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For-profit universities disappoint

Graduation rate lags behind public schools, report says

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Gladys Forner said she had a good experience at the University of Phoenix's Augusta campus, where she received her bachelor's degree in psychology in September after taking 22 classes in 2 1/2 years.

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University of Phoenix psychology student, Joy Hamby of Augusta, uses the computer before classes Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 in Augusta. Recently The Education Trust, based in D.C., called out the nation's largest for-profit university for lack of graduates. Last year they received $1 billion in pell grant money. The school's most sucessful campus is in New Mexico with 33% graduating. However, Augusta's numbers have yet to be revealed.  Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
University of Phoenix psychology student, Joy Hamby of Augusta, uses the computer before classes Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 in Augusta. Recently The Education Trust, based in D.C., called out the nation's largest for-profit university for lack of graduates. Last year they received $1 billion in pell grant money. The school's most sucessful campus is in New Mexico with 33% graduating. However, Augusta's numbers have yet to be revealed.

Her sister, she said, is "so against Phoenix" because of the bad experience she had.

Pick any two students, even siblings, at an institution such as Augusta State University or the University of Georgia, and you might find a similar difference of opinion.

But according to a report released last month by the Education Trust, a nonprofit education advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., the experience of Forner's sister at Phoenix and other for-profit colleges is much more common than at public institutions such as ASU or UGA, or private, nonprofit colleges such as Paine College or Mercer University.

"I would say it was very good," said Forner, 40, of Harlem, of her experience at Phoenix. "I know Phoenix is a little more expensive than some of the colleges, but for the experience I had there, I would say it was well worth what I'm paying."

Still, Forner's experience, according to Education Trust, is the exception, not the rule, for students enrolled at Phoenix. The report, called "Subprime Opportunity: The Unfulfilled Promise of For-Profit Colleges and Universities," says only 9 percent of students enrolling at Phoenix graduate with a bachelor's degree within six years. Phoenix's own statistics show that 36 percent of those students graduate within six years and that 39 percent take more than six years to get the degree.

A more encouraging sign, at least at first glance, is that 66 percent of students enrolling in for-profit institutions earn a credential that requires two years or less within three years -- three times higher than the 22 percent rate at public community colleges.

The report, however, says of for-profit school graduates, "Students' inability to pay back the debt strongly suggests that the credentials students are earning at these schools, with the intention of preparing themselves for lucrative jobs and careers, may not be worth the cost. Even if they graduate, it seems clear that they are not entering the jobs, and bringing home the income, they had planned for when they entered the institution."

According to the Education Trust report, students who graduate from a for-profit college with a bachelor's degree have a median debt load of $31,190 -- nearly twice that for the graduate of a private, nonprofit institution and almost four times the debt carried by a public college graduate.

Phoenix's three-year graduation rate for associate degrees is much lower than the for-profit average, 26 percent, according to the school's own statistics, and an additional 31 percent of students seeking that credential earned it in more than three years.

Local Phoenix officials typically refer questions to their corporate headquarters. Asked last week for their reaction to the Education Trust report, the office issued a statement:

"Like every accredited college and university, degree completion rates at University of Phoenix are regularly assessed by the Department of Education. Unfortunately, these assessments follow an outdated model that favors traditional college students (i.e., those who graduate within a certain time frame). The Department's data ignore the realities of non-traditional students -- like those at University of Phoenix -- who take longer to finish their degrees due to the professional and family obligations that are common among adult working learners.

"It is unreasonable to expect non-traditional college students to complete their studies within the government's arbitrary, predetermined time frame, especially when we know those students take longer to finish their degrees because they have families and professional obligations. The majority of University of Phoenix students are these non-traditional students."

Forner fits that profile of "nontraditional student." She is married and has a 12-year-old daughter. She said the key to her success at Phoenix was an academic adviser who worked very well with her.

"He really did a lot for me and still is following up," she said. "As a student going there, to know that you feel special to somebody just helps your experience."

She said the key factor in her sister's disenchantment with the university is an academic adviser who did not work well with her.

Forner has not yet gotten a job with her degree, though she said she has a strong lead.


University of Phoenix psychology student Joy Hamby uses a computer before class at the Augusta campus. The for-profit school's most successful campus is in New Mexico. \nCOREY PERRINE/STAFF

The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., called out the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit university, for its low rate of graduates among its students.

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justmy2cents 12/26/10 - 08:47 am
As a former hiring manager

As a former hiring manager that has seen applicants with degrees from for-profit schools. The reason they don't go on to earn good money and have great careers is the degree is not looked at the same.

Unfortunately, people know the difference and you don't get the same credit with an employer with a UofP or other for-profit degree.

