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University of Phoenix rising

University of Phoenix rising

Representatives of The American Legion recently visited the University of Phoenix’s home campus in Scottsdale, Ariz., to review the school’s performance in key areas such as education quality and fraud prevention.

Steve Gonzalez, assistant director for the Legion’s Veterans Employment and Education Division, and Legion Department of Arizona Adjutant Angel Juarez were given a daylong tour of the campus from top officials at the traditionally online school, the nation’s largest for-profit education institution with a veteran-heavy enrollment of 288,000.

Gonzalez and Juarez used the visit as an opportunity to discuss with University of Phoenix employees the measures that the school takes to prevent student loan fraud, the programs it has employed to help student veterans obtain degrees and the general quality of education that a student there receives. Employees took the opportunity to showcase a special “try-before-you-buy” level of enrollment that the school offers, where a student can pay a small fee out of pocket for several classes before enrolling officially. The idea is that, if the student can’t handle the workload, he or she can drop out without being committed to pay for an entire year of tuition.

“This appears to be a useful feature for all prospective students, especially veterans and current military who might be unsure as to whether they are ready to pursue an education,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he was also surprised to see that not only did the University of Phoenix offer quality online-learning options, but its campuses also have on-site lecture halls and classrooms that feature state-of-the-art education technology.

“The classrooms looked like what you would see at any brick-and-mortar school,” Gonzalez said. “The only difference was that they were equipped with teaching tools that seem to be on the cutting edge of what technology can provide.”

The University of Phoenix features physical presences in 38 states and Puerto Rico. Students, whether online or traditional, may attend class at one of the local campuses or receive on-site help in person from academic advisers.

“It’s good to see a school that is mostly an online-learning institution offer traditional education advising to its students,” Gonzalez said. “Their online academic advising appeared to be of a strong quality, but you can never replace the intimacy of face-to-face interaction with someone who is an expert in your area of study.”

Juarez said he was particularly pleased to see the way the University of Phoenix treats students who are veterans or current servicemembers. The school offers credit for military training and education, guidance for using military skills in the civilian world and special academic advisers who either have a military background or are familiar with military-speak. Additionally, the individuals in charge of Phoenix’s military education programs have service backgrounds.

“I think the biggest revelation here was the effort they are putting into the military services and for veterans,” Juarez said.

The American Legion has taken a cautious approach to for-profit institutions of higher education, some of which have been blamed for taking advantage of veteran students using their GI Bill benefits. The Legion has participated in a number of congressional hearings and other meetings to discuss the differences between for-profit schools that provide valuable services and those that appear to be profiteering from veterans who are leaving without marketable career skills after graduation.

“It’s important to point out that The American Legion does not see this as a debate over which is better – state-funded or consumer-funded colleges,” Gonzalez said. “We treat all colleges the same when it comes to the education of veterans and protection of the value of the GI Bill.”

At Scottsdale, Gonzalez took the opportunity to meet with compliance officials from the school who discussed with him the institution’s mechanisms to protect against fraudsters who steal identities and take out costly student loans in their victims’ names. Phoenix’s quality-control department is in place to add an extra layer of protection against such thieves, many of whom target veterans with education benefits, Gonzalez said.

“It’s good to see that these measures are in place and being managed with such an attention to detail,” Gonzalez said. “What was even better is that Phoenix is working with other institutions of higher learning to help them implement similar fraud-prevention mechanisms.”

University of Phoenix officials said they appreciate the Legion and are proud to have a high concentration of active military and veterans among their student body.

"The American Legion’s commitment to veterans is unparalleled," said Conwey Casillas, Apollo Education Group vice president. "It’s an honor to serve 50,000 veterans, active-duty students and their family members by providing an education that connects the skills and knowledge they already have and need, to a rewarding career after the military."

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Graduate

January 24, 2014 - 6:24pm

Both learning environments are valid. Tactile learners originally had a hard time in online classes because of the lack of hands-on learning. I think that video demonstrations have helped to overcome that issue for some tactile learners. For example, a coffee shop owner attending UoP could watch a video on how to negotiate with vendors and then immediately put the skill into practice and increase profit margin. Whereas, in a traditional classroom setting, a student would finish a degree and then start a coffee shop. UoP's program is outstanding. I'm biased though because I completed it. It wasn't any easier than the tradition classroom setting. In fact, at times it was harder. Complainers usually are drop outs or are biased towards traditional classroom learning (which is the way that they have learned).

TomD

January 16, 2014 - 8:17pm

Will these credits transfer to another school?

TomD

January 16, 2014 - 5:09pm

Wasn't there a 20/20 show on TV that told a few bad things about on-line education? Seems to me their diplomas were worthless when applying for a job! Any body remember this?

John071451

January 16, 2014 - 3:25pm

The University of Phoenix is a joke. You may get a degree, but you don't get an education. There is no comparison between this rip off school and a real school. The same price as a real school, but an educational experience that is lacking. As the Wizard of Oz said, "But - they have one thing you haven't got - a diploma!." That's what the University of Phoenix offers -- a diploma. They don't really offer and education.

GunnerD

January 16, 2014 - 7:38pm

Actually John071451, I thought the same thing, however, I finally checked it out, and many of their classes are on par with other friends who have gone to CalState and U of California classes. Similar excercises and similar papers. They just condense it into 4 hours of classroom over a 5 week period with quite a bit of school work. Sure some people skate through and don't learn much, as is the same as traditional schools. The education, and the fact they force you to work with team members, is quite invaluable to many corporations!

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