Question of the Day: University of Phoenix

So, I'm ready to go back to school. I've FINALLY figured out what I'd like to do with my life. I've got a bachelor's in Psychology, and I would like to go back to school to get a master's in Education. I think I would make a kick ass guidance counselor. That way when the economy is more stable I can possibly start my none profit organization.

The problem is when I graduated from undergrad I only had a 2.87 GPA, and you and I both know that's kinda bad. Well it's not bad but it is when you want to go to grad school. It's low for a myriad of reasons, but those reason probably won't matter to school officials. Thus my chances of making it to grad school are kinda low.

I was told that it wasn't that hard to get into the University of Phoenix, and that a master's degree from there would 'count in the real world'. The problem is I keep hearing bad things about it. Like how the professors don't really care or how you can turn anything in and pass.

My question is: What do you think about the University of Phoenix? Would you consider enrolling? Or should I look for another school to try and get accepted to?

V's picture


I wouldn't consider enrolling in UoP. It seems to be the perfect example of why we have cliches like "you can't get something for nothing".

1) You state that a 2.87 GPA means you have a low chance of getting into most grad schools. I agree.
2) A 2.87 GPA might be good enough for UoP
1+2: Why is that? What is different about UoP that their standards are lower?

You propose some answers.
A) You can turn in anything and pass
I will propose that something else may follow:
B) Even more than regular universities, UoP may focus more on attracting+keeping students and getting their money than producing educated graduates. People paying them = very good, keeping tough standards = wait, if we flunk them out will they stop paying us? If we reject an applicant who wants to pay us, will we get less money than we would otherwise?

This cynical view of their business model should tell you a lot.

If you take all of these points together, you'll probably conclude that a UoP degree WILL NOT be viewed the same in the real world as a degree from a university with higher standards of admission and more rigorous coursework, because how they work will become an open secret. However, this doesn't really bother a business model that focuses on lots of advertising, selling a "quicker, faster, easier, cheaper!" degree to hopeful people trying to improve their lives, then taking their money and disregarding the consequences.

The point of paying a college is not to earn a degree, it's to get an education. A degree functions as a stand-in for education to help facilitate the hiring process. Different degrees do not represent the same education, which is why an engineering graduate from MIT with a 3.0 GPA has a LOT more job offers and a considerably higher starting salary than someone from the local community college with the same engineering degree and a 3.85 GPA, as a general rule.

On a slightly different but parallel track, Paul Graham has an essay here about credentials, why we have them, flaws in the system, and what they should really be doing. It might help clarify why you want (or may need) a degree. All degrees are not equal.

Do you think you'll get the same education from UoP that you'll get from other schools? I'm skeptical, but it's your call. Do you think the person making hiring decisions will view a UoP degree the same as one from another school? I wouldn't assume so.


OK, so where does that leave you?

You're right, a 2.87 in Psychology isn't very impressive.
You're right, I have no doubt you have good reasons for it
You're right, admissions officers at most universities won't care about those reasons.

I don't think the best solution is "Look until I find somewhere that 2.87 is good enough". I think the best solution is "Find a course of action where people will be focused on more impressive things than my old GPA in psychology".

* Gain some experience teaching. Make sure it's experience where your performance can be clearly measured, be clearly awesome, then sell yourself to grad schools on the merits of that experience. It doesn't have to be in the classroom - it could be teaching literacy to the poor, helping people with english as a second language at the local community center, helping people prepare for citizenship tests -- be creative!

* Don't assume that your B.A. in a different field will count for anything in education. Start over at the B.A. level and get dual degrees in education and psychology. Make sure your education GPA is one you want at the top of your resume as you apply for jobs in education.

* Try a few regular grad schools and make the best case you can. If you do get in, make darn sure that you stand out in grad school -- and it's a smaller pond than undergrad, so be prepared to be a bigger fish.

Other people may have other, better ideas on ways to change your life, but I'm not sure aiming for a UoP degree is the best way to do that.

NorthwoodsMan's picture


I'm feeling your pain. I have a similar GPA and have been looking around for MPA programs. I've found that if you take the GRE or GMAT, even if the school doesn't require it, an score well, it will help increase your chances of being admited.

A friend of mine is currently attending UoP to get her masters in accounting. She's doing the in-class and was costantly saying how the classes are long and they throw a lot at you. But it is mostly review from her BA classes. Something I noticed when I was briefly considering UoP and compared it to other schools, their per credit fee is quite high. Higher than some D1 size schools and the repuation for their degree is no where near as high. To refer back to something V said, it's like paying for the cost of MIT but getting a Jr College degree.

