Reporting Kurtis Ming
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — After spending thousands of dollars to go back to school and earn his degree, Bryan Potter said University of Phoenix woudn’t count his credits.
Five credits short of his degree in business administration, Potter’s wife had pregnancy complications. That’s when he said his school counselor told him he could come back to finish at any time.
But when he did, more than a year and a half later, he learned he was no longer an active University of Phoenix student, and many of the classes he’d taken were now outdated.
“I had a huge pit in my stomach,” Potter said. “I was shaking. I didn’t know what to do.”
Potter said he’s being asked to retake half the classes for his major all over again, which he said would cost him another $18,000.
“I wasted a huge amount of time and effort doing something that’s for naught,” he said.
Potter said he didn’t know he had to fill out a formal leave of absence form for an absense of more than one year.
University of Phoenix told CBS13 if Potter had received this approval, he may still be able to keep all his credits.
Consumer and education law attorney Stuart Talley said it’s reasonable to think Bryan acted based on what the counselor told him, as he clearly didn’t mean to waste thousands of his own dollars.
“If a counselor at a school tells you something, you as a student have the right and the ability to believe that,” he said. “I would think that the school would want to make an exception and work something out.”
In a lengthy response to CBS13′s questions (full comments below), the University of Phoenix told CBS13 the curriculum had been updated.
“In the time Mr. Potter was out of the program, we made many changes to our curriculum,” the statement said. “Mr. Potter is being asked to comply with published academic policy and complete the necessary courses to ensure that his education is relevant.”
After we got involved, Potter said University of Phoenix offered to let him keep some of those credits, but said finishing his degree will still cost more than $10,000.
“It really seems like they don’t care to help people get their degree, they just want to get people’s money,” he said.
Credits at many for-profit universities are not transferable to other schools, but Bryan said he’s exploring options to see if any other school will take his old credits.
University of Phoenix Response
On Potter’s counselors reportedly saying he could finish his remaining credits at any time:
“Mr. Potter received significant advisement on how to satisfy the outstanding credit deficiency within his record and ultimately failed to act upon the advisement regarding credit. Mr. Potter signed his enrollment agreement with the University, signifying that he had read and understood the University policy. The re-entry policy is in place to ensure that upon graduation a student’s content knowledge is current and reflective of the date in which the degree program requirements are completed.”
On Potter reportedly being asked to retake classes:
“It’s important to note that he is not being asked to retake credits he has already successfully completed; Mr. Potter will need to complete coursework that is required in the current program, which varies in content from prior coursework.
“In the time Mr. Potter was out of the program, we made many changes to our curriculum. Mr. Potter is being asked to comply with published academic policy and complete the necessary courses to ensure that his education is relevant, current and consistent with the education of others earning the same degree in the same year. Please note that the re-entry policy is an academic policy and not a financial policy.”
On how often University of Phoenix updates curriculum requirements:
“Our re-entry policy states that students who leave a program for more than one year are subject to any curriculum or degree requirement changes in effect at the time of their return.
“Curriculum and degree changes vary by program. We continuously update our curriculum to ensure that we are providing our students with a relevant, current education that can prepare them to compete and thrive in the changing global economy. The frequency and depth of those changes will vary by program.
“In the case of our business programs, it is important to consider the broader context of business to understand the significance of these changes. Since 2003 the world has seen the collapse of subprime lending, bank failures, large scale Ponzi schemes and a full scale recession. In the last 9 years our curriculum has been updated to address issues like these. A great example is business ethics. We did not merely add a business ethics course; we weaved it into the curriculum across our degree program.
“We have an obligation to our students, and their future employers, to ensure that when they gradate they hold the requisite skills and knowledge that a degree conferred on that date should imply. We cannot, in good conscience, award him with a 2012 business degree based on knowledge obtained of a very different business world.”