Mission Forsaken: The University of Phoenix Affair with Wall Street

Mission Forsaken: The University of Phoenix Affair with Wall Street 
Success & Controversy of University of Phoenix Is Chronicled by One
of Its Founders 
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (Marketwired) -- 07/03/13 --  As John D. Murphy
writes in his seminal new book Mission Forsaken: The University of
Phoenix Affair with Wall Street (www.missionforsaken.us) : "The
high-profile success of the University of Phoenix is both admired and
reviled, but the real story lies in the Herculean struggle to create,
refine, and institutionalize cutting edge and enduring educational
innovations to serve working adult learners, and the diligence of the
hard political will necessary to protect and defend those efforts."  
Part history lesson, part trenchant analysis, Mission Forsaken: The
University of Phoenix Affair with Wall Street, is very much the tale
of two unlikely and visionary friends from different sides of the
tracks: the book's author, John D. Murphy and University of Phoenix
principal founder John Sperling. Mission Forsaken is the only insider
account about the University of Phoenix since Sperling's 1997 book on
the subject. 
"The history of the University of Phoenix is an odyssey of
educational entrepreneurship in a sector of society with a congenital
resistance to innovation and change," writes Murphy, 66. "It is a
cautionary tale of what can happen when the financial values of the
corporate world are applied to the provision of postsecondary
education with an outmoded regulatory system."  
Dedicated to the "hundreds of thousands of University of Phoenix
working adult graduates who have been subjected to the scandal-ridden
decline in the well-earned reputation and standing of their alma
mater," Mission Forsaken reads like a novel as it lays out a
visionary educational utopia now threatened with the dystopian
possibility of loss of accreditation. 
According to Murphy, the University of Phoenix has abandoned its core
principles: "Stock valuations appear to have eclipsed the founding
mission. It resulted in the hiring of executives -- if measured by
graduation and student loan default rates, regulatory fines, and
legal judgments -- with unrealized commitment to the optimum
operation of an academic degree granting institution solely for
working adults." 
As he outlines in the book, t
he University of Phoenix went astray
when it eliminated admissions standards with the stated goal of
fulfilling its founding mission: solely serving working adult
learners. With the elimination of entry standards, a new generation
of University of Phoenix attendees now depend almost exclusively upon
taxpayer-funded student loans and grants from other governmental
sources. When the University of Phoenix went public, 80 percent of
its working adult students had some or all of their tuition unwritten
by their employers. 
As Murphy writes in the book: "From its founding in 1976 and
continuing until 1998, the University of Phoenix never received a
federal or state regulatory reprimand, censure, or fine, or was the
target or victim of lawsuits or legal judgments. Between 1999 and
2013, the University of Phoenix and Apollo Group paid for or are
liable for $242 million in regulatory fines and whistleblower
Murphy was a founder of the University of Phoenix and served as
Senior Vice President for Institutional Affairs and Academic Vice
President. He was a voting shareholder member of the board and
executive committee member of its publicly-traded holding company,
Apollo Group, Inc. Murphy also founded and directed a community
mental health program while an adjunct professor at San Jose State
University. In 2007, he wrote and produced the award-winning film
Valley of the Hearts Delight, a dramatic retelling of the notorious
San Jose Brooke Hart kidnapping and subsequent lynching of two men
accused of that crime. 
"The graduation rate when the University of Phoenix went public stood
near 65 percent, about the same as traditional nonprofit private
colleges and universities," says Murphy. "After adopting a
taxpayer-supported community college open admissions policy, the
graduation rate fell to approximately 33 percent. This never would
have happened when the employers of its working adult students
underwrote some or all of the cost of tuition." 
Selected excerpts from the book Mission Foresaken: 
The University of Phoenix went public through its holding company,
Apollo Group, and spawned publicly traded, multibillion-dollar,
controversial and lucrative for-profit sector of the
education-industrial complex. This sector now dominates growth in
postsecondary enrollment, percentage of federally guaranteed student
loans for its number of students, and student-loan default rates. 
Successful innovation is rooted in the commitment of its innovators
to fight for it, regardless of the form of opposition or obstacles in
its path. The University of Phoenix prevailed against stunningly
impossible odds because its founders never turned away from any
challenge and once maintained absolute fidelity to its founding
I picked up the Arizona Republic on the way to breakfast. The thick
Sunday paper sat on the counter while we ate; none of us had even
glanced at it. Why would a conservative newspaper contain anything
about a budding nontraditional university with eight working adult
students that had been granted accreditation candidacy from the same
entity that accredited all educational institutions in Arizona? I
don't remember who caught the headline on a front page, but we were
all floored: "Quick-degrees college in line for accreditation." In a
lull of the endlessly intense work days and nights in the crazed
weeks and months that followed, I ask John how it felt to be in the
crosshairs of an educational assassination. Silence grew as we tried
to imagine what that meant. It took no time to find out. 
Nearly half of undergraduate degree-seeking students today are over
twenty-five and work full or part-time. The traditional structure of
higher education, due to punishing annual cost increase and
impediments to working adult productivity must be changed to reflect
the world in the twenty-first century rather than still operating
like it was the late nineteenth century. 
Traditional higher education remains structured and operated
primarily for those who attend full time at a single campus. This
compels working adults to earn degrees in a manner that can consume a
decade during the most productive years of their lives. The negative
impact on careers and on the economy is staggering.  
It is well beyond the time for comprehensive structural changes in
the way in which higher education is conceived and delivered. The
University of Phoenix was established closer to the twenty-first
century than the twentieth century and both its design and operation
acknowledge and reflect the time in which it was founded. The
majority of America's traditional higher education institutions
remain configured and managed as if we were at the turn of the
nineteenth century. In 1900, communication was measured in weeks,
months, and even years, today in nanoseconds. 
Traditional higher education manifests a congenital resistance to
change. In the early twentieth century, private colleges and
universities -- once the majority of institutions -- protested
fiercely against the creation of tax-supported land-grant colleges
and universities. Another pitched battle followed World War II when
both private and public higher education institutions fought the GI
Bill because they earnestly believed it debased student 
At the core of everything University of Phoenix is the refusal of
many traditional academics to acknowledge that full-time working
adults require an educational delivery system and teaching/learning
model designed and operated in recognition of the specific learning
needs and place in life. Recognition of differences in educational
delivery systems and teaching/learning models for the
traditional-aged student and the one for full-time working adult
learners with real-world experience is the key to the transformation
of undergraduate higher education in the twenty-first century. 
The original University of Phoenix teaching/learning model permitted
working adults to earn degrees while they continued to meet their
full-time personal and professional responsibilities. The failure of
traditional institutions to acknowledge the importance of the
personal and professional responsibilities of the adult learner
constitutes a barrier to access. 
Given the wars, skirmishes, firefights, ambushes, dustups, attacks,
dry-gulching, and bushwhacking the University of Phoenix endured at
the hands of traditional higher education, five major factors ensured
both survival and prosperity: high quality educational content;
efficacy of the teaching/learning model; candor, accuracy and
responsibility in all relationships; political hard will to fight for
survival on our merits; and absolute accountability for student
academic achievement. 
Media Contact:
David Perry
(415) 693-0583
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