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THE UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX "" AXIA COLLEGE

A STUDY OF "FIRST YEAR SEQUENCE" (FYS) AND ITS CONSEQUENCES…

In an attempt by the University of Phoenix to help increase student success and completion rates, the university developed the "First Year Sequence" (FYS) concept. The concept is based on the idea that new students entering into the university with less than 24 credits need the assistance of a specialized curriculum, placed in a specific sequence, in order to increase the likelihood of academic success. The premise of these courses is to build a curriculum that has a relevant, "real world" significance for the students. The university makes it clear that these classes are not considered part of a remedial design. Although, it is well know at the advisor level that the FYS courses are suppose to be easier for the students to successfully complete.

In February of 2010 the university rolled out FYS. Within days of implementation, myself and many other academic advisors, began to notice that transfer credits that traditionally would be applying to student's degrees, were not being transferred in. I presented my concerns to management. Management was not willing or unable to provide me with any logical explanation as to why these students were losing credits.

In an attempt to find out why many quality transfer credits were no longer being applied, I decided to research the methodology behind and implementation of FYS and its impact on the student. Because I worked specifically with the associates programs (Axia College), my research will not address the impact on new students entering at the bachelor level. Also, my report will not address whether those students that have been properly placed in FYS have benefited from its curriculum design

The results of my research yielded what I believe are five fundamental flaws of FYS that are worthy of attention. The following report is an explanation of those results.

FIRST FUNDAMENTAL FLAW OF FYS

Axia College Track A "" Track B

In order to implement FYS, the University of Phoenix decided to split degree programs into two different "Tracks." Track A is used for students with 24 or more credits and Track B (FYS) is used for students that have less then 24 credits. The difference in required courses is illustrated in Example 1 (pg. 9). In this example, I used Axia's AAFBv13 program. Please note that this example could be used with the vast majority of associate programs offered at Axia College.

1When looking over Example 1, I want to draw attention to the words, "EQUIVALENT and NO EQUIVALENT." You will note that Track B has very few classes that have equivalencies. The university has decided that no other college level course work meets the course content requirements for all the FYS courses. This is very important to understand because this is the reason that so many transfer credits are not accepted into Track B. These specialized courses also may prove difficult to transfer to other academic institutions.

In Track A an incoming student has the ability to transfer in as many as 39 (42 in some instances) credits from an accredited institution. In Track B an incoming student has only the ability to transfer in 18 credits. The credit acceptability limitation of Track B is the basis for the first fundamental flaw of FYS. Furthermore, this flaw also brings into question how two vastly different course requirements can lead to the completion of the same degree program.

SECOND FUNDAMENTAL FLAW OF FYS

In determining which track the student belongs in, the university decided to use the admission application as the sole factor for track placement. The student is required to report the amount of credits they believe they have earned at other schools and place them on the admission application. If the student puts 24 or more credits they will be placed in Track A. If the student puts 23 credits or less then the student will be placed in Track B. Numerous problems arrive by allowing the student to self-report their credit completion history. Some of these problems include:1) Many students who are entering back into school have often been out of college for a very long time or have attended multiple colleges. This often leads students to recount an inaccurate estimate of their previous college credits. 2) Student are often encouraged by enrollment counselors to get started as soon as possible. This urgency often does not allow students enough time to get their unofficial transcripts. In addition, enrollment counselors often neglect to even ask students for unofficial transcripts.3) Students are often not informed by enrollment counselors of the critical importance of the number that they report on their admissions application. And more importantly, the potential consequences of an inaccurate number.4) Enrollment counselors are also often confused about how FYS works and its potential cost to students. I believe this confusion is due to a lack of proper training and oversight. But, also more importantly due to an inherently confusing and illogical policy design.

Whether it is one of the concerns just mentioned or a combination of many, students are overwhelmingly and consistently placing the wrong amount of credits on their admission application. This concern is noted in Examples 3 and 4 (pg. 11).

2Essentially, students are being placed in Track A or B based not on proven academic guideline but instead, what amounts to basically a guess by the student. This guess is resulting in students that belong in Track A being placed in Track B and vice versa.

THIRD FUNDAMENTAL FLAW OF FYS

The third fundamental flaw addresses the policy guidelines for moving a student from Track B to A. At the beginning of FYS there was not a set or clear policy on moving students from Track B to A. Academic advisors were just told that we had to follow what was on the admissions application, even if that number was proven inaccurate with the student's official transcripts. For example, if a student placed 18 credits on their admission application they would be placed into Track B. After the student was matriculated (official transcripts evaluated) it was found that the student received 12 credits in Track B. Upon further review it was also found that the student could receive an additional 12 credits if placed into Track A. Even though the student met the 24 credit threshold for Track A placement, we were not allowed to switch the track. Keeping in mind fundamental flaws 1 and 2, this type of scenario happened quite often and cost many students a considerable amount of credits, time and money.

