Worth of a degree from University of Phoenix?
June 15, 2004 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Anybody have any experience with University of Phoenix? I'm considering their MBA/e-business program, but given it's a $25K investment, I'd like to hear more about how this particular piece of paper is valued in the marketplace, if at all.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Education (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I hate to tell you this, but to HR folks and corporate people, a U of P or similar degree is not as valued as a "regular" degree, and applicants with this background are not taken as seriously. You might want to explore any and all other options before spending that kind of money.
posted by pomegranate at 9:22 AM on June 15, 2004

I work for one of their competitors, and even we consider them a degree mill.
posted by goethean at 9:39 AM on June 15, 2004

Cliff Stoll has a bit about them in High Tech Heretic and it turns up in some of his newer essays, too. Much of the fee for U of P and other "distance learning programs" ends up being paid up-front, and a lot of people never end up finishing the program. In other words, they're banking on people quitting to turn a profit.

There are plenty of universities that offer part-time MBA programs, where the classes are all in the evening and geared towards adult learning rather than the breakneck two-year MBA style. The total cost may end up being higher than U of P, but you will more than make up for the cost by having actual interactions with professors, learning about other real businesses from your classmates, networking with the other students (isn't that what business school's all about, anyway?), and being proud of the work you put into it and the people and school you worked with.

(My mother recently finished an MBA with St. Thomas University of St. Paul, Minnesota - they're one of many schools with this type of structure available. I assume this is true in other programs, but one of the things that seemed great to me was that all the projects were based on the business you worked for. The result being that if you went in looking for loans and such that you had top-notch materials and had already looked at the hard questions the bank/SBA/etc. want answered.)
posted by whatzit at 9:58 AM on June 15, 2004

My wife evaluates college and high school level credentials for a living and literally gags when a UofP commercial comes on the radio.

I don't know the exact percentage, but when she evaluates a credential from UofP and other similar (and known) degree mills, they don't carry the same weight as an MBA from a state college for example. That is, 3 years at UofP equals maybe 1 year of equivelant course work at a different college (again, example).
posted by djc at 9:59 AM on June 15, 2004

UofP sends me spam, and so I tend to rate them with the faux degree hawkers. I really don't think that they have a good rep.
posted by carter at 10:11 AM on June 15, 2004

a related question: I'm a college dropout, with a successful career - so far. I don't have my bachelor's degree, but I work alongside, and sometimes above, coworkers with prestigious degrees. My skills and experience mean that getting a bachelor's degree in my chosen field would be kind of farcical, but I'd really like to pursue an advanced degree.

Does anybody have any advice? Any quick-and-easy ways to get eligibility for a master's program? Right now I'm considering pursuing an undergrad degree in something completely unrelated.
posted by dvdgee at 10:53 AM on June 15, 2004

UofP does work for some people. My brother is a married grade school teacher who doesn't have time to go to regular classes so has been enrolled in a Masters progragram in Curriculum Planning and Technology at the UofP and it has worked wonders for him. Then again, he is also looking to move up within the systen where the place you got the degree doesn't matter so much as you got an advanced degree.

Dvdgee: You'de have to look into each school, but some Universites offer an undergrad/masters combo program. A good friend is graduating for Vanderbilt in a program where he gets his Masters in five years whereupon he also gets his bachelor's. Another friend is transferring to Full Sales in Florida where the degree is in game design which is supossed to be the equivalent of a Master's. Also, some professional programs such as Pharmacy do not require a degree- only a pre-requisite of classes to get in.
Lastly, sometimes a degree in a field you're successful in is not so farcical if the comnpany decides to downsize. My dad's old company got taken over by a very large coorporation and even though he had the best numbers of any manager in the company, he got fired because he never got a college degree (also mind you this was in GA, a Right To Work state). Same thing with my mom. She's one of the best at her jobs but can't get a promotion because other people have better degrees than her.
posted by jmd82 at 12:34 PM on June 15, 2004

To be sure, a UoP degree doesn't carry the weight of a conventional degree, but depending on your town and active campus, it isn't quite the worthless degree mill some may think. (To be sure, they're swimming uphill against that reputation.)

I wouldn't hire based on a UoP degree, but its presence on a resume says "an effort was made here" (rather than simply "sucker").

