My Response to University of Phoenix Rebuttal to Harper’s Magazine Article

University of PhoenixThis open letter is in response to University of Phoenix Mark Brenner’s rebuttal to Harper’s Magazine, October 2011 article “Leveling the field” written by Christopher R. Behas. I first learned of Mr. Brenner’s article from a Twitter feed reference.


Mr. Brenner:

Since you have decided to take a sweeping and dismissal attitude to Chris Beha’s article as elitist, let’s try someone with my background and see if you will do the same. Today, I am an entrepreneur, small business owner, publisher, author, and real estate investor. However, many years ago I went through my own journey through higher education.

I was someone who worked full-time, scraped his way every semester by saving money for both tuition and books for 7 years going through community college and then a state university to earn a Bachelor’s degree. I took 2 years off before I decided to pursue my MBA at Webster University which consisted of 3 years of night courses, working full-time during the day, and saving money every semester to pay for tuition and books. In the entire 10 years, I had no school loans, grants, or any financial aid of any kind beyond the early years I lived with my parents.

Further, I have been on the “other side” as faculty and taught at 2 community colleges and a technical college. So, I know something of what academic education should be in the “real world” having personally been involved with higher education in various roles.

First, University of Phoenix does not hold the distinction as the only institution that offers alternative higher education to working adults. There are many fine and not-so-fine institutions that compete for a similar audience. Because of the outrageously numerous scandals, lawsuits, complaints, and loan defaults, University of Phoenix continues to be the poster-child for everything bad about for-profit education.

Before I wrote this open letter, I took the time do a search on my old school, Webster University. And while it (along with any other institution) is not perfect, nowhere (and I mean nowhere) do they come close to the self-inflicted scandals that University of Phoenix has been through or the voluminous complaints that is littered out on the Internet.

In reading many of the University of Phoenix student complaints online, it’s clear by the nature of their tragic complaints that many of the students who got themselves into thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars of school loan debt should never have been admitted to begin with.University of Phoenix is not doing anyone any favors, except itself, by padding its bottom line accepting the thousands of dollars in financial aid monies.

Suffice it to say that University of Phoenix’s ravenous desire to grow aggressively through aggressive enrollments to receive financial monies from government loan and financial programs has been its undoing. The need to satisfy your ravenous shareholders has decimated the reputation of your organization.

The premise of your response to Mr. Beha’s Harper’ Magazine article, concerning elitism, how the jobs today need higher education, working collaboratively as part of a team, etc. is simply a smoke screen and diversion for the much larger and more severe management, employee, and overall organizational problems that exist within University of Phoenix and Apollo Group Management. I daresay there is a cancer within University of Phoenix that will not die.

I do not know Mr. Behas and I have never communicated with him. What I feel certain about is that Mr. Behas would never have focused his attention (or mine for that matter) on University of Phoenix if we didn’t believe there was a rampant epidemic of dysfunction at University of Phoenix. And while upper management at Apollo Group Management, is cozily collecting their 6-figure paychecks blaming everyone else for their problems and terrible reputation; the students, graduates, taxpayers, and even the employees are paying a heavy price being associated with the University of Phoenix brand.

It is February 2012 as I write this. When I turn my eyes to the voluminous complaints posted online about University of Phoenix, it greatly saddens and upsets me. If change is happening, clearly it is going at a very slow pace. Given the bulk of overwhelming evidence that there is plenty wrong with University of Phoenix, I find your rebuttal quite disingenuous as many of the other public statements being made.

On a final and somewhat unrelated note, as your management team tries to clean up University of Phoenix’s reputation, you may want to advise your team of Internet SEO specialists to stop short-cutting the process. It truly is embarrassing to see a large organization trying to suppress all that negative commentary with spammed decoy websites using unrelated or nonsensical URL’s containing gibberish Univeristy of Phoenix phrases embedded into the so-called “content”. Examples include this and this among others. Spamming the search engines with bogus content using variations of “university of phoenix fill-in-the-blank” only goes so far and simply tells people you have things to hide.

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