I have made many mistakes in my life, but none of the mistakes I have made have been as bad as my choice in a college. I am a single mother and I am in my late 20’s so my choice of college’s is obviously limited due to time constraints and financial means. So when I saw the many ads for University of Phoenix, I was definitely intrigued. “I am Phoenix”, well I wanted to be a Phoenix too. I wanted to get an education and better myself for my son and make a better living. If only I would have known then what I know now — ..
After seeing all the commercials and getting flooded with ads, pop-ups, and e-mails regarding the University of phoenix, I made the decision to fill out an online form. I was called that same day and spoke to an enrollment counselor. I explained my situation and what my passion was for an education and within the hour I was filling out financial aid forms. It all happened so fast, but I was so excited to start my new life. The process was very easy and the enrollment counselor was very nice and helpful. I was automatically impressed with the process. By the end of the day, I was officially enrolled. Wow, what a rush I felt! I was going to be able to make my son proud of me and get my degree!
Once I started classes, I quickly realized that they were not your typical college class. (I had previously attended the local community college). First, I was under the initial impression that the people running the class were professors or teachers, but I found out they were only facilitators. They were there to monitor the students just to make sure the work was being completed. After the second block of classes I got the idea that I was being self-taught. That was ok by me because I am a fast learner and I work well on my own. I was earning all A’s and I was elated.
After a year and a half, I graduate with my Associate’s of Arts in Business with a concentration of marketing. I took 2 weeks off and started my bachelor’s program. The bachelor’s program is completely different than the associate’s program and it has been an uphill battle since I started it. Financial aid was always getting messed up, until I called and complained and miraculously it was fixed. They employ learning teams during the bachelor programs, which in theory works, but in practice is a complete nightmare. The individual student is graded on the entire paper of the team regardless of that one person’s efforts, or lack thereof.
Problems in the classroom are not solved and can continue throughout the class unchecked. There is a reporting process, of course, but the only thing that is done is someone from the University sits in the classroom (unnoticed) to monitor the situation, but even if there is a problem, nothing is done. I had an issue with a facilitator not providing adequate feedback to questions and even posted someone’s paper in the classroom forum saying “Now this is an A paper”. Nothing was done. I had a facilitator just respond to the students during discussion with ‘that is a great response” and that was the extent of the conversation.
I kept going thinking it would get better and I really was learning a lot through the readings. When tuition went up, I just equated it with the fact that all colleges raise tuition. When someone would put down the education provided by the school, I would defend myself saying, “Well I am learning and the readings are very helpful.” I was making excuses. I do not think I wanted to see the truth because ‘I was a Phoenix.’
As time went on, it kept getting worse and worse and I even checked out other schools to transfer to. No one would transfer me because I had earned more than 55% of my degree with Phoenix, I was stuck. I was scheduled into classes that were not appropriate for me and when I tried to change them, the school was trying to charge me (even though the classes were not taken). I was appalled at the process and the headache I had to endure to get the charge off my account for a class I was never supposed to take in the first place. The issue was resolved, but I had to really fight for my rights.
Eventually, UOP developed a sort of social network on the online campus called “Phoenix Connect”, this was a place where all students could go and converse with each other. It was a true eye-opener. So many students were having issues, some the same as myself and others even worse. I guess it helped me wake up from my Phoenix induced coma and see what was going on. I mean yes, I have heard others complain about the school, but mostly it was complaints about it being online and not providing a good education. I was receiving a great education, but then again, I was teaching myself. When I really started to think about it, I was paying thousands of dollars to read books; something I could have done for far less money at Barnes & Noble.
