DOD renews contracts with four schools, drops University of Phoenix

Education
The Defense Department has awarded University of Maryland University College a contract worth about $245 million over the next decade to provide a number of new classes on bases across Europe, including an M.B.A. degree program. Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stries
From Stripes.com
The Defense Department has awarded University of Maryland University College a contract worth about $245 million over the next decade to provide a number of new classes on bases across Europe, including an M.B.A. degree program. Joshua L. DeMotts/Stars and Stries

DOD renews contracts with four schools, drops University of Phoenix

by: Jennifer H. Svan | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: July 19, 2013

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Defense Department this month renewed contracts with four universities to provide college and graduate programs on bases across Europe, but the University of Phoenix was not among them.

The University of Maryland University College received the largest contract, worth an estimated $245 million over the next decade, according to school officials.

The University of Oklahoma, Central Texas College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — all schools that already offer face-to-face instruction in Europe — also received contracts to offer post-secondary programs for military personnel, family members and DOD civilians.

The University of Phoenix offered masters-level programs in education and business. The contract for those programs in Europe expires July 31, said Ryan Rauzon, university spokesman. The school still offers programs in Asia; that contract ends in 2014. The school also offers courses online.

Rauzon said Wednesday that he didn’t know the specifics of why DOD didn’t give a new contract to Phoenix for programs in Europe.

“We think we’re among the best in understanding military students’ needs and delivering services for them,” he said, noting the school has a military division devoted to serving military students. “That’s something we’ve had for years.”

Rachel Clark, the outreach coordinator for the Army’s 409th Contracting Support Brigade in Kaiserslautern, said in an email that “the University of Phoenix was not awarded a contract after the evaluation of their proposal, per the terms and conditions of the solicitation. The new contracts were awarded to the universities that offered the best value” to the government.

The University of Phoenix and other for-profit colleges have come under criticism in recent years with lawmakers and others questioning the industry’s high tuition and a track record of low graduation rates and high numbers of students defaulting on federal loans.

University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest for-profit institution of higher learning, with an enrollment of 288,000. The university points out on its website that there have been thousands of success stories from students and alumni, “the overwhelming majority of whom are successful in their career and proud to be a Phoenix.”

Rauzon said most of the university’s military students take classes online. “They move so frequently and they rely on that online flexibility,” he said. The university doesn’t disclose specific enrollment figures beyond its overall enrollment, he said.

The university will continue to work with students in Europe who have not finished their degrees, he said. It’s possible the programs could be completed online, depending on “where they are in the program and how many credits remain until they reach graduation,” he said.

At the Ramstein Education Center, the University of Phoenix’s office will close on July 24, said Mark Rix, an education services specialist. The center will provide a contact for a Phoenix academic counselor in the States, he said.

“I don’t think folks are going to miss anything,” Rix said. “Yes, we lost a school, but their programs were picked back up. I don’t see that it’s really going to hurt our audience.”

UMUC is picking up the bachelor’s-level program in secondary teacher education and the Master of Business Administration, said Allan Berg, UMUC senior vice president for overseas operations. The University of Oklahoma, meanwhile, will begin offering a Master of Education this fall, according to a school news release.

It will be up to those universities whether to accept transfer credit hours from Phoenix students, Rauzon said.

UMUC is also offering for the first time in Europe a master’s and bachelor’s degree in social work; and masters’ degrees in cybersecurity and homeland security. The university has offered classes in Europe since 1949.

The contracts awarded to each of the schools are for one year, with nine additional option years, Berg said. It’s expected the government will exercise those options, but “it gives them the opportunity to end the contract right away if they want to.”

Several universities are dropping their tuition rates effective Aug. 1, Rix said, when the new contracts kick in. UMUC, for example, reduced its undergraduate rate per semester hour from $249 to $212, he said.

“All schools are very concerned about the future of tuition assistance,” Berg said. If the Pentagon decided to end that benefit, “that would really be a game changer for all of us.”

svan.jennifer@stripes.com