Like other recent events in the US, it has become harder and harder for University of Phoenix to hold back controversy. In the fall of 2006, the pressure of bottled up truths broke through the dam and came flooding into the limelight.
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The first week of September 2006, the Associated Press broke news the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals joined by the US Department of Justice reopened a case against the university, alleging it defrauded the government of millions of dollars. This suit was initiated by employees of the university. The renewal is hardly a surprise as numerous current and former employees, especially those employed by University of Phoenix's (UoP) Online section, have regularly complained within the company, on the news and all over the Internet about University of Phoenix's unscrupulous practices.
Complaints mounted as the Online section, headed by Brian Mueller, grew rapidly. In 2006, Brian Mueller was promoted to CEO of Apollo Group, UoP's parent company. In 2005, total enrollment in the Online programs surpassed UoP's total US ground campus enrollment, thus creating a large concentration of employees grouped in one location near Phoenix's International Airport. Employee turnover rates at the Online campus have been reported at 60% or greater. It is hard to throw a stone in a grocery store without hitting at least one current and/or former employee of the company.
Not surprisingly, this high turnover rate leads to discussion among current and former employees. One universal theme amongst employees - discrimination. UoP has lawsuits pending for sexual discrimination, race discrimination, retaliation and, figuring ever more prominently, religious discrimination. The last week of September, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Phoenix finally took a stand and filed against the university for discrimination against non-Mormon enrollment counselors. While walking through a local grocery store, I was unsettled to hear a couple of Mormons discussing the UoP "ward." This means that the church has a group dedicated to converting people who work for UoP. It is likely that more lawsuits will come from other employee groups such as academic and financial counselors who have also complained of discrimination by the university.
This follows a previous high-profile lawsuit which UoP was forced to settle for failing to compensate enrollment counselors for overtime work. A lawsuit is now in the works against UoP on behalf of academic counselors for violating federal overtime laws. UoP has become notorious for pressuring counselors to work beyond their 8-hour shift and to work from home using their personal email accounts and phone lines.
Complaints regarding the companies hostile work environment are littered across the Internet. Employees, faculty and students agree that, whatever the environment, the University of Phoenix has bred contempt for its service and product across a broad spectrum of the consumer landscape. Websites such as UoPSucks.com, RateItAll.com, RipOffReport.com, StudentsReview.com, etc. contain numerous stories filled with mirror details. Whether the story is written by a student, an employee or a faculty member, the events unfold the same. It's no wonder that, by the first week of November, a securities lawsuit was filed against the for-profit university. In January 2008, the fraud lawsuit was won for approximately $280 million. It is currently the largest fine that the university has paid to date. However, with their track record it will not be the last.
In November 2006, the Arizona Republic reported that Intel removed the university from its list of approved schools for tuition reimbursement. After this latest controversy, it is not surprising that Intel has chosen to terminate their long-stand partnership with UoP. It is also not a shock that several other Fortune 500 companies have followed suit. The companies site the lack of AACSB accreditation for the school's business program as the cause. The ultimate example of how poorly received UoP degrees are by the corporate world, a Parker & Lynch add specifically states that "Applicants from University of Phoenix or DeVry need not apply."
Websites opposing University of Phoenix have long contained postings from students who find themselves unable to obtain employment or complain of being passed over for promotions after obtaining a degree from UoP. These websites also contain postings by employers and hiring personnel who admit that they automatically throw out resumes that contain University of Phoenix credentials. Interestingly, www.Payscale.com shows that UoP graduates make significantly less than graduates from other institutions.
This follows StudentsReview.com's findings. The website surveys visitors and 2006 statistics showed that 25% of UoP graduates are unemployed and 50% believe UoP contributed 0-25% to their success. The greatest criticisms come from the most recent graduates and those who attended the Online program. The online program was guided by Brian Mueller, who is often accused of training enrollment counselors to use unscrupulous sales tactics, even bullying, to increase enrollment numbers. In fall of 2007, a group of consumers banded together to form a MySpace group http://groups.myspace.com/ApolloSux. With 100 members and counting, the group has solicited legal representation to go after UoP for fraud. Accounts of individuals are listed in bulletins and forum topics.
Meanwhile, more information is surfacing about the credentials of "facilitators" at UoP campuses. UoP instructors (aka "facilitators") are only required to have a Masters in order to teach graduate level courses in their field. UoPexperience has uncovered Joseph Kleinplatz, MD as faculty at a UoP Jersey City campus (as of 5-14-07). A quick Internet search on the name revealed that this facilitator has been charged with fraudulently obtaining a medical license, fraudulent practice of medicine, false report, moral unfitness / incompetence, violation of public health law and failing to make records available. He was found by the board to be a menace to New York and his license was revoked. In addition, a criminal justice and ethics professor turned out to be an ex-con. Court records show James Brey was originally charged with six counts of grand theft, 22 counts of forgery and 22 counts of presenting fraudulent receipts. He was ultimately convicted on four felony counts and ordered to repay $34,000. http://uopsucks.com/teachers.html
UoP's reputation has also come into question after paperwork surfaced showing that a student who ONLY had a GED was allowed to enroll in and complete a Masters degree program. Apparently the student graduated with the master's degree and applied for a job. When the student showed the employer the master's degree, but did not have an undergrad degree to show, the student contacted the University. The University quickly moved to cover up this error and reportedly offered the undergrad program to the student for free. UOPSucks.com was told that this student received federal financial aid. Federal financial aid guidelines strictly prohibit the use of financial aid monies when students are not qualified for the program. Furthermore, the student would have received much higher levels of financial aid due to the graduate level coursework and would have been denied aid for bachelor's work based on the presumption that an undergraduate program had already been completed.
If you want a quality education that will hold up, look for options outside of University of Phoenix. In this case, you pay Rolls Royce fees for a Pinto. Despite the convenience, University of Phoenix is just not worth the risk.
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