Over the years, the University of Phoenix (UOPX) has faced harsh criticism from many who oppose for-profit higher education, but one local graduate staunchly defends the institution.
Earlier this year, news broke that the university was being sold amid declining enrollment and revenue. In fact, a 2015 report indicated enrollment at the country’s largest for-profit university was less than half of what it was in 2010, further cementing critics’ ill-feelings about the methods for-profit universities use to recruit students. Many took to social media and other platforms to bash the university.
Diane Senffner, CEO and president of Mesa, Arizona-based Cine Learning Productions and a UOPX alumna, fiercely defended her alma mater in an LinkedIn article and attributed much of her current success to the education she received at UOPX.
“I see lots of people on news threads today bashing the University of Phoenix because of its drop in enrollment,” Senffner wrote. “Yes, private universities are costly. Yes, the extreme marketing and sales push that was implemented in the 2000s contributed to a bad taste for this type of institution. But, in defense of the University of Phoenix, most people posting have absolutely no idea how hard this institution has worked to provide quality education for adults.”
Senffner added that attending a public university was a “horrible experience,” and going to UOPX made a world of difference to her.
“I have a bachelor's and master's from UOPX," she wrote. "I am the CEO of a successful company and at the top of my field. There is no one who does not 'recognize my degree.'”
Critics of for-profit universities have accused UOPX and its parent company, Apollo Education Group, of preying upon veterans and scamming taxpayers and students, leaving them in a pile of student loan debt.
In 2013, USA Today listed UOPX among its "red flag” schools for posting a student loan default rate (26 percent) that surpassed its graduation rate (18 percent), and a 2010 report found that the university's online graduation rate was only 5 percent.
“I only experienced quality at UOPX and I think 100 percent of my classmates would agree,” Senffner wrote. “Did their sales tactics bring them down? Yes, but it was not the quality of education. And it is still a quality institution and a model that every university in America utilizes today in terms of its online courses. And most public university online classes still can't hold a candle to UOPXs. ... I am a Phoenix and I am proud to have gone there.”
UOPX has 112 campuses around the world and offers degrees in more than 100 programs at the associate, bachelor's, master’s and doctoral degree levels.
UPOX was founded in 1976 and launched its online program in 1989. Senffner said when she attended UOPX it was the only option for adult education.
“I needed to be able to flex my college around my work and University of Phoenix provided me that option,” Senffner told Arizona Business Daily recently. “I finished up a bachelor’s degree program there in business management because my theater degree was useless in business; and every one of my classes was taught by instructors who were working in the field. It was so meaningful to listen to professionals from these individual subject matters talk about what they do in real life.”
But it wasn’t a breeze. Senffner said juggling full-time work and earning her degrees was difficult, but rewarding.
“Well, there were multiple papers due every single week; we had multiple assignments,” Senffner said. “I took my whole bachelor’s program in a classroom, so I needed to be able to be in a classroom one or two times a week. It was extremely challenging, and I got so much out of it. Every time I was about to leave a class, I could almost go back to work and use what I learned the day before.”
While completing her master’s program, Senffner was working in global organizational development for a company based in the United Kingdom and was constantly traveling. Without online learning and the ability to access the UOPX portal from anywhere in the world, she would not have been able to continue her education.
“I am a huge proponent (of University of Phoenix), and the reality is every single public university copied what University of Phoenix (had) and launched their own online courses,” she said.
More than 274 colleges and universities in the U.S. offer online education programs and are accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
As far as the feedback she has received since penning her defense of UOPX, Senffner said the response further proves her point.
“I would say (the response) was excellent, not just good; I’d say it is excellent," Senffner said. "There are hundreds and hundreds of people who have responded to my article in the same way. People who are at the top of their fields. If you look at the titles for people under that article there are some very, very extremely important people who have gotten their degrees (at UOPX) and they echo every one of my statements.”
Now as a businesswoman running her own company, Cine Learning Productions, Senffner said the education she received at UOPX was invaluable in helping her achieve the success she enjoys today.
“Just being able to understand the business and financial (part) of running a company was incredibly useful in setting up my company and then as we started growing in terms of scalability,” Senffner said.
Cine Learning Productions offers a team of industry professionals with many years of experience in the learning and development field and in the production of multimedia learning.