Panel Recommends Reaccrediting U. of Phoenix, but Notes Concerns

May 14, 2013

A second review team considering reaccreditation of the University of Phoenix has raised questions about the sufficiency of its independence from its parent company, the Apollo Group, as well as the university's assessment of students and the level of research and faculty scholarship related to its graduate programs. But it is recommending less-stringent consequences than did the first review panel.

The questions came even after the university made governance changes, which it said would give the institution greater autonomy from its corporate parent. The company would not say publicly what changes it had made but has acknowledged it made them after a peer-review team from its accreditor recommended in February that the university be placed on probation because of governance concerns.

The peer-review team also raised questions about student assessment and about faculty-research levels in the doctoral programs, as well as questions about the university's retention and graduation rates, its reliance on federal student aid, and some of its educational practices related to the learning outcomes of students whose grades are partly based on their work in "learning teams."

The university objected to some of the conclusions raised by the peer-review team from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, but the team has stuck with its findings and recommendation for probation.

Earlier this month Phoenix sought a hearing on that report from the commission's Institutional Actions Council First Committee, and presented information on the governance changes it had made.

Late last week, according to an Apollo Group corporate filing made public on Monday, the Institutional Actions Council First Committee said it still had concerns about governance, student assessment, and the doctoral programs, but it recommended that the university be reaccredited for 10 years while being placed on "notice" status for two years. Notice is a signal that a university is on course to be in violation of a key standard of the accrediting body.

The Higher Learning Commission's Board of Trustees will consider both the committee's recommendation for notice status and the peer-review committee's recommendation for probation at its June 27 meeting. Public notice of the trustees' decision could take a few weeks after that.