The university eventually added to and amended the policy that stipulated the requirement for transferring a student from Track B to A. These stipulations are as follows:1) Student may switch from Track B to A if the student had attended at least one course in the past at the University of Phoenix.2) Student may switch from Track B to A if the student has matriculated 24 or more credits.3) Student may switch form Track B to A if the student has attempted 24 or more credits.4) Student may NOT be switched from Track B to A based on unofficial transcripts received after the student has submitted their admission application. 5) Student may NOT resubmit a new admission application for the purpose of switching from Track B to A.

These stipulations raise additional concerns that seem to undermine the general purpose of FYS.

Stipulation 1- For example, a student may have completed a course at the University of Phoenix in 2002 and received a D- and dropped out. This student upon returning to the University of Phoenix on or after February 1st 2010, would not be required to be enrolled in FYS. Yet, a student that went to another university with a 4.0 GPA (grade point average) and 23 transferrable credits would be required to be in FYS.

3Keeping in mind the purpose of FYS. One must ask themselves why a student with a D- and 3 college credits would be better prepared to succeed academically, than a student with 23 credits and a 4.0 GPA. These types of inconsistencies are evidenced throughout the FYS policy.

Stipulation 2 "" This stipulation seems logical, although there are a couple of concerns. One issue is that students are often already enrolled in class and making attendance before the student completes matriculation. Because the university desires to enroll students in an expedited fashion, students routinely begin their courses before they are matriculated. So, when the students are finally matriculated and they are shown to be in the wrong track, they have already made attendance in classes that may not apply to their degree program.

Another issue with stipulation 2 is that even if a student meets the 24 credit threshold and is eligible to transfer from Track B to A, the transfer is not done automatically. This means if you have an under-trained, ill-informed or unmotivated academic counselor, this track change may never be initiated. This may leave the student with many unapplied quality transfer credits.

Stipulation 3 "" The university defines attempted credits as any credits completed with a D- or above. This can be at any academic institution without regard to whether or not the university is accredited or the level of course work completed. What this means is that you can have a student that went to a non-accredited school with a GPA below 1.0, whom is not required to be placed in FYS.

Stipulation 4 - If a student submits an admission application with an incorrect amount of credit experience and later is able to produce unofficial transcripts with a different credit count, the student may not use those unofficial transcripts to change tracks, even if the transfer credits meet the 24 credit threshold. Simply put, the university will base track placement on a clearly incorrect number, as opposed to more accurate number reported on an unofficial transcript.

Stipulation 5 "" If a student realizes for whatever reason that they have reported the wrong credit number on their admissions application. The student still does not have the right to submit a new, more accurate admission application for the purpose of being placed in the correct track. This seems strange to me because if a student had reported, for example an incorrect address or social security number, they would have the ability to correct that information. Yet, a student is not allowed to correct their credit completion number.

In short, the third fundamental flaw makes it very difficult for students that have been placed in Track B to be switched to Track A. The result is a paradox that contradicts the purpose of FYS. Students that should be placed in FYS, are not required to be, while students that are in FYS and should not be, are not eligible to switch tracks.4

FOURTH FUNDAMENTAL FLAW OF FYS

Please refer to Example 2 (pg. 10).

In this example, I have compared two students that have completed all of the same classes except for one additional class for student B.

Please note the total amount of credits each student has completed, as well as their overall GPA (grade point average). Under this scenario the student with straight A's will be placed in Track B. This student has a total of 23 transfer credits. Because of FYS's first fundamental flaw, this student will only receive 9 credits (3 in Science and 6 in Interdisciplinary).

Student B with straight C- grades will be placed into Track A. This student has a total of 24 transfer credits. He will receive all 24 credits (6 in communication "" 3 in humanities "" 6 in science "" 9 in interdisciplinary).

Keeping in mind the purpose of FYS, student A is clearly a more accomplished student. This student will be placed in a track designed for students that need specialized curriculum to help increase their chance of graduating. He will also lose 14 transferable credits that will cost him about $5500 and approximately 27 weeks of additional time. Meanwhile, student B has a GPA of 1.67. Student B would not be eligible to graduate with that low of a GPA. When comparing the two students it would seem logical that student A should receive all of his credits that he earned. Plus, if any student really needed specialized curriculum to succeed it would not be student A with a 4.0 GPA, it would be Student B with a 1.67 GPA.

FIFTH FUNDAMENTAL FLAW OF FYS

This flaw has a dramatic impact on students that bring in less then 24 credits. FYS does not take into account GPA (grade point average) when determining which track a student should be placed. Why is GPA not used to determine proper track placement? Furthermore, why would an often incorrect, self-reported transfer credit number be a better indicator of potential success, as opposed to a student's proven grade report? A way to expose the fifth fundamental flaw can be done be asking just a few simple hypothetical questions.1) Would a student with 18 credits and a 3.6 GPA be more prepared to attend Axia College than a student with 30 credits and a 1.5 GPA?2) Would a student with a 2.0 GPA and 25 credits taken over 25 years ago be more prepared to attend Axia College than a student with a 2.5 GPA and 21 credits taken last year?3) Would a student that has 32 credits with 2 "F" grades and a GPA of 1.8 be more prepared to attend Axia College than a student with 12 credits and a 3.5 GPA? 5From an academic standpoint it would seem that the answer to these questions would be that the students with less than 24 credits would be more prepared to succeed at the university. But, all of these students would be placed in FYS and would potentially lose quality transfer credits. Meanwhile, all the students with 24 or more credits, with considerably lower GPAs, would not be placed in FYS. Is this a logical outcome? Is this in the best interest of the students?

