How Super Bowl Highlights Everything Wrong With For-Profit Universities

The Super Bowl, the Big Game, whatever you call it, the biggest event in American sports will take place this Sunday evening at the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the famous… wait, what’s that? The University of Phoenix doesn’t have athletic teams, you say? Why would the school put its name on a stadium it can’t use? Herein lies the value of naming rights.

The University of Phoenix exemplifies the absurdities of for-profit universities, in this case paying $154 million for naming rights to the stadium hosting the Super Bowl as a marketing ploy instead of spending that money on student education. Most of its students aren’t graduating and are being left with crippling debt, while the university wastes money on shameful publicity strategies.

In 2010-2011, the University of Phoenix benefited from $3.7 billion in taxpayer money through various federal loan and tuition assistance programs. Although identifying as a university, the school’s spending habits prioritize marketing, recruiting and a return for their investors over their current students. In addition to the stadium naming rights, they spent over $1 million in lobbying against regulation of for-profit universities and anywhere from $376 million to $655 million on recruiting ads and marketing. Is this really an institution deserving of taxpayer money?

While the average four-year college completion rate is 54 percent, in 2012, U of Phoenix’s was a measly 17 percent, and the total debt amassed by University of Phoenix students is $5 billion. Each quarter of the Super Bowl XLIX, University of Phoenix students’ debt will increase by $540,000, totaling $2.5 million by the end of the game.

Most of the students emerging with debt don’t even have a degree to show for it. Moreover, 26 percent of students default on their loans, nearly 10 percent more than the percentage of students who are actually graduating.

The University is taking advantage of our nation’s veterans. It is among the largest recipient of post-9/11 GI Bill money, yet spends only $829 per student per year and forces many veterans into debt, with very few job prospects even if they graduate. Their legitimacy is being questioned by many, and the school has been put on notice by its accreditor.

The University of Phoenix is owned by the Apollo Group, an educational corporation which, through its subsidiaries, has five for-profit institutions. U of Phoenix is the largest of these, with total enrollment in 2013 of 269,000 (about 90 percent of the Group’s total students). This group receives more Pell Grant dollars than any other college in the country.

Pell Grants are awarded to students whose family income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line. Many of these low-income students end up having to drop out, and are being harmed by the University’s deceptive tactics. The Group has also been the subject of multiple federal investigations and is being sued by former employees and shareholders.

If you are sick of for-profit universities taking advantage of students and wasting taxpayer money sign the petition and join the Twitter campaign this Super Bowl Sunday. Use the hashtags: #SuperBowl #SuperDebtSunday #StudentNotStadiums and #SuperPhoenix to show your support for students and to tell University of Phoenix to use taxpayer money for what it should be used for – education.

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