HBCUs Cautious About Online Course Partnerships with U. of Phoenix!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the vast majority of Historically Black Colleges and Universities are being cautious about entering into contractual relationships with the University of Phoenix for online education services.  As reported:

“Nearly a year after the Thurgood Marshall College Fund announced an alliance to encourage historically black colleges to make use of the online courses and distance-education expertise of the University of Phoenix, few of the 100-plus eligible institutions seem to be taking the for-profit provider up on its offer.

To date, only Florida A&M University and Paul Quinn College appear close to creating any sort of partnership with Phoenix, and the Florida A&M project wouldn’t involve students directly. Two other HBCUs, Morgan State and Grambling State Universities, are considering more-limited deals.

A Phoenix spokesman says the university is also in discussions with Dillard, Elizabeth City State, and Hampton Universities. They are conducting a “preliminary review of our offering,” he says.

“It’s been slow coming,” says Johnny C. Taylor Jr., chief executive of the fund, who has been working to develop the alliance. “I underestimated the inertia in this space,” but it’s understandable, he says: “This is change.”

As he and Phoenix officials conceived the alliance, Mr. Taylor says, the university would make its course platform available to the HBCUs, which could offer the Phoenix courses to students or just use the platform while providing their own course content and instruction. In effect, Phoenix would be their technology partner behind the scenes. (At one point Mr. Taylor proposed having the courses labeled “powered by the University of Phoenix,” but “our schools would have no part of that,” he says.)

HBCUs would pay Phoenix $395 for each student who completed a course using its platform.

When the alliance was announced, some observers questioned both Phoenix’s motives and the wisdom of HBCUs’ working with a provider whose academic reputation was under fire. Mr. Taylor says those concerns don’t worry him. Phoenix’s motivation “could be purely political,” he says, “but it doesn’t matter to me.”

This is difficult issue for those HBCUs that have not been able to develop online education programs on their own.  An alliance with the University of Phoenix looks attractive but given its reputation makes administrators rightfully cautious.



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