Friday, January 7, 2011

Shock of the century: deceptive stats in University of Phoenix's "Academic Annual Report"

In previous posts, I've blogged about University of Phoenix's miserable graduation rates. Upon visiting the UofP website recently, I noticed that they were touting an "Academic Annual Report", and I was curious to see how they reported their own completion rates.

Not surprisingly, the completion rates section of the document is especially bullshit-rich.

The report begins by citing U of P's homegrown completion measure, which they define as follows:

The University completion rate is defined as the percentage of students who completed at least three credits and went on to be degree-complete within 150 percent of normal degree completion time.
 This means, assuming that U of P counts a course as three credits, that a student that transfers in a large number of credits and then completes their degree will count towards this completion rate. Even given this, the "University completion rate" is not particularly high, as the following chart shows:

They then make a comparison to overall graduation rates collected by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), which are represented in the following chart:
If one only looks at these two charts, U of P seems to compare reasonably well to public institutions, and this is obviously what the authors of the "Academic Annual Report" want us to believe. Yet U of P is not making an apples to apples comparison here--what will we find if we go on the NCES College Navigator website and look up the NCES graduation rate for U of P's online campus?

Ouch! Granted, the NCES statistics apply only to first-time students, and many of the U of P's students may have existing college credit. Still, even taking this fact into consideration, these stats are really awful.

Bottom line: the University of Phoenix is where one billion of your tax dollars go down the drain every year.

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