PHOENIX — The University of Phoenix became the nation’s largest private university by delivering high profits to investors and a solid, albeit low-overhead, education to midcareer workers seeking college degrees.
But its reputation is fraying as prominent educators, students and some of its own former administrators say the relentless pressure for higher profits, at a university that gets more federal student financial aid than any other, has eroded academic quality.
According to federal statistics and government audits, the university relies more on part-time instructors than all but a few other postsecondary institutions, and its accelerated academic schedule races students through course work in about half the time of traditional universities. The university says that its graduation rate, using the federal standard, is 16 percent, which is among the nation’s lowest, according to Department of Education data. But the university has dozens of campuses, and at many, the rate is even lower.
One hopes that not only is this sort of report a deathknell for the starry-eyed private-sector utopianism, dreaming of a McCollege serving up Extra Value Meal degrees all over America, that made its presence so strongly felt in the late-1990s, but especially that the administrators of not-for-profit universities heed the warning wrapped in this piece: that the drive for educational "efficiency," at the expense of teaching quality, and for ever cheaper pseudo-faculties, filled almost entirely with adjuncts, eventually leaves you with a lean, mean and ultimately valueless degree-mill where a university used to be.