Corrected Numbers

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backs University of Phoenix in its squabble with a California state agency over veterans' enrollment numbers.

August 4, 2014

The University of Phoenix has pushed back against a finding from a May audit by the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education (CSAAVE) about the for-profit chain’s San Diego campus. And the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backed Phoenix's claims on Friday.

The controversy began after the Center for Investigative Reporting, a California-based news organization, obtained and released a report from the agency about its site visit to the campus.

While the report was positive overall, it alleged that seven bachelor’s and master’s programs at the campus had run afoul of a federal requirement preventing veterans from being 85 percent or more of a program’s enrollment. The idea behind the decades-old rule is to introduce a free-market element to programs by requiring that they are able to attract students whose educations are not heavily subsidized with V.A. grants.

"We informed them that with the exception of the 85/15 enrollment ratio issue, the survey was excellent,” according to the report, which was submitted in June. “The University of Phoenix representatives were told not to enroll any additional students in the programs that violate the 85/15 ratio.”

Phoenix, however, challenged the agency’s figures. The university claims only one of the programs went beyond the limit on veterans.

And contrary to various media reports, the state agency has not banned or barred new student enrollments. It referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a final ruling.

“It is up to the V.A. to take action, if any, because they are federal regulations,” said Paul Sullivan, a spokesman for the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

The feds on Friday released a statement saying the situation has been resolved, with no effect on the programs.

"The reports of a ban on enrollments at the University of Phoenix-San Diego have been somewhat premature," said Megan Lutz, a spokeswoman for the federal V.A., in a written statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Phoenix has voluntarily halted enrollment in its bachelor’s in organizational security and management at the San Diego campus. Of the 106 students enrolled in that degree track, 95 (or 89 percent) are veterans, said officials with Apollo Education Group, which owns Phoenix. Six non-veteran students could bring the program back into compliance.

The other six programs are below the 85 percent threshold, said Mark Brenner, a spokesman for Apollo. In a written statement Brenner listed the veterans’ enrollment rates for those programs. They range from 26 percent to 71 percent.

All six are still enrolling new students, including veterans, said officials with the company.

Lutz said the state approving agency should have sent a corrected letter to the school that acknowledged the university was in compliance. "This did not occur because of the state's questions over the appropriate jurisdictional authority to act," she said.

The discrepancy in the differing sets of figures, according to Apollo, was due to the state agency having separated out concentrations within majors. The percentages are smaller when they instead reflect entire degree programs, which is how these specific federal regulations are used to determine compliance.

Later in June the company wrote to the state agency to ask for a clarification on the corrected figures. The agency replied that it had received the request, but referred the matter to the feds.

“We still have questions about the way the May 2 state compliance audit has been handled," Brenner said. But he added that Apollo was "pleased by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs’ rapid response to quickly clarify and remedy the situation for our veteran students."


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