University of Phoenix in talks with University of Arkansas System affiliate
The University of Phoenix, one of the nation’s largest for-profit colleges, could transition to nonprofit status through acquisition by a nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of Arkansas system.
No deal is imminent, but “as we have for several years, the UA System is open to exploring ways to expand its reach to more students, particularly in online education, and to further the missions of our campuses, departments, and… support across the state,” said Nate Hinkel, director of communications for the UA System.
“In line with this focus, a nonprofit associated with the UA System has been in talks about a potential acquisition of the University of Phoenix. This nonprofit entity would support and facilitate the University of Phoenix’s transition to a fully independent nonprofit status while supporting the university’s mission to advance quality, career-focused education.”
The Arkansas Times was the first to report on the potential acquisition.
The University of Phoenix has had these types of discussions with other institutions, said Andrea Smiley, University of Phoenix vice president of public affairs.
“Since our inception, the University of Phoenix has focused on serving adult learners who have historically been overlooked and underrepresented in higher education,” said Smiley. “As we plan for the long-term future and longevity of the university, we are committed and will continue to focus on adult learners who want to enhance their careers and lives through accessible, affordable and career-relevant higher education, regardless of our structure. ”
The University of Phoenix offers associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, depending on the university, as well as a variety of certificate programs. The university has 10 campuses in California and one each in Nevada, Texas and Hawaii. However, it currently only enrolls students at its Phoenix headquarters, and the courses are online.
“As these discussions are ongoing, we cannot provide many details, [but] I would like to confirm that the UA system itself would not acquire the University of Phoenix and that no public or university funds would be involved in this potential transaction,” Hinkel said. “The contemplated structure would also include no residual private ownership of the nonprofit or the University of Phoenix.”
The University of Phoenix lists a total enrollment of nearly 79,000 undergraduates, 81% of whom are employed while attending school and 60% of whom are first-generation college students, but enrollment has been declining since its peak more than a decade ago.
“The goal in exploring opportunities like this is to advance the system’s mission of providing affordable, relevant education to a broad spectrum of students and to introduce the UA system to new educational markets,” said Hinkel. “As the leading government institute for post-secondary education, we are committed to considering every opportunity that has the potential to both improve educational attainment and secure new resources to support our campuses, departments and units.”
The University of Phoenix would only be affiliated with the UA system, not part of the UA system, although any agreement between the entities could open the door to future collaboration. Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, although the university would likely need to apply for re-accreditation to change its status from a private, for-profit entity, among other regulatory hurdles, Hinkel said.
Although the UA System Board of Trustees is meeting this week, nothing is on the agenda related to the University of Phoenix and no action is expected.
Founded in 1976, the University of Phoenix in December 2019 settled a $191 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which claimed the college had lured students with fraudulent claims about partnerships with big companies, according to The New York Times. That total included a $50 million commission penalty and $141 million in debt forgiveness, mostly for unpaid tuition and fees owed by thousands of alumni.
FIX: The University of Phoenix is in talks with a nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of Arkansas system. A previous version of the headline of this story incorrectly stated which entity was in talks with the University of Phoenix.