University of Phoenix Online Degrees

Category: Education

When I search online for a job, career training, or any related subject I always find advertisements for the University of Phoenix and its online degree programs. Is UoP a real college or a diploma mill? Will an online degree improve my odds of getting hired as much as a traditional degree earned in a classroom?

Is University of Phoenix For Real?

First, the University of Phoenix is definitely a "real" college. In fact, its total enrollment is second only to the State University of New York (SUNY), at over 412,000 undergraduates and 78,000 graduate students. While online courses are its bread-and-butter, UoP also has physical campuses in 40 of the United States and 200 campuses worldwide.

UoP is accredited regionally by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) as a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). It also has accreditation for many of its 100 specialty degree programs. But accreditation is not a guarantee that credits earned at one school are transferable to others, or that a degree from an accredited school is as good as any other degree.
University of Phoenix Online Degree

Several things may make you wonder how academically rigorous a UoP degree program is. First, students spend only 20 to 24 hours with an instructor during each course, compared to 40 hours at a traditional university. Many colleges and employers are skeptical of UoP's academic rigor; one professor refers to its business degree as "MBA Lite." Even former UoP instructors complain the courses are too short to inculcate all the material covered by the curriculum.

Second, UoP is a for-profit higher education institution, and they don't have the greatest track record. While only 9% of college students attend for-profit colleges, they account for 44% of all student loan defaults.

Third, only 16% of UoP students graduate, compared to a 55% average nationwide. (UoP claims that the criteria used to calculate the graduation rate apply to only 7% of its "non-traditional" students and offers its own 59% graduation rate.)

Fourth, UoP relies on part-time instructors to an extraordinary degree, raising criticism about instructor quality and experience. Nationwide, about 47% of instructors are part-timers; at UoP, about 95% are.

Is a University of Phoenix Degree Worth The Price?

The University of Phoenix is owned by The Apollo Group, a publicly traded corporation. Like any such corporation, its first loyalty is to shareholders, not students. It is widely argued that UoP sacrifices academic quality to meet investors' demands for ever-higher profits.

Intel Corp. dropped UoP from its list of schools for which Intel employees could receive tuition reimbursement, saying the UoP lacked top-notch accreditation. Before enrolling in any continuing-education program, it's good idea to check with your employer to see if tuition reimbursement is available for that particular school and course.

In general, academic experts concur that for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix cost 4-5 times more per credit hour than non-profit (government subsidized) colleges, deliver less valuable education, and leave students with twice as much debt.

It's buyer beware, for sure! But then, an education is often what the student decides to make of it. And if an online degree is your only path to advancement, it may be worth a look. With eyes wide open, of course.

Have you had experience with UoP or another online college? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "University of Phoenix Online Degrees"

Posted by:

18 Mar 2011

I am a graduate of University of Phoenix and take exception with the negativity of your answer to this question. I have a Bachelors, Masters, and am working on my doctorate right now with UOP. I have worked harder for these degrees than I ever did for my nursing two year on ground campus degree. The facilitators are all professionals and work in the real world which lends to the students having the benefit of real world experiences from our facilitators and our classmates. I have worked and learned from people from all over the world and have found this to be a beneficial environment. My employer recognizes and praises the UOP programs and pays 60% of my tuition because they have seen how rigorous and beneficial the programs at UOP are to the real world. I AM A PHOENIX AND DARN PROUD OF IT!

Posted by:

18 Mar 2011

I am a graduate of U of P in 2010. Your comments are right on the mark. I took 13 courses to my MBA and found the administrator interaction in about 20% of my courses inadequate. I admired the people who were facilitators; they were exceptional people with varied backgrounds. Do not expect the jewels that come from listening to lectures. A few standup videos could have helped, maybe one a week. Most of what I needed was help in more technical courses like statistics. I am an engineer and like the technical discussions and learn from them.

