A new report published in this month's "Diverse: Issues In Higher Education," finds that University of Phoenix tops the list of universities ranked by the number of minority graduates they produce. The magazine publishes an annual list of the top 100 institutions in the United States based on the number of associate, bachelor's and graduate degrees it awards to ethnic or racial minority students.
According to the Huffington Post, the number of various college and graduate degrees awarded to minorities has grown over the past 20 years by more than 200%. While in 1990, only 13.5% of all degree recipients were minorities, they represent nearly a quarter of all degrees granted during the 2010-2011 academic year.
University of Phoenix also led in the total number of graduate degrees – both master's and doctoral – it awards to minority students.
In a statement, University of Phoenix president Dr. Bill Pepicello said that its ranking validates the commitment the school has made to recruiting and graduating minority students — a commitment that doesn't end at graduation. The university's aim isn't just to guide students from enrollment to graduation, but also to provide an easy transition from school to employment and a career.
"University of Phoenix is committed to supporting minorities, and all students, with quality education that fits their needs," said Dominique K. Brown, corporate diversity officer for Apollo Group, parent company of University of Phoenix. "The impact of a college degree goes beyond just improving the life of the student. It positively impacts the student's family and community. Many of our students are the first in their families to obtain a degree. They are role models who inspire others to consider higher education."
While University of Phoenix leads the nation on the number of minority graduates, many are still weighing this information against criticism of the school and the entire for-profit higher education industry.
According to Department of Education statistics, the University of Phoenix has a student loan default rate that is nearly twice the average of all universities, with 26.4 percent of students going into default within three years of leaving the school. Phoenix's three-year default rate is also higher than the average rate among all for-profit colleges, which stands at 22.7 percent.
The school has also been accused of using predatory tactics in recruitment and its admissions counselors have been caught by investigators encouraging applicants to falsify information on the federal application for student aid.
School supporters, however, point out that schools like UP draw the most "high risk" students who are typically coming back to school to earn or finish a degree after taking time off from education to raise families.
UP has also been a pioneer in online education, although even that aspect of its business model has raised eyebrows. Although online schools like UP and another for-profit, Walden University, have been granting college degrees at rates much higher than traditional schools, many are arguing that since online college degrees aren't as prestigious as those from brick and mortar schools, this puts graduates of for-profit colleges at a further disadvantage when competing for jobs.