Plus, the degrees they offer are often 'non-standard' which makes them stand out. As an example one of the most common you see from the school mentioned in the article is a Bachelors of Science in Business (or Business Administration). You won't find a BS degree in Business from any 'normal' school as it just doesn't make sense. 1) Business is not a science thus no BS degree and 2) there is not a need for bachelor's level degrees in Business.

If you want to specialize in business you get an Masters. It would be like getting an associates in accounting and wanting to be a CPA.

I personally find it repulsive that these schools prey on the poor and military; however, it is just as sad that schools like ASU do such a poor a job reaching out to these people.

If they don't have a respectable school to improve their lives, they will get stuck somewhere else. Why can't ASU put some effort into these students and give them a real chance at a life????

Riverman1 12/26/10 - 09:30 am
There is a carpetbagger type

There is a carpetbagger type atmosphere to these schools that come into town and compete against our local colleges. There should be some type of certificate of need before these for profit institutions can come into a town.

However, we have to realize the coming of the internet has changed college and made it more available to everyone. There's nothing wrong with using the technology and ASU and other schools should step up to the plate.

I noticed where The University of Alabama is now encouraging military members to enroll in their online programs. That's what needs to happen. ASU and the other traditional colleges should expand their online offerings and award the respected degrees their institutions can provide.

MajorPaul 12/26/10 - 10:11 am
One difference in a school

One difference in a school like UoP is if you get a teaching degree from them, you are certified to teach in Arizona, not Georgia. And many Georgia BoE's do not take a degree from an online university, so you sort of went into debt for nothing. You might get a job making sandwiches at Subway or something with a degree from an online school though.

Working American
Working American 12/26/10 - 11:03 am
I graduated with a B.S from

I graduated with a B.S from Southern Weslyan University, and the degree did provide a major benefit to my life. The program was meant to give those whom did not get to finish a degree later in life. The programs are very expensive, (probably because they are aimed at students that get tuition reimbursements) and should not be, however the public colleges refuse to provide classes to match these programs and make them affordable. The reason so many do not finish is the same reasons that prevented the students from finishing in regular colleges. Also the degrees are not freebies, you still got to work hard, and they are accredited by the same agencies as other colleges.

spartaninsc 12/26/10 - 11:07 am
The “For Profit” schools will

The “For Profit” schools will accept anyone with a funding source - regardless of their academic credentials. I've seen “college” students who can barely read and couldn’t write a grammatically correct sentence if their life depended on it. There is no way to know who is completing the assignments that are turned in, as I have seen parents completing their adult children’s work and emailing it in to the school. A very large number of these students are psychology majors – there are virtually no jobs available with a degree in psychology.
As a retired manager, I can tell you – I threw out all resumes that listed a degree from an online school, as well as those from schools who gave 2 years academic credit for “life skills” and those who did not have academic admissions standards. I’m not hiring someone with a degree yet reads and writes at the 8th grade level.
Unfortunately, many state supported schools are following the for-profits. They have bills to pay and for that they need tuition. Therefore, admissions criteria go by the wayside. Got a funding source – come on down! How many colleges does Augusta have now – 6? 7? I think they have almost more than they have high schools.

elizaw 12/26/10 - 05:16 pm
U of P is full of crap, they

U of P is full of crap, they are about taking your money. Did not really learn much, now I am attending another school. Please compare the other schools here if you are deciding to attend U of P.

Sweet son
Sweet son 12/26/10 - 05:25 pm
Diploma mills!!! I too would

Diploma mills!!! I too would not hire anyone from a diploma mill or degreed person who only did work on the internet. It is just not the same. It even says that Phoenix can't get people to graduate with a four year degree. All about money and nothing about education!!!

joeuser 12/26/10 - 06:41 pm
As a graduate of Augusta

As a graduate of Augusta College (ASU now) and a parent of several kids in college I can tell you FIRSTHAND that these public institutions like ASU need and deserve all the competition they can get. Our experience with ASU in the past 7 years were very disappointing.

HURRAY for all of the competition that has sprung up competing with the likes of ASU. No...they are not perfect...but at least there are alternatives to compete with the bureaucracy created by schools that are so insensitive to the realities of folks that need have families, jobs, and careers, yet still need to further their education. The arrogance of some of these "educators" knows no bounds. The bumbling back-offices are no better, constantly losing transcripts and making you feel like you are a second-class citizen when you complain.

For all you folks who say you won't even consider the resume' of someone who graduated online....there are many more (like me) who WILL consider it...and even give it more value. Someone willing to pay their own way and work at it part-time...while juggling another job and family is the kind of person that I want working for me...not a professional, full-time student - especially someone with a degree from ASU. I would throw those out first.

Times are changing and within 5-10 years a much larger percentage of degrees will be from alternative and online models.

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