The University of Phoenix (UOPX) is an American for-profit institution of higher learning, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, United States. The university has an open-enrollment admission policy, requiring a high-school diploma, GED, or its equivalent as its criterion for admissions. The university has 91 campuses worldwide and confers degrees in over 100 degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Education Group Inc., a publicly traded (NASDAQ: APOL) Phoenix-based corporation that owns several for-profit educational institutions. The university was founded by John Sperling. Started in 1976, the first class consisted of eight students. In 1980, the school expanded to San Jose, California, and in 1989, the university launched its online program. In 1994, University of Phoenix leaders made the decision to take the parent company, Apollo Group public. Capital from Wall Street launched the school. Phoenix had more than 100,000 students within the first five years of going public. Growth in the company made John Sperling a billionaire. According to Senator Tom Harkin, who chaired hearings on for-profit colleges, “I think what really turned this company is when they started going to Wall Street,” he says. “[They] started raising hedge fund money, and then they had to meet quarterly reports, and all they were interested in, basically, was ‘How much money ya makin’?
Between 2010 and 2016, enrollment declined more than 70 percent amid multiple investigations, lawsuits and controversies.
In February, 2016 the Apollo Group announced it will be sold to a private investment group, made up of the Najafi Companies, Apollo Global Management and the Vistria Group, for $1 billion. Former U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Anthony W. Miller, partner and chief operating officer of Vistria, will become chairman. The sale will have to be approved by both the U.S. Department of Education and the accreditation group the Higher Learning Commission in order to go forward.