Their campus in Honolulu is active, both in academics and in community service and participation. I know people who teach, and I myself have given a couple of presentations. I personally feel the students there are pretty serious about what they're doing, and are glad for any opportunity to advance, even if it's not brand name.

Of course, YMMV. I have no doubt some UoP operations can be pretty shady, but then again, so can some other schools.
posted by pzarquon at 1:16 PM on June 15, 2004

I teach for UoP and also traditional programs. What UoP can offer students who don't have a lot of other options is very valuable. It is an accredited progam that provides valid degrees to working adults who may not have the most stable academic backgrounds. A lot of programs at traditional schools require GMAT scores and undergraduate grades at a certain level, and UoP doesn't. Many of the students in my UoP classes are the type of people who are working their butts off now, but didn't in their early 20s, and couldn't get into a traditional program that would be worthwhile. They are very committed and as a group I think they match up to students at traditional, mid-range schools very comparably. But with a lot more varied backgrounds. I personally find them more fun to teach. That's the good news.
The bad news is that the quality of teaching (my classes excepted of course) just doesn't rise up to the level of the good academic programs out there. It is decent and serviceable, but it doesn't compare to an "A" school in any way. If a student can get into a school with a good reputation, no way would I say do the UoP. But if your credentials are limited or if you're in a job track where the piece of paper is all that matters, then it's certainly a dignified fallback.

Much of the fee for U of P and other "distance learning programs" ends up being paid up-front

Nope. I don't know about the others, but UoP does the class by class payment thing so they don't want students dropping out any more than state universities do. And it's not a faux-degree university (it is legally accredited and all). It's a for-profit company though, thus the advertising promotions and other salesy things that are unusual in academia and cause all sorts of weird reactions in people. It takes getting used to. Because of competition from the UoP around here, now traditional programs advertise on the radio too! I certainly don't recommend UoP to everyone, but the commerciality of it isn't part of the reason.
posted by dness2 at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2004

I just finished up a BS at UoP. The reason I went with that program is so that I could get that degree quickly in order to move up the promotions ladder at work and have a chance of being paid what I'm worth for the job that I do. It's an expensive program but my employer (a government agency) was happy to pay for it. I consider it the "quick and dirty" degree. Now I'll move on to the University of Washington for my MS.

One thing that really stands out in those classes is that the majority of students, particularly the ones who have employers shelling out the money for them, are either government employees or military. Not sure why that is. Many other students obviously knew the material cold so I suspect they were there for the same reason I was.

As dness2 points out, the quality of instruction can be much poorer than that of a good traditional university, but I did have a couple of really good instructors who made an effort and really challenged me. The biggest drawback to having gone that route, for me anyway, is that they don't offer some classes online that you'd expect to take for a BS (math, in particular) so I'll have to take a load of prerequisites for my Masters.
posted by NsJen at 2:41 PM on June 15, 2004

FWIW: I earned my undergrad at UoP (NorCal), and was generally impressed with my classmates -- at least 3/4 of them were *very* serious about academics and determined to see the program through -- and did. The courses themselves: hit-or-miss. Roughly half of them were challenging, with plenty of coursework and lots of genuine learning; another quarter were challenging, albeit with less coursework and only moderate learning; and the other 1/4 were basically "time-fillers." All in all -- I did learn what I had hoped to learn, and felt that my investment was worthwhile.

And also FWIW: my UoP degree (coupled with decent-enough GRE scores) was sufficient to get me into (and graduate from!) Baylor University for my master's degree. So in that sense, the UoP option was a viable "stepping stone" to a more traditional and more highly-respected program.

On balance: if you're committed to the program, and have goals beyond it, go for it. This is a program in which you will receive the appropriate amount of learning equivalent to your dedication and effort.
posted by davidmsc at 5:04 PM on June 15, 2004

The university of Phoenix sent me junk mail inviting me to teach, of all things, and at that time I hadn't even finished my bachelor's degree yet. Don't they have a better way of finding instructors?

Degreeinfo.com is THE place for information on reputations, advice from people currently in distance learning programs, etc. If you're on the West Coast, try the Dominguez Hills State MBA program. It has minimal on-campus attendance requirements, and is much cheaper and better known (Cal State system) to boot.
posted by calwatch at 9:54 PM on June 15, 2004

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