Mark Brenner

Another View: University of Phoenix deserves credit for reforms

Published: Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 - 12:12 am

Years ago, The Sacramento Bee editorial board urged persistence in stemming the tide of cuts to higher education. That same editorial decried side agendas, distractions and acts of symbolism. The board’s Thursday editorial (“For-profit colleges should embrace more oversight”) – an act of symbolism of its own – called out only University of Phoenix, while ignoring our work to bring about accountability and improved oversight for all colleges and universities in California and the nation.

We welcomed amendments to Assembly Bill 2099, and we are confounded by the editorial board’s failure to see how this, along with efforts by public and private institutions, helped improve the bill. On Senate Bill 1247, we are perhaps the only private postsecondary institution that expressed willingness to raise fees on institutions to ensure proper enforcement of existing law. The editorial laid bare the board’s myopic view of higher education today in California.

We will support new laws and rules that root out institutions that fail to meet the highest ethical and academic standards. University of Phoenix joined consumer groups in 2012 to support legislation that enabled schools like ours to permanently remove its exemption from state oversight. We were praised by consumer groups for this effort. The editorial board has never called out a single school that refuses to subject itself to regulatory oversight by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.

The editorial board and state legislators should look to Washington, D.C., as a model of consensus on these important issues. President Barack Obama’s comprehensive Executive Order 13607 establishes principles of excellence for institutions serving military service members, veterans and their families. University of Phoenix was one of the first schools to adopt these principles. A recent California state audit recognized our strict adherence to the president’s order, which the editorial conveniently overlooked. A legislative committee analysis pointed out that many of California’s public universities do not comply with all of the principles – also conspicuously missing from the editorial.

University of Phoenix embraces common-sense protections for all students across all institutions – not biased, incomplete and ill-conceived efforts that use flawed definitions and metrics to measure the performance of students at a limited number of schools. We agree that the state bureau needs improvement and must be fully funded and staffed to do its important work.

Mark Brenner is chief of staff of Apollo Education Group Inc., parent company of University of Phoenix.

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