The biggest benefit to me personally was in writing and it came more from their nifty automated grammar checker than from personal instruction. All “A’s” came a bit easier than I felt it should but, not unlike business, it came from doing what was assigned “well but not prefect” and on time.

If you are looking for education you can get it at U of P. The interaction from other students is an excellent way to learn. You answer a question, and then read other student answer’s to gain insight. I do not need the “paper” that is now being devalued by other organizations and do think the learning opportunity is as good as any.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2011

I wish I had now dug deeper into UOP before I enrolled 3 years ago. I went in for an BA in IT degree,I wanted to learn how to do web design and fix computers. I was told that I would learn all of that there and 3 years later I got only 1 useful Linux class and a whole bunch of management classes, so not what I was working for. Not to mention I now owe almost 51 grand in loans with no degree to show for it. so I dropped and enrolled in a tech college been there for a month and have learned so much more. UOP to me is only for professionals the wish to get higher up not for people wanting to learn a new field.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2011

I watched a colleague take the UoP courses and I have to say that I wasn't impressed. His was the MBA program and the amount and quality of the work that he was doing something that I would question if I was an employeer hiring someone with an MBA from this place. Most of his courses were without exams and the type of course work would probably on the level of 1st or 2nd year at the undergrad level. I know this because he wanted me to do some of his work, which I did to see if I still could ( I have a business degree.

UoP is the type of place where there is no GMAT taken and they will take you if you have the $s to pay.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2011

I graduated from a traditional brick and mortal university and also attended school online. It is buyer beware if you choose to go the online route.

I attended Westwood College Online. I did my research and this college was considered to be one of the top online colleges to attend. However, Westwood College is only accredited on the regional level, not the national level. This means that any courses you take at Westwood will not transfer if you choose to attend a different university.

Also, Westwood uses retired instructors who did not seem to fully understand the online format. The office hours for their instructors were lousy, so if you had a problem on the weekends, you could not get ahold of your instructor.

People have the misconception that attending college online is easy and you can take all the time in the world. This is very wrong! You have time limits to get your assignments done and must commit at least 6-9 hours every day in order to complete your assignments. If you are a person who needs alot of hand-holding in order to complete an assignment, then don't go online!

Posted by:

18 Mar 2011

The answer Bob gave was succinct, accurate, factual and truthful. He is entirely correct that the UoP degree is not as highly regarded as other degrees. While the workload is higher than the LVN/MiniRN program you completed, that's to be expected. They have to prepare you for a licensing exam. Perhaps querying the states licensing boards about failure rates for UoP grads would be more instructive. But a knee-jerk reaction and accusations of negativity say more about your own lack of self confidence than question Bobs impartiality. I hope you will wear your cardinal and black gown with pride. Your confidence in yourself is all that matters. You see, if you wear that robe anywhere other than academia, people will think you belong to a choir. Other PHD's will judge you by your publications. Don't forget, they call chiropractors and veterinarians 'Doctor', too.

Posted by:

19 Mar 2011

UOP is one, if not the only one, of the saddest experience of my life. At the age of 54, I was accepted without them giving me the assurance that I had the aptitude to finish an MBA degree in business. They only asked for my employment and college transcript of record and diploma. They did not give consideration to the fact I graduated from college in 1973, more than 25 years ago. They accepted me without further questions. They obviously were only after my tuition. I passed the first 4 courses but when it came to the Finance and Accounting course, (the last time I studied this was in 1970-73).I had a 2.9 grade which brought down my GPA. I studied diligently for this course together with my team which was composed mainly of older students like me. I was asked to take a leave of absence because I didn't meet the required GPA. Now, I'm paying $15,000 and will continue to do so until I move to a nursing home. They say no one should regret any of his actions, but UOP is one big regret! I found out later that other colleges require you to take an eligibility test before you can get accepted. They should pass a law on this. Every higher learning education should pass through an aptitude/elegibility test.

