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A Year of Resilience: University of Phoenix Students, Faculty and Staff Rose to Meet the Challenges of 2020

University of Phoenix Logo

University of Phoenix had a distinct advantage when the COVID-19 pandemic forced academic institutions to shift to virtual learning. Since 1989, University of Phoenix has offered online classes, long before other institutions were doing it and before most people even had email. Now, University of Phoenix is one of the largest universities of its kind. As the COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary for other institutions to pivot to digital formats in 2020, University of Phoenix spent the year innovating its online academic experience even further and sharing its expertise in online teaching with educators across the country in need of guidance.

University of Phoenix’s 2020 Academic Annual Report paints a picture of high student satisfaction and success rates, of goals met or exceeded, and of connections strengthened, in spite of the disruptions caused by the pandemic to home, work and society. The report reveals numerous ways that University of Phoenix adapted to the challenges of the year and overcame them.

It also shows a student and alumni body that was diverse and resilient, continuing on their academic paths and utilizing the career and life resources that the University provides. “Our aim is to always help students meet their education goals efficiently and cost-effectively,” said Cohen. “Even during a pandemic.”

Last year, the University made a number of courses from its College of Education available for free to K-12 and college-level teachers to help them transition to online instruction. It also launched the Alliance for Virtual Learning as a hub for sharing best practices with hundreds of thousands of teachers and administrators across the U.S.

“We knew that our long history and expertise in online and remote learning should be shared with our colleagues in education,” said University of Phoenix President Peter Cohen in a video message related to the report.

A Foundation Built on Solid Accreditation

A robust program needs a solid foundation. University of Phoenix has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (http://hlcommission.org) and its predecessor since 1978. For more information about University of Phoenix accreditations and licensures, please visit: www.phoenix.edu/about_us/accreditation.html.

In addition, 18 programs at University of Phoenix in specialties including business, healthcare, nursing, counseling and education have their own programmatic or specialized accreditation. This means that each program was subjected to external peer review and found to meet quality standards set by the profession. This programmatic accreditation is crucial as many states require programs to be accredited in order for graduates to be eligible for licenses to practice as nurses, counselors and teachers.

During the accreditation process, University of Phoenix undertakes a thorough self-review. Additionally, experts from the accrediting organization make a visit, reviewing program success across a variety of metrics including faculty, student support services, finance and facilities, curricula and student learning outcomes. This process is repeated every three to 10 years. Accredited degree program tracks can prepare University of Phoenix’s adult learners to transition into their chosen careers or position themselves for leadership roles.

In the University of Phoenix School of Business are degree programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) including an Associate of Arts with a concentration in Accounting or Business Fundamentals, a Bachelor of Science in Business, a Master of Business Administration and a Doctor of Management. In the Healthcare track, students can pursue degree programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) iMaster of Health Administration. This accredited online healthcare degree from University of Phoenix can prepare students to become medical, public health and health administration professionals.

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing and master’s degree program in nursing at the University of Phoenix are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, 655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791 Graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is required in order to become a practicing registered nurse.

Would-be counselors can take degree program at University of Phoenix that have been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP®) or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

And those looking to become teachers can pursue a Master of Arts in Education for Elementary, Secondary and Special Education as well as a Master of Arts in Administration and Supervision, all of which have been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Career-Relevant Degree Programs

The report shows that University of Phoenix students remained committed to their degree programs in 2020 despite the hardships of the pandemic. This speaks to the way these adult learners, many of them parents with full-time jobs, remained focused on their aspirations and used the pandemic as motivation to work harder in pursuit of their dreams.

Progression and retention rates improved every month throughout 2020 when compared with 2019 data, continuing a 40-month upward trajectory. “Our students found a way to continue to progress through their degree programs, despite the world being turned upside down by the pandemic,” said Cohen.

