The for-profit “University of Phoenix played a key role in defeating legislation that would have allowed community colleges in Arizona to offer low-priced bachelor’s degree programs,” reports Sarah Pavlus in The American Independent.
That allowed the for-profit chain to continue to advertise that it offers more degrees than community colleges.
University of Phoenix is one of Arizona’s biggest employers. The company “provided research and political muscle for a multi-year lobbying campaign,” Pavlus writes.
For-profit schools and community colleges generally serve the same working, non-traditional student demographic, but tuition rates at community colleges are often much lower.
Historically, community colleges have offered two-year associate’s degrees, with students then transferring to other schools to earn a bachelor’s degree – also known as a baccalaureate degree. Recent efforts by community colleges to offer their own baccalaureate degree programs have been controversial, in part because they dramatically expand the traditional mission of these schools.
But advocates say these programs – which typically require approval from state lawmakers – better respond to student and employer needs by providing affordable, career-oriented, four-year degrees.
Beginning in 2005, the University of Phoenix lobbied Arizona state lawmakers against the community college baccalaureate option. In a 2006 meeting with Wall Street analysts, University of Phoenix founder John Sperling credited one of his top executives with “killing the community colleges’ four-year degree program in Arizona.”
Community colleges in 21 states now offer bachelor’s degrees, usually in occupational fields. Florida is the leader: Its 22 community colleges have added bachelor’s degrees in nursing, elementary education, business management and other majors that meet local workforce needs. In some states, public universities have lobbied to block community colleges from expanding into baccalaureate programs. It’s competition.