In the world of for-profit higher education, and higher education in general, the University of Phoenix has historically been viewed as the 800-pound gorilla.
As of Tuesday, it may be more like a 1,000-pound gorilla. As Phoenix’s parent company, the Apollo Group, reported its fourth quarter and annual earnings Tuesday, it announced that the university’s enrollment of degree-seeking students grew to 443,000 as of August 2009, up 22 percent from 362,000 in August 2008. The biggest growth in Phoenix’s enrollments, by far, came among students seeking associate degrees, which rose by 37 percent, to 201,200 from 146,500 in 2008.
About two-thirds of the university’s new students as of August are female, 27.7 percent are African-American, and about half are 30 or over.
The university attributed the sizable increases to a range of factors, including increased efforts in retaining students, expanded marketing, and the “current economic downturn, as working learners seek to advance their education to improve their job security or reemployment prospects.” Many community colleges and several of Phoenix’s major peers in for-profit career education, including Kaplan Higher Education (21.9 percent) and Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (24.4 percent), have reported sharp upturns in student enrollments this fall.