Everette J. Freeman, EdD, chairman of the Board of Trustees of University of Phoenix and president emeritus of Community College of Denver, said the retention rates under such stressful circumstances were nothing short of extraordinary. “It’s incredible to consider how impressive this accomplishment is knowing that our students are predominantly parents who balanced work, home life and their children’s schooling, in addition to their own homework, during this extraordinary time,” Freeman wrote in the report’s foreword. “Some of them were also campus-based students who had to pivot to online school while everything else in their lives was shifting as well.”

The University’s flexible online degree programs are designed to accommodate the needs of adult learners, and students were able to gain critical skills as they progressed through career-aligned programs. This included skills badging for accomplishments in the University’s MBA and Nursing programs by leveraging their professional experience with competency-based degrees. University of Phoenix launched four competency-based degrees in 2020, all of which can be completed in just one year for less than $11,000. These include the Master of Business Administration – CB, Master of Health Administration – CB, Master of Information Systems – CB, and RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing – CB. “These efforts all point to our mission to be a University that supports individuals throughout their careers,” said Cohen in a President’s Message affiliated with the report. “Why do we care so much about careers? Helping adult learners prepare for success in the workplace has always been the core of what we do.”

Degree programs at University of Phoenix are aligned with over 300 occupations, 80 percent of which are in high-growth fields. At the College of Business and Information Technology, which awarded 15,353 credentials in 2020, students earn undergraduate and graduate degrees that can prepare them for careers in everything from IT and cybersecurity to management, accounting and human resources. At the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, which awarded 3,961 credentials in 2020, students are given the necessary skills to pursue careers in social science including as social workers and correctional workers.

The College of Health Professions, which awarded 3,169 credentials in 2020, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees that can prepare students for careers in healthcare, including health administration and health management. The College of Nursing at University of Phoenix, which awarded 1,626 credentials in 2020, offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) as well as a Nursing Bridge Program designed for RNs with an unrelated bachelor’s degree to more quickly earn their MSN and accelerate their careers.

At the College of Education, which awarded 1,190 credentials in 2020, students are given the skills and education to become K-12 teachers, special education teachers or school administrators. The College of Doctoral Studies awarded 388 credentials in 2020 developing scholar-practitioner leaders across industries who are ready to take on supervisory roles within organizations and exercise complex decision-making. The College of General Studies, which awarded 356 credentials in 2020, provides students with foundational knowledge that can be applied across nearly any career path.

Strengthening its commitment to career-focused education, University of Phoenix introduced skills-aligned learning in 2020 in its Business and Nursing degree programs. In collaboration with Emsi Burning Glass, a company specializing in labor market and economics data, the University identified which career skills are in greatest demand from employers and made those a focus of specific courses. Students build the very skills that will help them in their professional lives as they earn their degrees. Periodic assessments allow students to demonstrate their mastery of a skill while they are still completing their degree and to earn digital badges in skills like Business Administration, Human Resource Management, Change Management and Training and Development. These badges can be added to resumes and social media accounts. This three-part system to gain skills, track progress, and build a resume is currently being rolled out across additional degree programs.

A Diverse and Driven Student Body

It’s worth noting that University of Phoenix students represent groups that were disproportionately affected by both the pandemic and racial inequities that came to the forefront in 2020. Yet they persisted in their studies and gained skills and degrees to move their careers forward. “Despite the challenges they faced during this difficult year,” said Freeman in the report, “our students persevered and fought for their dreams.”

More than half of the University of Phoenix student body identified as racial or ethnic minorities in 2020, including 34.1 percent as African American and 17.7 percent as Hispanic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined numerous inequities related to how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted these groups, making them more likely to be exposed to the virus due to living and working conditions and more likely to get seriously sick and die from COVID-19, due in part to less access to testing and fewer healthcare facilities.

These students were almost always working while attending school: some 83.4 percent of the 2020 student body was employed. The average age of a University of Phoenix student was 37 years old, the report noted, and 64.6 percent of students have dependents. A good number of these students are trailblazers when it comes to pursuing higher education. According to the report, 59.7 percent of the University’s 2020 student body was first-generation college students. Only a small percentage of students at 14.1 percent had two parents who attended college. And women far outnumber men among the student body: 68.9 percent of University Phoenix students in 2020 were women. “Our students are tough, they have grit, they never give up, and they strive every day for excellence,” said Freeman.