For going back for a masters in education, there are A LOT of different opportunities. And if you'd be doing it online, as many UoP classes are, you can get a degree from University of MN without ever going to MN.

V's picture


GRE, GMAT. Independent. If you learned as an undergrad but had a low GPA, prepare thoroughly for those and you should do well. If you didn't learn, that's a good argument for a second bachelor's degree, anyway. I know a number of people with dual degrees at the same "level" (bachelor's, master's, etc), some of whom have done quite well - I'm considering it myself, in fact.

And yes -- there are plenty of online or distance ed options at most major universities, too -- it's not just UoP.

Clare-Dragonfly's picture


Not to drag the focus onto me and away from Chu, but hey, this is still related to education...

How does that work for people, getting a second bachelor's degree after already having one (I think that's what you mean, rather than getting two degrees together)? It's something I've considered doing myself, but I'm kind of concerned about having to waste time, money, and energy taking low-level requirements that I've already done. For example, having an English degree already, I would hate to have to take a freshman composition course, or other things along those lines. Do you know if that's been a problem for any of your friends?

Pikachu42's picture


why I don't want to get another Bachelor's degree. I don't wanna have to go back through all that. I was told on the other hand that you can get a Master's in education and along with that get the experience needed to teach. I know a woman who enrolled in a certificate program and now she's a teacher. Granted it was in Canada and I don't want to have to move there but you get what I'm saying.

Clare-Dragonfly's picture


I'm certain I've seen US universities with teaching certificate programs. You should be able to get into those with a bachelor's degree, and they'd probably be easier to get into than master's programs. I'm pretty sure that, at least in the states I've lived in (MD and PA), you don't need a master's degree to teach K-12. You do need teacher certification (at least for public schools; private schools make their own rules), but you can get that with the bachelor's degree or separately.

I would have suggested this before, but I thought from your OP that you didn't want to teach. I would think a master's would be more for specialized stuff.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

You get more $$ with a master's but you can just study a year more (if memory serves--my FIL did it) and get your cert here.

The Which's picture


But I have a BS in Psych (with a similar GPA) and I'm applying for *Associate* degree programs right now. (After graduation I realized I couldn't do anything with a psych degree and decided to be a nurse. I went through an LPN program, and now I want to be an RN. Eventually I'll work toward a BS in nursing, and maybe a master's, but that is sooo far away right now)

As long as you have a degree attatched to all your basic credits, they should transfer with no issue... so you shouldn't have to retake any non-related classes, unless the new degree requires more math or whatever than your last one. Even if you decide not to go back for a degree, even registering as a non-degree seeking student and taking a few classes could help you. Assuming your grades will be better than they were before, it really gives you something to show admissions officers: "Look, I suffered from depression and stupidity while I went to college X, but when I went back later I got my shit together and my grades were excellent."

Option 2: take 1 or 2 semesters of graduate level classes at UoP, do well, and show the quality of your work to "real" colleges. That is what a friend of mine did to get into the MSW program at Indiana University when she had a lousy GPA and a degree in... General Studies.

Pikachu42's picture


wasn't all that great. I do plan on taking it again and studying my ass off for it. I would like to go the online route, mainly because I can work while I go to school. I didn't know about their per credit rate. I actually for some reason couldn't find any solid information about their tuition.

TheBoy's picture


you can get some great hands-on education experience with a number of AmeriCorps programs. I did one for a year, and it was a phenomenally interesting experience.

NorthwoodsMan's picture


I just happen to know this great AmeriCorps program that places volunteers with elementary schools. And if you're looking to go back for an education major...

Pikachu42's picture


about going the AmeriCorps/Teach for America route. It's been a couple of years since I've researched them, but I think I didn't go that route because they put you in rural areas. At the time I was looking I wasn't in a position to move to the middle of no where. I may not be remembering what I found correctly, but I will keep those in mind as I look for more grad schools.

TheBoy's picture


put most of its candidates in cities. Also, it didn't strand you--I was a team member, so the support system was better than TFA, where you're more on an island (I gather). They are limited on which cities you can wind up in, and they have age restrictions, &c.&c., but if you want more info, shoot me a msg. (I'm trying to limit my conspicuously personal info. attached directly to this account in publicspace.)

Coral's picture

I'm curious about why you chose a masters in education over a masters in counseling if you want to be a counselor specifically. A degree in education would certainly be useful, especially since at some schools, guidance counselors also teach a few classes, but you will need a counselor's license, and I think the masters in counseling is more standard for the job.

