at least fifty years and for much less money. Online? you can get online classes from many legitimate, accredited, public or private non-profit colleges. Everybody’s online nowadays.

    Fact is, they WILL NOT tell you whether your credits will transfer if you should decide to try that. Their “counselors” will do everything they can to get you to finish your degree with THEM. In contrast, public colleges generally are very helpful with students wishing to transfer to another public college or university.

    Fact is, most of the students who testify or claim in public forums like this one that UoP or other for-profit colleges did good by them, great programs, great faculty, rigorous class content, etc., whatever their positive experience, in MOST cases that will be because those students would have done well ANYWHERE, and most cases you’ll find they are getting graduate degrees- Master’s or Doctorate. Undergrads are NOT well served by for-profits. Undergrads are difficult even for public colleges, partly because our K-12 system has declined significantly over the last two decades, they are not prepared well for college level work at any institution.

    Fact is, many for-profits actually HIRE blogging firms that PAY people to post positive comments. Hah, betcah didn’t know that even happened in any comment blog. But, there is money to be made if you can write well and get people arguing. Pay-per-post and pay-per-response. Of course, like many review sites for consumer products, there will be shills who post positive comments for free becuase they are either family members or employees of the company making or selling the product.

    Fact is, for-profit colleges see education as a product they can sell to whoever wants to buy at whatever price they can sell it for. They don’t care about advancing society as a whole, helping people develop as good citizens, critical thinkers, smart voters, active community members, it’s all and only about money. When things are monetized, they subsequently lose all their intrinsic value and thus become worthless.

  14. 14

    If people thanks that school is a rip off then they should test out the CUNY College in NYC especially Queensborough Community College they are the Biggest rip off that I know. The professor will not teach you what you need to know until the week before the finael. Now in these days I really don’t see any good schools to go to that really want to help student all I see is greed.

  15. 15

    I agree with these ppl , hey if uop works for you personally then that is what matters , because regardless ,ppl will have their own opinion whether we all ppl agree or not so i say that if uop works and helps sencerely these individuals with their education then that is what is right for them because what works for one may not work for another . thank you.

  16. 16

    I hate University of Phoenix. I had a situation where I was homeless and could not get to a computer to do my classes for a month, when I finally got shelter, I could not attend school unless I payed 2,000, they did not care about my situation and now I have a debt I owe with financial aid.

    I am currently attending a different school and I am glad that I am not attending UOP. They suck!

  17. 17
    Satisfied Phoenix

    I agree with C. J. and John Doe. I think that there must be a tremendous range of experiences within the University of Phoenix student population. I, for one, am enrolled in the doctoral program in the School of Advanced Studies at the University of Phoenix and have had a wonderful, rigorous, fulfilling learning experience that has enhanced both my professional life and personal learning. I am in the process of completing revisions to my dissertation, working with my mentor and committee members (in three states) and preparing to submit to the dean for final quality review prior to my completing my Oral Defense.

    I have worked with doctoral students and learning teams with diverse perspectives and world views coming from a variety of locations both in the United States and abroad. I attended the on-site residencies required during each of the “coursework” years and met the students and many the faculty that I work with in the online environment.

    I have had the opportunity to work with instructors who are experts in their fields (all holding doctoral degrees from respected universities). For my dissertation, I was able to search and find expertise in both the the methodology and topic of my selected subject. The doctoral journey and dissertation processes have been rigorous but well supported.

    In my professional setting, I have worked with colleagues who pursued and/or completed doctoral degrees at both the University of Washington and Washington State University. I have been able to hold my own in discussions of theory, methodology, research strategies and have found that I have had more access to library resources, cross-cultural and international viewpoints and perspectives through my University of Phoenix program than my colleagues according to their statements. I don’t think that my colleagues perceived that my UoP route was less rigorous than their pathways but that I actually had a broader, richer experience in some ways.

    Because I live in a rural area, I previously completed an online certificate program through UCLA Extension and online classes through Seattle Pacific University. While these were excellent online formats and courses, they do not match the quality or exceptional experience that I have had through the University of Phoenix’s School of Advanced Studies.

    While I agree that students should be careful to examine all online (and brick & mortar) programs to meet their needs and career goals, I would suggest that the University of Phoenix not be dismissed without an exploration of the assets and education opportunities provided to the majority of students. Perhaps it’s time to explore share data about the positive and successful attributes of the University of Phoenix also. UoP was also the right choice for me.

  18. 18

    I agree with John Doe. I have a degree from this school and have greatly improved my life with it. School is what you make it, you have to study and work hard to learn something no matter where you go. There are bad teachers everywhere, I had a few at a traditional university where I finished most of my undergraduate material. I had a better experience at U of P than I did at the traditional school. It is more expensive, true, but the material is just as good as a regular university, you just have to be ready to keep up with the rapid pace of the curriculum.
    As for the service at U of P, this article is just plain wrong. I can get a hold of ANY counselor I need in about two seconds. They are always ready to take your call and help you with anything that you need. In fact, I am attending a career fair at the school next week to help out with resume writing and interviews, a free service for students and alumni both.
    The decision to go back to school is a personal one, look at all of your options and find a program that will work for you. U of P was the right choice for me. Good luck everyone!

  19. 19

    U of P is a total rip off! We sat in class one week just watching youtube videos. The teacher scolded us for having our own opinions. If that’s what you call education, your an idiot! Never again will I ever go back to that school or advise anyone to do so. TOTAL RIP OFF!

  20. 20

    Who wrote this article? A Harvard-vested-interest? A snob? Looks like it. In reality, EDUCATION is in the hands of the student… and there are MANY ways to learn. I wish I had a dime for EVERY incompetent Harvard-bred graduate I’ve encountered through the years, including our past and current U.S. President.

    Get a degree. If the institution is credentialed it’s a degree. THE FACT institutions are receiving credentials, then being slammed for being “poor quality” is someone else’s fault. Broken process… brought to you by elected lawyers who enruch themselves in a broken court system in America now operated like an auction house.

    FIX YOUR COURT SYSTEM FIRST… It’s priority #1 – or let an online degreed candidate do it for you.


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