The University has dedicated support for service members as well, and those resources have made University of Phoenix a go-to option for military members. The 2020 Academic Annual Report showed that 21 percent of the student population attended the military. Benefits and resources included flexible online learning options that accommodate military schedules as well as reduced tuition rates for active duty military and their spouses, a resource fee waiver for military members and the ability to utilize their G.I. Bill benefits to reduce the cost of tuition. Service members can also translate their military experience to college credits at University of Phoenix, and there are dedicated military scholarships.

Sergeant First Class Ethan Dodd was one service member student profiled in the report. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business/Management at University of Phoenix while serving and traveling with the National Guard and is currently enrolled in the Master of Business Administration degree program. Brian Ishmael, vice president of Military and Veteran Affairs at University of Phoenix, said, “SFC Dodd is the epitome of University of Phoenix student grit. He never gave up and he achieved his goals. And he’s always pushing himself, and others, to be the best they can be.”

Experienced Faculty Lead the Way

University of Phoenix educationally prepares students to pursue career opportunities not only by building industry relevant skills into coursework but also by relying on the expertise of faculty with significant industry and teaching experience. In 2020, faculty at University of Phoenix had an average 26.9 years of professional experience and an average 13.6 years of University teaching experience. Faculty at University of Phoenix have served in many of the leadership roles that students are looking to pursue. Their ranks include hundreds of directors, presidents, vice presidents and chief executive officers of companies as well as chief financial officers, principals, clinical directors, directors of nursing, education specialists, chief information officers, chiefs of police and district attorneys. Together, they represent a wealth of practical knowledge.

Students love the real-world-based education they are receiving at University of Phoenix. Eight-five percent of surveyed students say they would recommend their instructors to others.

And there’s an emphasis on diversity among University of Phoenix faculty that makes for a more inclusive and culturally responsive learning environment. Over half of University of Phoenix faculty are women, and 14.54 percent are Black or African American. “We meet students where they are and raise them up,” said Christopher Wilson, who teaches traditional and competency-based Master of Health Administration courses at University of Phoenix. Wilson, a former military veteran and healthcare professional, was a recipient of the 2020 Faculty of the Year Award and said his greatest thrill is finding that “spark” for learning in a student.

University of Phoenix Builds Connections

University of Phoenix alumni form a multi-generational network of hard-working adults who remained committed to their educational and career goals and in many cases overcame numerous obstacles in order to complete their degrees and make their dreams a reality. The 2020 Academic Annual Report highlighted one alum, Kassandra Spann, who received her University of Phoenix MBA in 2020 just after completing her Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University. Spann was born with spina bifida and cerebral palsy and navigates the world with the help of a wheelchair. But she has been led by willpower and determination to complete her degrees and position herself for a career in Content Marketing. John Kautenberger, who taught one of her marketing courses, said Spann served as an inspiration to other online students. “She was motivating the students who didn’t have any health issues at all,” he said.

Once they’ve graduated, University of Phoenix alumni remain part of a tight-knit community. Over 20,000 University of Phoenix alumni belong to chapters around the country and have continued to meet virtually during the pandemic. “It took me until my 30s to realize my priorities,” said New Jersey-based alum Horace Winston, who graduated with an MBA from University of Phoenix in 2020. “The flexibility of choosing your classes, the counselors working with you, the due dates, University of Phoenix was more adapted to the working adult.”

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is committed to advancing the educational goals of adult and nontraditional learners and to helping students navigate degree programs that best suit their interests. The University’s degree programs are aligned with numerous in-demand career paths including in computer software, nursing, and business. They provide flexible start dates, online classes, and numerous scholarship opportunities to make it possible for anyone to get the degree they need.In addition, University of Phoenix’s Career Services for Life® commitment provides students and alumni with the resources they need to be competitive in the workforce for no additional charge. These services include resume and interview support, career guidance, education and networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.