The University of Phoenix, one of the nation's largest for-profit colleges, could be headed to nonprofit status through acquisition by a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Arkansas System.
No deal is "imminent," but "as has been the case for several years, the UA System is open to exploring opportunities to expand its reach to more students, especially in online education, and to support the missions of our campuses, divisions and units across the state," said Nate Hinkel, director of communications for the UA System.
"In keeping with this focus, a nonprofit entity affiliated with the UA System has been in discussions about a potential acquisition of the University of Phoenix. This nonprofit entity would support and facilitate the transition of the University of Phoenix to completely independent nonprofit status, while supporting the university's mission of advancing high-quality, career-focused education."
The Arkansas Times was the first to report about the potential acquisition.
The UA System is not the only entity the University of Phoenix has had these types of discussions with, said Andrea Smiley, vice president of public relations for the University of Phoenix.
"Since our founding, University of Phoenix has been focused on serving adult learners who are historically overlooked and underrepresented in higher education," Smiley said. "As we plan for the long-term future and longevity of the university, we are committed to and will remain focused on adult learners seeking to enhance their careers and lives through accessible, affordable and career-relevant higher education, regardless of our structure."
The University of Phoenix offers associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees and a variety of certificate programs, according to the university. The university has 10 locations in California and one each in Nevada, Texas and Hawaii, but is currently enrolling students only at its Phoenix headquarters, and courses are online.
"Because these conversations are ongoing, we are unable to provide much detail, [but] I do want to confirm that the UA System itself would not be acquiring the University of Phoenix, and no public or university funds would be involved in this potential transaction," Hinkel said. "The contemplated structure would also not include any remaining private ownership of the nonprofit entity or the University of Phoenix."
The University of Phoenix lists total enrollment near 79,000 students, 81% of whom are employed while attending school, and 60% of whom are first-generation college students, but enrollment has been falling since peaking more than a decade ago.
The University of Phoenix would only be affiliated with the UA System, not part of the UA System, although any agreement between the entities could open the door to future collaboration.
The University of Phoenix, founded in 1976, agreed in Dec. 2019 to a $191 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which claimed the college had lured students with fraudulent claims about partnerships with major companies, according to The New York Times.