An advocate group for veterans who are working toward their degree has started a petition on Change.org titled “Students, Not Stadiums.” Its aim is to make the University of Phoenix drop its multimillion dollar sponsorship of the Arizona Cardinals football stadium and spend the money on education instead.
The Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund provides grants to student veterans who have been taken advantage of by for-profit colleges, like the University of Phoenix. Executive director of the group, Matthew Boulay, says that the school should “be in the business of educating students. They should not be in the business of branding stadiums.”
The University of Phoenix signed the 20-year deal in 2006, agreeing to pay $154.4 million to the Cardinals in exchange for naming rights. At the time, even the president of The Apollo Group, which is the parent company to the University of Phoenix, recognized that it was an odd pairing. The stadium isn’t actually in Phoenix, to start with. It’s located in Glendale, a nearby town. On top of that, the University of Phoenix doesn’t have an athletics program of any kind. These factors aren’t the reason for the criticisms levied by the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund, however.
The group’s chief complaint stems from the fact that veterans make up a good portion of those enrolled at the University of Phoenix. In fact, in 2014, the school received roughly $272 million in GI Bill funding. The VSLRF contends that federal education money should be spent on providing students with a better education, rather than for marketing purposes.
According to an investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the University of Phoenix spends three times more on marketing than on student instruction. In addition, the HELP report found that when it came to instruction, the for-profit university spent less than 25% of what a typical community college spends per student. It also has a much higher number of dropouts and at some University of Phoenix campuses, the rate of student loan defaults is actually higher than the graduation rate.
No one at the university has commented on the Change.org petition yet, but their actions over the past year speak volumes. The company has laid off 900 employees and shuttered 100 of its campuses, leading many to wonder if there is any future at all for the University of Phoenix.
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