The University of Phoenix is the largest for-profit, private, degree granting institution in the United States. It is a multi-state institution whose mission is to serve adult students by offering educational programs leading to Bachelors and Masters degrees with an emphasis in business, administration, and technology and other professional areas such as nursing, counseling and education. The University is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of Phoenix is a subsidiary of the Apollo Group, Inc. Apollo provides support services to the University and its other subsidiaries. These services include a centralized Corporate Accounting Office, a centralized Financial Aid Office, Regulatory and Audit Oversight, and staff training via the Apollo Corporate University.
At the beginning of 2002, the University of Phoenix had more than 107,000 students enrolled in programs offered in classrooms and via the Internet through the Online campus. The University has been delivering distance education programs for more than twelve years and is the largest such institution, with more than 33,000 students enrolled in the distance education degree programs. University of Phoenix Online offers a full-service learning environment in which students and instructor interact asynchronously using a computer conferencing system. As in all University of Phoenix programs, students take online courses sequentially, rather than concurrently, in five or six week time blocks. Students are required to "attend class"-i.e., "log-on"-a minimum number of times each week, with the faculty monitoring the quantity and quality of each student's contribution.
The University also offers programs of study through a mixed modality model (FLEXNET). The FLEXNET program is designed for students to attend the first and last class of a five or six week module in person with the classes in between taken online. The students enrolled in either of these programs are distinctively identified in the student information system and can be tracked as a cohort group.
For all of the programs described above, courses begin weekly throughout the year. These programs are considered to be non-term thus all students are processed for federal financial aid using a Borrower Based Academic Year.
The University requested a waiver of the 50% rule (although the University has not exceeded either the course count or the student count). The Department agreed to consider this waiver at the point the University approaches the 50% mark.
The University requested a waiver of the 12-hour rule. The Department agreed to waive any specific documentation requirements, but in the interest of consistency between the distance education and on-ground programs, it did not waive the instructional time component.
Financial Aid Issues/Alternatives
The University of Phoenix will be experimenting with ways of administering financial aid to students that are geographically distributed and enrolled online. Achievement of this goal will be measured by meeting the following objectives:
- Objective 1: provide a totally electronic delivery of student financial aid to online students in the project that includes submitting FAFSA on the Web, electronic and/or facsimile signatures, and the use of the Internet for routine transactions between the student and the online administration.
- Objective 2: demonstrate alternative methods of student centric certification and disbursement of Title IV student aid and measure overall effectiveness and administrative ease of the methods demonstrated.
- Objective 3: demonstrate alternative methods of administering leave of absence provisions to allow students more flexibility to complete their programs of study.
The University would like to identify and utilize effective student services and learning resources to students that are geographically distributed and enrolled online. Achievement of this goal will be measured by meeting the following objective:
- Objective: to demonstrate the types of student support services that most influence the students' decision to matriculate into an online program of study, those factors that most maximize retention and minimize interruptions in the program of study, and those factors attributed by the graduates of the program as having been the most supportive in terms of their ultimate success in program completion.
Additional Goals for Participation
Goal 1: To advance the University of Phoenix's institutional mission by demonstrating that a high quality education to working adult students regardless of geographic location can be delivered via a totally electronic, asynchronous online environment. Achievement of this goal will be measured by meeting the following objectives:
- Objective 1: to increase online and mixed modality student enrollment by 20% per year for the life of the project.
Objective 2: to show an improved rate of retention and graduation among online students during the life of the project.
Goal 2: To demonstrate both the effectiveness of our online academic offerings and the academic achievement of our online students, utilizing the results of these assessments to improve the academic and institutional quality of online educational programs. Achievement of this goal will be measured by meeting the following objective:
- Objective: Provide rigorous academic achievement assessment and measurement of learning outcomes throughout the life of the project that will authenticate the high quality of our online academic program offerings and verify the learning outcomes of our online students.
Goal 3: To demonstrate that the learning outcomes of our online, distance-learning students compare favorably to our traditional campus-attending students enrolled in the same programs. Achievement of this goal will be measured by meeting the following objective:
- Objective: Provide a thorough comparative analysis of the behavior of online students enrolled in the same programs of study as our regular "on-ground" students by measuring retention rate, graduation rate, interruption of studies patterns, grade point average, etc.
Additional Research Goals
Research Goal 1: The Comprehensive Outcomes of Cognitive Assessment (COCA) is a comprehensive assessment that measures the degree to which students understand principles and concepts from the content of their course of study will be required of students at graduation from their academic program. Results of participants will be compared by program and delivery method (online vs. on-ground).
Research Goal 2: Students will also participate in a pre- and post-professional and educational values assessment (PEVA). This assessment will focus on the values students place on newly acquired professional knowledge and skills. Commitment to teamwork and cooperation, self-confidence, preferred learning style, a sense of competence, educational goals, professional values, and career success factors are assessed. The comprehensive value assessment contains empirically validated, scaled, and ranked questions.
Demonstration Program Cohort
The University of Phoenix joined the Distance Education Demonstration Program in July 2001 as part of the second cohort.