A CLOSER LOOK…

I have provided two additional Examples to give the reader additional understanding of my concerns with FYS.

In Example 3 (pg. 11) the most important number is potential credit loss. This number is derived from evaluating the students transfer credits, as they would have applied if the student had been placed in Track A instead of Track B. Total potential credit loss for these 8 students is 57 credits.

In other words if these students were placed into Track A they would have saved approximately $22,325 (57 X $365 plus $80 X 19 = $22,325). The reason my dollar amount is always approximant is because some of the students may have taken class before the credit cost increase. Plus, different states have different tax rates.

You can also look at the loss of time. For example, student G has 12 credits that could have been applied if the student was placed in the correct Track (A) "" 12 credits equals 2 blocks which equals 18 weeks. That is 18 weeks of classes the student would have not been required to take if placed in Track A.

Also note how student B, D, and G should all be in Track A. Furthermore, none of the students were able to put an accurate credit number on their admission application. It is my belief if there was a school wide audit of FYS, you would most likely find thousands of students that have lost legitimate quality transfer credits at the hands of a well known fundamentally flawed concept…FYS.

All of the flaws I have discussed are well know, in some capacity, to many of the academic advisor that I worked with, including management. The flaws have created a great deal of concern because of the negative impact on many students. It has also created an environment that is setting academic advisor up for failure and misadvisements. If these concerns are not addressed in a logical and expedited fashion, students will continue to lose a substantial amount of quality transfer credits and be burden with additional cost and debt load.

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FOR THE STUDENT…

If you enrolled in University of Phoenix "" Axia College on February 1, 2010 or later and had previous college credits you were attempting to transfer in and you would like to know if FYS didn't allow for some of your credits to apply to your degree program, then please call your academic advisor (not enrollment advisor) and ask the following questions.

1) Which Track have I been placed in? If the answer is Track B then continue.2) How many credits did I transfer in that were applied to my degree?3) How many credits did I transfer in that did NOT apply to my degree?4) How many additional credits would have applied to my degree if I were in Track A?5) How many total attempted credits do I have on my official transcripts? Remind your academic advisor that attempted credits are D- or better, regardless of accreditation or course level. If you are told that you have 24 or more attempted credits on your official transcripts, ask your academic advisor why you were placed in the wrong track.6) Bonus question! Ask your academic advisor the graduation or retention rates for Axia College. Then call the University of Phoenix and ask any random academic or enrollment advisor the same question. The answer to this question is unknown. If they provide you with a number, it is simply a guess. This will be validated when you receive many different answers from your question.

DOING THE MATH…

Now, take the number of credits (if any) from answer 4 and multiple that number by the current per credit cost. The credit cost at Axia College is currently $365 per credit. That will give you the amount of money that you lost in credit costs, or simply stated, the additional amount of money that you have to pay in order to graduate.

You must also than take the total number of credits you have lost and divide that by 3 to get the total amount of additional 3 credit courses you must take in order to graduate. This is important to know because each course has an $80 resource fee. For example, if your answer to question 4 is 15 credits. Then multiply 15 times $365 which equals $5,475. Then take 15 and divide by 3, this equals 5. This gives you the total number of additional classes you have to take. Now, take 5 and multiply by the $80 resource fee required for each class. Your resources fee totals $400. So, the total amount of additional cost for you to graduate because you were placed into Track B instead of Track A would equal your tuition fee ($5,475) plus your resource fee ($400) for a total of $5,875, plus any applicable taxes.

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Now, lets calculate the total loss of time due to losing the 15 credits. Each class at Axia College is 9 weeks in length. Classes are placed in blocks with 2 classes per block. Fifteen credits would equal 2 full blocks, plus 1 block with a single course. The total time lost would be 27 weeks. This means that your graduation date may be extended an additional six months.

CONCLUSION

Although all universities have the right to dictate which credits they will transfer in. Logically, one must ask if it is fair for the transfer policy to be based on a fundamentally flawed concept that ignores the basics of academic aptitude? The argument for whether students being placed in the wrong track by the university, which directly resulted in loss of credits for students; or even those students that were placed in the correct track and lost credits based on a fundamentally flawed concept… may or may not reach the legal threshold of wrong doing. But, as a minimum this situation begs a more in depth look at the moral and ethical impact FYS has on students. In the end, we have to ask ourselves only one question. In its current form, is the University of Phoenix's, "First Year Sequence" in the best interest of the student? For me, the answer is a resounding, "NO." You will come to your own conclusion.

REMEMBER

Credits are your equity in your education. You have paid for your credits and you have earned them. Should a fundamentally flawed concept take them away from you?

For the student…

For the truth…

-Examples not listed - could not get to format properly - -Please go to ripoffreport.com to see this report in its entirety-

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