My sister got a masters in education two years ago, and I think hers is a little different because it's specifically for teaching a foreign language, but one thing you should consider is the requirements for getting your teaching certificate in your state (in addition to a degree), because you probably need to work as a student teacher at some point.

As far as where you should get your degree, I agree with the "you can't get something for nothing" comments. You should get the degree from the best school you can. Also, I think if you want to be in this field, you'd learn a lot more by being in a classroom with other people. I'm not sure how you'll work on communication skills, etc., in an online program with the same success as one where you have training/practice with your classmates. How well you communicate face to face is critical when you eventually get a job.

You should see if there any any universities near you that offer work programs or scholarships for grad students since those jobs are pretty flexible and won't conflict with class times. You might be able to do a combination of regular classes and online classes depending on your university too. If you don't think you can do that yet, work, study for the appropriate standardized tests, and participate in relevant volunteering programs.

Good luck - I know working on a masters degree and working won't be easy in general, but I hope it works out since you found out what you really want to do.

Raigne's picture


She absolutely hated it. Haven't talked to her in awhile, or I'd ask her for specifics. Nyah

Aelfgar's picture

My wife is in a similar situation (low GPA) trying to get accepted to work on her doctorate. Unfortunately, places such as UoP are simply not an option for her. She is going to have to take post-Bach classes in order to improve her GPA in order to be accepted.

As far as UoP specifically is concerned, there was an article (I forget specifically where)a few years ago that mentioned that UoP and other such institutions are becoming more popular with "non-traditional" students and Professionals returning to school due to the ease of on-line courses and of enrollment. For instance, in science-based programs, science courses over ten years old must be retaken before enrolling at traditional Universities. You know, because the laws of basic Chemistry 101 change every so often. Banghead Similar situations may occur with other kinds of programs such as law.

Anyway... the point of the article was that UoP and it's brethren are the education method of choice for Business majors and the business world was looking for graduates from these institutions. Why you may ask? Simply because busy professionals do not often have the ability to juggle a career, family, and a classroom schedule, so the option for on-line courses works for them. In addition, as "non-traditional" students are older, they tend to be far more focused in their studies than the younger students that are more able to get into University. Therefore, not only do these students have real-life experience, this focus often allows them to be better students.

The major drawback (besides the cost) is that one of these internet based Universities will probably not have the proper accreditation necessary to enroll in a traditional college for a higher degree.

Cheez-It's picture

Do not consider UoP. Their degree is worthless, their accreditation questionable and their expense extreme. It is a for-profit school and the only thing the recruiters care about is if you can qualify for a loan. Check out this article:

Look locally. State schools are dirt cheap and often have online programs. Teacher qualifications vary from state to state, I have no idea on guidance couselors. I do know you will have an almost impossible time finding a position. Budget cuts means teachers are being cut so most schools have the bare minimum of counselors. Plus, there is very little turn-over.

A better (and probably easier) route would be to get a state job as a workforce counselor. This job helps the paroled, homeless, immigrant, disabled, etc. folk find work. Lots of jobs as people generally don't last that long. Where I am in Albany, NY, I know 3 places off the top of my head other than the state that find housing, jobs and education. 1 is a federal program that helps refugees. 1 is a non-profit that helps homeless and the other is a non-profit for people with AIDS. Much less educational requirements for this route and a similar skillset.

Kittae's picture


I actually have a similar GPA right now, close to graduating, and I can't really make enough good grades to cancel out my early crappy ones with the time I have left to me. That's why I jumped on to volunteering and research work. I even got my job by volunteering at the local archaeology lab, and making myself indispensable until they got the funding to make my position a paid position. This will look awesome on a resume.

So I would say that if you want to be a counselor, then find a place that needs help and volunteer. You may be starting with real grunt work that you're overqualified for, but just keep asking for more responsibilities and things like that. You might get paid, and you'll definitely get experience and recommendations--when it comes down to it, those are worth more than your GPA.

Sook's picture

I'd advise against Phoenix. I did a research paper on for-profit colleges when I was in DC, and some of the things they do to squeeze money out of students and the federal government are absolutely sickening.

A 2.87 isn't a definite "no" to grad school - the reason GPA is such a big factor is because grad school is ROUGH. If you can prove to admissions committees that you're up to the challenge - with work experience, a strong GRE score, or even a certification from a junior college or some combination thereof - you could definitely land in some decent M.Ed programs. Where (geographically) would you like to be?

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