An analysis-cum-memoir of the rise and decline of the University of Phoenix.
The University of Phoenix may fall in 2013 when the Higher Learning Commission rules on the outcome of the recommended accreditation probation instituted in 2012, and Murphy (Jury Rigging in the Court of Public Opinion, 2007), a co-founder, aims to set the historical record straight and augment co-founder John Sperling’s account of the university’s history in Rebel With a Cause. Murphy begins by documenting his own career and his motivation to establish a university that served nontraditional students. The intention was to admit and serve only working adult learners who “were capable of benefiting gainfully from a teaching/learning model with an applied rather than theoretical learning focus.” He details the university’s history, including its founding; its “unified” teaching/learning model; the Arizona Board of Regents’ alleged attack during its initial accreditation process; the regretted shift to the Apollo Group holding company; and the IPO. In Part 2, called “Mission Forsaken,” Murphy recounts the elimination of the initial admissions standards and the University of Phoenix’s founding mission. Although timely, the work suffers from an inconsistent tone, uneven writing and the insertion of charged opinions into otherwise factual statements. On the one hand, the book offers a cogent, damning comparison of the pre- and post-Apollo Group-IPO–graduation rates and student loan default rates. On the other, he describes the consequences of the University of Phoenix’s putting money ahead of its students as “smoking hot spreadsheet bliss,” and his first appendix—a parable called “The Butterball Effect,” which attempts to characterize how John Sperling forced Murphy to resign from the staff of the university—is meandering and overwritten.
Persuasive and well-timed but flawed.