Posted by:

19 Mar 2011

I have a Masters of Education (Educational Counseling) from U of Phx. My courses were taken in a building with about 12 other students. The instructors were people already working in the field. We received valuable current information from them. I only had to take one class over again. I didn't care for the instructor's way of teaching. Other than that, I really enjoyed the experience of going to U of Phx. On the other hand, I had difficulty in taking an online course from U of Phx. There was just too much to deal with for one course. There was no real-time interaction with other students. It was more like a forum. You had to keep checking in to see if anyone responded. I dropped out because I got real sick and wasn't able to finish the course. I did get back most of my money from the course after making a big stink.

Posted by:

20 Mar 2011

"...In general, academic experts concur that for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix cost 4-5 times more per credit hour than non-profit (government subsidized) colleges, deliver less valuable education, and leave students with twice as much debt..."

Wow!! The experts have spoken. I am convinced.

1st: Of course for profit colleges cost more than taxpayer subsidized colleges. The taxpayer (not government) is footing the difference. Duuuhhh.

2nd: Many college courses could/should be eliminated...all those for which a student could check out a free book at the library and read it. A professor 'lecturing' in class is often a waste of that prof's $250k/year salary. Just read the @#$% book.

Last: If a student wants to get a useless degree that does not lead to a decent paying job, then that student should pay full retail cost for that piece of paper.

P.S. An education is not an 'entitlement" - no one owes you (students) anything. Besides, we have too may 'educated' now people who cannot do anything productive, except agitate for more 'public services'.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2011

I would caution anyone in the education field to check with their own state education department's requirements for certification. A few years ago while serving on my local school board we had to demote a very talented special education teacher because NYS Education would not accept her credits and training from UOP as sufficient to meet state standards for certification. This was a very sad situation.

Posted by:

22 Mar 2011


I suspect Bob should not have employed the phrase 'academic experts'; appeals to undifferentiated and unspecified authority generally undermines an argument rather than supports it. That said, your own well articulated and organized arguments are ... debatable:

1. Non profit colleges include both publicly supported universities (e.g., University of Texas, University of Colorado, University of 'your state here', etc) and privately supported universities (e.g., Harvard, Whitworth College, etc). In the latter case, no, the taxpayer is not footing the difference. Further, FPs like UP receive substantial revenue via federal and state loans and loan guarantees to students -- hence, the recent inquiries by governmental authorities into the effectiveness (i.e., graduation rates) of FP colleges. Call it indirect tax support or, if you are cynical as I am about FP colleges, indirect taxpayer fleecing.

2. "Many college courses could/should be eliminated ... those for which a student could check out a free book at the library". Hmm, free? As in taxpayer supported. And, be more specfic. After all, virtually all college courses would meet that criteria. How are 'lectures' a wast of the professor's salary? Oh, the professor could be spending more useful time in research or, gasp, consulting. Engaging whether by lecture or seminar interaction with students is, by contrast, a waste of time. Not my experience or observation, but I suppose we ought to considere looking at a larger sample size.

3. Useless degree that does not lead to a decent paying job. Unfortunately, the point of an education, of being an educated person, is not limited to getting a job. Indeed, if the relationship is only education:job, then all school should consist only of technical subjects; let's skip (as I infer you believe) the literature, history, art, humanities, and related non-productive, useless subjects. Might make education more focused and 'cheaper'-- if that is the purpose of education or of being educated.

4. Education as entitlement. Ah, the problem of education as it is now delivered is that it produces too many unproductive people who agitate for more public services. That's possible, but I think for that argument it would be useful for you to reference some 'expert authority' or even a statistic or two. And, naturally, it would be equally useful to be clear and compelling on both the nature of education and its purpose.

As a different opinion, the failur of for profit colleges like UoP is that aside from the issues that Bob raises, they focus narrowly on technical education, and even there are deficient. What works better: an MBA from UoP or one from the University of Texas or, gasp, Harvard. And, which catagory of college actually tries to produce truly educated graduates?

