12/14/2010 08:20 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

University Of Phoenix Publishes Ambiguous Self-Assessment

As for-profit colleges continue to raise eyebrows nationwide -- by exploiting veterans and lying about job opportunities, among other things -- the University of Phoenix released of their third annual academic report, which seeks to detail how the school's students measure up to their peers.

According to the report (PDF), an institution's academic quality should be measured according to its "internal integrity" -- its strength of curriculum, students' academic achievement and faculty preparation -- as well as how it compares laterally with regard to rates of student success.

In assessing their own program, Phoenix looked at measures of diversity, student satisfaction, information literacy as measured by the Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (SAILS), academic proficiency and preparedness as measured by the ETS Proficiency Profile (EPP), increase in working students' salaries, tax dollars and student completion rates. Their findings include:

  • The University of Phoenix population is significantly more diverse than that of most colleges
  • Approximately 90 percent of students were satisfied with their experiences at Phoenix
  • Phoenix freshmen scored equivalently on the SAILS assessment when compared to students at other institutions offering the test in most areas, but were outperformed in "documenting sources"
  • SAILS Phoenix seniors consistently outperformed SAILS Phoenix freshmen
  • Phoenix seniors consistently underperformed when compared to other students assessed according to EPP, and only achieved equivalency in the humanities and social science

In 2008 and 2009, Phoenix's reports received mixed reviews, according to Inside Higher Ed. While some lauded its candid and unsolicited nature, others said the statistics were misleading -- for example, it is unlikely that Phoenix freshmen will continue on to be seniors and that seniors started out as freshmen at the institution, which renders the comparison between the two arbitrary. And the Phoenix report publishes completion rates as they, rather than the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, define them. This means that Phoenix's self-reported completion rates are much higher than those generally acknowledged by the academic community.

Read the full report here (PDF), and let us know what you think in the comments section.