The Department of Defense said today that it would suspend the University of Phoenix from its tuition assistance programs and bar school officials from recruiting at military facilities, including job fairs, after revelations of improper recruiting and marketing practices by the for-profit school.
An investigation by Reveal exposed how the university paid the military for exclusive access to bases – violating the intent of an executive order – held recruitment events designed as résumé workshops and included military insignias without the required permission on custom-engraved “challenge coins” handed out by recruiters.
The revelations drew outrage from some members of Congress who pressed the Pentagon to investigate.
The results of that investigation were made public today, albeit quietly, when the Defense Department changed the status of all of the university’s campuses to on probation on its website of participating institutions. Last year, the University of Phoenix received $20 million in military tuition assistance from the Pentagon.
In a written statement to Reveal announcing that the university had been placed on probationary status, Dawn Bilodeau, chief of the Defense Department’s voluntary education program, said students currently receiving tuition assistance will be allowed to complete courses already underway.
“While in a probationary status and with a view to minimizing harm to students, educational institutions will be permitted to ‘teach-out,’ ” she said.
Bilodeau also said the university “will not be authorized access to DoD installations for the purposes of participating in any recruitment-type activities, including but not limited to job training, and career events and fairs. Further, no new or transfer students at the institution will be permitted to receive DoD tuition assistance.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of the leading congressional voices calling for an investigation into the University of Phoenix, hailed the Pentagon’s actions.
“This is a decisive action by the Department of Defense to protect servicemembers and taxpayers from a company that offers degrees of questionable value,” he said. “With below-average graduation rates and a student loan default rate almost forty percent higher than the national average, the University of Phoenix is going to have a hard time explaining why students should continue to enroll in this institution.”
Durbin also said he would ask the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs to review the Defense Department’s findings and take actions to protect other government funds. The college has received more than $1.2 billion in GI Bill money since 2009.
Previously, the University of Phoenix has stated that it would not respond to questions because Reveal’s past reporting “left us unconvinced that fair, balanced, fact-based reporting that allows us to tell our side of the story (is) likely to happen here.”
Ryan Rauzon, the university’s spokesman, could not be reached immediately for comment.
This story was edited by Amy Pyle and copy edited by Sheela Kamath.
Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.