Posted by:

Bryan Hanes
23 Mar 2011

I was pursuing an MBA with UOP until it was interrupted by a vacation in Iraq. I found it to be as challenging as I chose to make it. I was paying for my hours so I read the materials, attended classes, participated, and did all the homework and presentations. I was totally satisfied with the learning opportunity at UOP. One of my instructors was substandard and she got booted after our course based on student feedback. The others were exceptionally good. I believe that a degree from UOP is as good as the student that earned it. I would hire a UOP grad as quickly as from most more traditional schools because the quality of the product from those schools is no better than their students either.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2011

Most employers will laugh at you if you apply with a UoP degree. It doesn't matter how hard you worked or what you learned. The general impression is that UoP is a diploma mill handing out degrees for cash. This is especially true if the hiring manager went to a traditional brick & mortar school. They tend to strongly believe that is the only way to a legitimate degree. Any non-traditional learning (even night school at a traditional university) is dismissed as inferior if not totally bogus.

Posted by:

B. Garrett
24 Mar 2011

While the article claims that UOPX students, “spend only 20 to 24 hours with an instructor during each course,” it's difficult to see how a lecture hall at a typical university teaching 500+ students at a time is somehow more intimate.

The article also states that, “the UoP is a for-profit higher education institution, and they don't have the greatest track record.” They actually have an excellent track record for profit. But how that relates to the repayment of their students loans is unclear.

It is true that, “…UoP relies on part-time instructors to an extraordinary degree," but this is because instructors there must hold a full-time job working in the very field that they teach. This is the direct opposite of traditional universities, where professors are all striving for tenure with no intention of ever working elsewhere.

And, “it is widely argued that UoP sacrifices academic quality to meet investors' demands for ever-higher profits?” Where is this widely argued? Corporations will always place shareholders first, but that hasn't stopped anyone from buying their products.

Posted by:

25 Mar 2011

G. W. Bush went to Yale and Harvard. B. Obama went to Columbia and Harvard Law School.

Just look how well that has turned out for the country.

Posted by:

26 Mar 2011

@Moe: Please tell me where the average professor earns $250K/year. Not only did I attend a prestigious graduate school, but I went back and taught at one for eight years part time. No one was earning near that amount, at least not on the money the University was paying them directly. If you are counting grant monies, you are incorrect in your method of evaluating salaries. Grant monies come with additional duties, responsibilities, and needs to pay others to move forward projects. Professor salaries may be better than public teacher salaries, but they are not nearly what you have framed them to be. Please don't skew the arguments by inflating an already misunderstood profession.

Posted by:

04 Apr 2011

How do UoP graduates stack up against subsidized state college graduates? I earned my MBA from UoP and work with graduates from our state colleges. I can walk the walk and talk the talk with them as well as anybody. I can perform with them everywhere and even outperform them in many other areas. I did actually do the work while attending UoP. Many students do as little as possible to get by, but as far as I'm concerned, they're just cheating themselves. My advice is to read all the books, work all the problems in the course, and learn as much as you can because you're paying for it.

Posted by:

05 Jun 2011

I just completed a bachelor's degree with an online school (American Military University) and am now enrolled in a master's program at another online school (Liberty University Online). AMU impressed me with its serious workload (comparable to the prestigious northeastern private school and typical state school I have also attended), total lack of groupwork, and excellent software interface. Liberty, despite being nominally not-for-profit and having an actual bricks-and-mortar campus, has not stacked up well against AMU so far -- the workload is lower, half my classes will involve groupwork (I'm not talking about group discussion boards but actual collaborative assignments such as research papers), and the software (Blackboard) is terrible. To be fair, Liberty offered a wonderful tuition discount for military veterans, bringing the cost of my graduate education down to only $250 per credit hour -- same price I paid for undergrad at AMU (not all online schools are as pricey as UoP!). To hedge against possible stigma associated with online schools, I plan on pursuing CPA certification. I am a working mother and Army wife; the online option was the only feasible route for me to earn these degrees.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- University of Phoenix Online Degrees (Posted: 18 Mar 2011)
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