Then I saw a post by one student that really made me take pause. He was upset, not because he got a bad grade, but because he received an A on his paper. I was a little dumbfounded and then I continued to read the post. He stated he was upset because he knew his paper was incomplete, but he had no choice to turn it in as such because of a family issue. He said he would rather get partial credit and was more than willing to take a C versus getting a failing grade. However, he got an A for his paper. This alone did not cause me to take too much concern with it, but it was what Libby Bailey posted to him in response. Libby is a “Sr. Student Relations Administrator”, her job is through the dispute management at the University. She stated that even though she could not speak for that particular facilitator, it is not unusual for facilitators to give credit for completion of the project rather than give a grade based on the content — — Speechless? Yes, I was too. I replied to that post, with an obvious upset tone, questioning that practice of teachers and was subsequently banned for one week from Phoenix Connect for my “tone”. When I questioned my banning, I stated I have a right as a student and as an American to freedom of speech. I received a response from the vice president of the school stating that Phoenix was above the 1st Amendment. That did it. Phoenix had pushed me to my limit.
Right after that incident I had another class in which a teammate submitted portions of the assignment that a 5th grader could have written. It was so frustrating and really just annoying at that point because that class was a senior level class. How on Earth did that kid pass? I guess I was ignorant for 2 ½ years of attending Phoenix because the more I thought about it, there were several times when someone would submit papers and they were just dreadful. I then began to look at the whole picture; the fact that I really was learning and also how Phoenix received its bad reputation. I contacted the Department of Education and explained the situation and was told that UOP has been fined “buckets of money”. After that phone call, I sat in my chair just absolutely stunned. And then I broke down. This was the final blow into the face of reality for me. As a marketing major and someone who knows how deceptive it can be, I should have been aware that I had been suckered. I was just so proud of myself that I had finally went to school and was earning an education that I was blind the actuality of what was happening.
To add more stress, I got a phone call from my newly appointed financial adviser telling me I was over-awarded financial aid and that I would have to pay $305 out-of-pocket to the school for the remainder of my classes. This was partly my fault because I did add on an additional concentration of communications so I decided to just drop the concentration and just get a marketing degree. (At that point I was already well aware my degree was worthless though). And then the blows just kept coming. I get a call from my other newly appointed academic adviser telling me if I dropped the concentration of communication (which was only added 4 months ago) I would be one class shy of getting the full 120 credits. WHAT!?! All this time my schedule had remained the same and no one told me that I was one class shy; not one person. All this hard work, countless hours of studying, thousands of words written; pointless.
What am I supposed to do now? I have applied to over 50 jobs that I fit into for my experience and “education” and not one has called me back. I was always wondering why, but I think I knew already, I was just too blind to see it for it was worth. So I took to Linked-in and posed the question “How do employers view the University of Phoenix?” Well, I think in my heart and my mind I already what the answers were going to be, but basically ‘diploma mill’.
How, as a single mother am I supposed to make a living now? Am I supposed to throw away everything I learned and accomplished just because my piece of paper that is called a diploma by Phoenix is just that, a piece of paper? I have over $50,000 invested into my education, but if I cannot get employed because companies view Phoenix as a ‘diploma mill’ (with good reason mind you) how am I supposed to pay the loans back? The government wonders why so many students are defaulting on their loans from for-profit schools like Phoenix; well this is why. And I understand, I have seen the students Phoenix has let graduate and they are out there representing the school. Even though I am a person who learned and worked hard at my degree, I am seen as nothing more than an idiot who attended a diploma mill.
My journey has just begun and I will fight hard to make sure I get what I deserve. Yes, I have been suckered by the company called Phoenix, but that should not mean I am any less worth hiring. That should not mean I am incompetent. Unfortunately for me, Phoenix has produced enough incompetent people that I have quite an uphill battle to climb. Maybe I should stop looking at myself as a student and start thinking of myself as a consumer. Phoenix is essentially a business first, school second so why not?
Moral of the story: if you plan on attending Phoenix, don’t. it is not that they do not have the proper materials for you to learn from, it is the fact that the money you spend is not worth the piece of toilet paper you acquire.
And just remember, to those of you out there who are like me; Rome fell in a day.