One would expect a long-time educator like me to know more about the largest university in the United States (enrollment of 530,000) and I have wondered what the University of Phoenix is really like. I see their large office buildings with prominent signs everywhere but, since they do not offer programs in science, their activities are essentially orthogonal to what I do. Christopher Beha filled in some of the blanks with this Harper's article, which was written from the perspective of a student trying to better his life by earning a college degree. Beha describes the circumstances of his fellow students who must overcome both intellectual and significant logistical barriers to attend classes while continuing full-time work. A small fraction (between five and ten percent) of Phoenix freshmen will actually earn degrees, but not for lack of marketing "encouragement" from U of P. One prospective student was called by the University 180 times in one month. The US government is up to its elbows in promoting schools like Phoenix, deVry, and Kaplan because they purport to be one of the ways in which the fraction of Americans with college degrees can be increased, one of the goals of the Obama administration. Military personnel are special targets for cynical exploitation by the for-profits because, the more of them that are enrolled, the more federal money can flow from Title IV education funds, as is described in Hollister K. Petraeus' op-ed in the September 22 New York Times.
Christopher R. Beha