Donald Bobbitt, the president of the University of Arkansas System, is interested in affiliating with the University of Phoenix, but we have some concerns.
Some of our concerns are shared by the now-former chairman of the system board of trustees, Cliff Gibson, who left that post March 1, and a group of veteran, student, consumer, civil rights and other advocates who wrote a letter Feb. 15 to Gibson and the other trustees detailing their worries.
This is an Opinion
As envisioned, the Arkansas nonprofit Transformative Education Services Inc. would buy the University of Phoenix, one of the nation’s largest for-profit colleges, which would then become a nonprofit itself. The deal is reportedly valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the UA wouldn’t use any public funds to buy or operate the University of Phoenix, a UA spokesman said, and Phoenix would only be “affiliated” with the UA.
Bobbitt said the affiliation would bring in about $20 million annually to the UA System, and Phoenix’s technology and strategies to recruit and retain students would benefit the system’s schools. Phoenix’s emphasis on online education for nontraditional students is also touted.
Our main concerns are two-fold.
The reputation of the University of Phoenix is problematic. In 2019, the school and its then-parent company agreed to a record $191 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations “that they used deceptive advertisements that falsely touted their relationships and job opportunities with companies such as AT&T, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Twitter, and The American Red Cross,” the FTC said.
In addition, as Gibson expressed, the new endeavor could harm the online efforts of the UA System’s current institutions.
More study is required.