Experience with Phoenix University

So here’s the email I sent to my student advisor, and this jumps right into the story.

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Hey there Ryan.

I have a situation, combined with some interesting observations about the course work at Phoenix University Online.  I’d like to fill you in on whats going on, and maybe we could work something out.  Please also feel free to forward this email to whomever you feel should see it.

I’m currently enrolled in the Gen201 class, although I don’t think it can honestly be called a “class”.  When I think of college classes, I think of being assigned reading materials that require a high degree of mental acuity to process and understand, then being asked to complete assignments based on those materials.  Such assignments often have questions that aren’t answered directly in the materials, but rather require one to extract information from what they read, and apply comprehension of the subject matter to successfully solve problems.  There’s nothing like that here.  The materials presented appear to be aimed at 13 or 14 year olds.  Here are some examples.

I think living in America, most 18 year olds have had it very thoroughly conveyed to them what the purpose of college is.  The benefits of college are transmitted very often and frequently through a variety of media, including well established cultural narratives that tell young people that their future depends on having a degree.  I could understand a course that tries to sell me on the benefits of attending this particular college, but I’ve already paid for the course, so I’m already sold on the idea.  The following pages explain, basically, that going to college means you’ll end up more educated.  Was it assumed I didn’t already know this?

The section after this talks about time management.  I’ll consider that this was written in good faith and not mean to be condescending, but see for yourself.

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Things like commuting, working a job, family life, and so on, are extremely basic life skills that are on par with brushing your teeth and getting dressed in the morning.  Most people over the age of 18, who are absent of any mental illness, should be able to accomplish these things.  Moreover, both the classwork and homework assignments in the Gen201 course, combined, only require around 20 minutes per week to complete.  This is hardly the kind of workload that requires extensive strategizing to fit into a schedule, and yet time management is frequently brought up.  The instructions given on the next page are things most kids have to learn when they transfer out of grade school and into middle school. 

I’d like to share one more example; this one is from the homework.  This one really takes the cake.

When I first saw this, I really had to take a moment to let it sink in.

I’m 37 years old.  I’m a former specialist of biomechanics and have also worked as a marketing executive, and helped manage several businesses across southeast Asia, before moving back to the United States and changing careers into psychology.  I’m currently licensed by the state of Oregon to work in designated mental health facilities.  I’m currently pursuing a degree to improve what positions I can be cleared for (I somehow knew degrees could do this before seeing the first section shown above.)  In previous fields, I needed an understanding of the role that a D-isomer amino acid polypeptide matrix plays on the secretion of somatotropin by activation of the hypothalamus.  I also needed to learn the metabolic pathways of ecosapentanoic acid, it’s role in the krebs cycle, and what the various results of supplementation are in different categories of oxygen and glycogen depletion.  I even wrote two books on the subject.  Somehow, I thought this is approximately the level I’d be operating at when I began attending Phoenix University, because it seems like a completely legitimate university.  It seems like the kind of place doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other scientists might graduate from before going off to achieve excellence in their respective fields.

……….. and here I am, having it explained to me, that the person responsible for my time is…. me.  And that’s being conveyed through a multiple choice question, as though I might actually not understand this, and genuinely believe somehow that the answer is — literally anything else.

Can you see the discrepancy between what I purchased, and what I got?  I’m paying over 1,300 dollars for this.  And every single dime of that money is coming out of my own pocket.  Not financial aid, not grants or loans of any kind; it’s money that I personally worked for by digging ditches, carrying concrete slabs, and lifting steel beams at my own general labor business.  This is not really what I imagine when I think “college education”.

Now we might consider that this is just a poorly thought-out general ed class where literally, the only assignments are to write three posts of 175 words each in a forum with similar topics to those seen above (meaning again, these classes only require, tops,  20 minutes per week — and it smacks with irony that “time management” is such a common theme).  However, I then went to see what class I’d be assigned after this.  And here’s what I saw.

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^ This looks to be almost the exact same caliber of what I’m going through now. 

— I don’t need to discover my “personal growth”.  I’m grown.  I’m an adult.  I’m ready to begin discussing the psycho-neurological approach to understanding schizophrenia and possible treatments that involve stimulating dopaminergic pathways.

— I don’t need to overcome procrastination.  I’m very, VERY ready, to start actually going to college classes that I can take seriously.

— I don’t need to distinguish between personal and academic goals, as though I’m still a child and unable to understand the difference between playing video games over at Billy’s house and studying for a test tomorrow.

I’ve thought about two possible solutions right off hand that I’d like to run by you.

1) Since these classes are so extremely simple, and require so little time and effort, would I be able to add 10 or so to my schedule?  This doesn’t seem unreasonable.  Lets consider for a moment that we tripled the amount of time each class took so it runs about an hour.  10 of these means I’d be spending 10 hours a week on school, which is still quite a ways under what I’m capable of.  It’d also mean in 5 weeks, I could earn 30 credits rather than just 3, which is great, as one of my top goals is to get through this as quickly as possible.

2) I could test out of these classes so I could clear each one in a day rather than 5 weeks.  I’m quite confident I can remember things like “the person responsible for my time is … me”, and pass a test on such material with only a day’s worth of preparation.  Does Phoenix offer an option like this?

I’m open to hearing what the other options are.

Thanks a lot for your time in helping me with this.


^ So with that said, I was actually rather surprised when Ryan wrote back, and seemingly agreed with me!! Here’s his response:

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“Hi Kasey,

I am sorry you are not satisfied with the academic rigors of GEN/201.  In complete transparency this is an entry level course and a majority of our students are the first in their family to attend college.  Are you going to bring in transfer credits?  I can work with your schedule after you are matriculated to get you into more difficult course work with much higher instructor expectations.  Is that ok with you?

Ryan Bedenkop
Senior Academic Counselor

University of Phoenix 

College of Social & Behavioral Science

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^ He called me the next day and reassured me that the next course was going to be an actual college course. So I stuck it out and waited 5 weeks for the current course to be over (it was called “Gen201”) so the next course, Psy110, would start. However, it was still basically the same thing. I pay 1,300 dollars, and the college basically gives me another 3 credits. The “material” in the course was multiple choice stuff you’d find in the back of any Women’s magazine, and there’s no real way to fail the course. You pay, you click a few things, you get the credits.

I made these two videos in response.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI56DAW2e_g — This one is 18 minutes, but the first half is spent covering that email which you can see above, that was already sent to Phoenix. Second half of this video is about the new course.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t75f52NYGPg — In this one, I proved beyond any possible contention that their course lacks any legitimacy, by passing the entire thing (all 5 weeks of it) on the very first day it came out, in less than 3 hours.  If you calculate that out, this comes to about 5 minutes of work PER DAY over a 5 week period. No books to read, no papers to write, no tests, and really no way to fail the class.

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^ After sending Phoenix these videos and telling them I’m dropping out and explaining that I won’t pay because I very clearly did not get what I paid for (and explained so in the videos), they said they’re going to refer me to collections.

I’d like some advice on what I can do at this point to fight them.


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