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The Stimulus and For-Profit Colleges

Two letter writers vigorously defend such schools and the role of career-oriented education in the U.S. economy

Here are responses to the BusinessWeek article from the University of Phoenix and a trade association representing for-profit schools:

From the President of the University of Phoenix

To the Editor:

"For-Profit Colleges: Scooping Up the Stimulus" (News, Mar. 12) opens with the factually incorrect premise that the government's stimulus program will somehow enrich for-profit schools. In fact, the legislation's Pell Grant increase for students serves to replace existing funding for low-income students under the federal Stafford loan program. One form of funding replaces the other. There is no net gain.

The article also explores a philosophical opposition to student recruitment, rendering the hard academic work of almost a million students and alumni—and their committed faculty—irrelevant. It is not the private sector, nor its student-recruitment method, that is responsible for the current state of America's higher education system, which has become increasingly unattainable for more students. And it is not just the private sector that needs to ramp up every available resource to accommodate the massive amount of education and training our nation requires in today's economic environment.

University of Phoenix has become the preeminent laboratory for education innovation. Our for-profit structure has enabled us to revolutionize higher education without taking short cuts, making us more accessible than conventional schools. This is especially true for students who need to work and raise a family while pursuing their degrees. We provide an alternative for working people, with flexible schedules, a combination of online and on-campus courses, small, highly interactive classes and innovative education technologies, all while providing extensive student support services.

We continuously calibrate our curriculum to the current job market, expanding our programs in fast-growing occupations facing resource shortages, such as health care, education, and information technology, and developing new programs in emerging fields, such as green industries and clean technologies.

As the largest institution within the for-profit sector, we take our responsibility to students seriously and have assumed a leadership role in providing greater accountability for student learning and achievement through a comprehensive assessment system. Our Academic Annual Report includes a transparent look at academic quality measures, including student performance and satisfaction, graduation rates, our progress in achieving our mission of accessibility, our diversity and inclusion of underrepresented populations, and our affordability compared with other institutions. We challenge other colleges to do the same.

In terms of outcomes, for-profit schools are required as a matter of accreditation and regulation to provide the same measures of quality as those in the public sector. University of Phoenix has again and again met or exceeded the standards set by our regional and programmatic accrediting bodies as well as the myriad regulatory standards of the 39 states in which we have campuses.

And while our for-profit status makes it possible for us to spend dollars on advertising, the real testament to our marketing success is the number of enrollments generated by referrals from satisfied students and alumni

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