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By Doug Brown, Public Policy Researcher, and Sean Kitchen, APSCUF intern

The University of Phoenix is facing probation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges because of the for-profit university’s “lack of autonomy” from parent company and main shareholder, the Apollo Group. According to Inside Higher Ed, after completing its review the Commission originally planned to place the university on “notice”- a much lighter sanction – but changed course due to concerns about the ability of its board of directors to independently manage the university outside of Apollo and in a way that ensures integrity and supports an educational mission. The University of Phoenix accounts of 90 percent of the Apollo Group’s total revenue.

The report also cited low retention and graduation rates at Phoenix, overreliance on federal aid as a revenue source, and the lack of sufficient assessment of learning outcomes.
Company representatives for Apollo claim that Phoenix has become more autonomous since its last accreditation review in 2002, and “believe that it is neither remarkable nor improper for a parent corporation to exercise appropriate influence over its wholly owned subsidiary.” The Apollo Group conducted an internal report, which claimed that the university is “well resourced and innovative” and has received praise for its “high level of student services and related technology.”

This university’s accreditation issues, on top of the recent Senate report on for-profits’ practices and a multi-state Attorneys General investigation, highlight why promoting and fighting for public higher education as the protector of academic integrity and advancement is important more now than ever. Corporations like Apollo want to make education a profit-making business, but quality higher education is a public good that is supposed to serve society, not a corporation’s bottom line.