University of Phoenix

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University of Phoenix Competitors

Three of the top competitors to the University of Phoenix, based on the number of students enrolled in their online programs are Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Liberty University. The schools all offer online education, with similar services to the University of Phoenix. The University of Phoenix has around 130,000 students enrolled online, the three competitors identified all close to 100,000 students enrolled online.

Western Governors University

Southern New Hampshire University

Liberty University

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University of Phoenix Competitive Landscape, Pt 1

Western Governors University is a non-profit, accredited, affordable university specializing in four areas--IT, business, K-12 education, and health professions. The university has pioneered a competency-based education program being considered by other, more traditional universities. WGU is financially sound and has over 121,000 students enrolled. Two innovative programs--the Center for Applied Learning and the Take a Break program--earned innovation awards in 2019. Recent news articles highlight WGU's influence on Ohio State colleges, the U.S. Department of Education allowing the college to participate in the student loan program, and the launch of a college readiness program called WGU Academy.

Western Governors University


  • Western Governors University (WGU) is an online, accredited, non-profit university, offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees in health professions, IT, business, and K-12 education.
  • Over 20 years ago, WGU was founded by 19, bipartisan Governors from Western states to address future students, who they believed would need more flexibility--times of day and location of classes--to earn their degree.
  • WGU pioneered competency-based education, namely, students pass classes once they demonstrate they have mastered the skills and knowledge. The class doesn't end when the semester ends, but rather once the students have demonstrated he or she is competent in the material.
  • WGU begins courses on the first of each month, hence students do not need to wait to enroll for fall or spring semester.


  • WGU is financially sound. The original 19 governors each donated $100,000 to found the university. However, WGU currently does not depend on any state appropriations to pay employees and provide an education.
  • One measure of the university's financial health is the fact that tuition costs have held steady ($6500) for the past 10 years; that is, tuition costs did not need to increase per student because of shortfalls in the budget or low enrollment.
  • Another measure of WGU's financial health is the fact that enrollment is growing at a rate of 20 percent each year.
  • The primary source of revenue for WGU is tuition, however, the university does receive some government grants and contracts, private gifts, and earns interest each year on the university investments.


  • 121,448 students--both undergraduate and graduate--are enrolled at WGU as of November 30, 2019.


  • In 2019, National Research Center for College and University Admission (NRCCUA) awarded an innovation award to WGU for its Center for Applied Learning Science (CALS). CALS's mission is to figure out how students learn and, to this end, developed novel approaches to math anxiety as well as studied the affective aspects of learning.
  • Also in 2019, WGU was recognized by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) for their innovative program--Take a Break--which enables students to take a 10-minute break during online exams without any breach to security.

Press Review

  • ColumbusCEO reports on the success of WGU's competency-based approach to student learning in its Ohio location and how Ohio is considering adopting this educational philosophy in both two-year and four-year state universities.
  • This press release from the Department of Education explains that WGU reversed an Inspector General report that claimed the university should refund $712 million in student loans. The Department of Education, contrary to the 2017 IG report, ruled that WGU is eligible to participate in the student loan program.
  • This press release announces the launch of the WGU Academy, an affordable online program designed to help under-served and ill-prepared students to develop the skills and competencies necessary for enrolling in college.

Research Strategy

The team first focused on WGU's website and 2018 annual report to gather sources describing the programs, philosophy, and history of the program.

To determine how financially sound WGU is, we turned to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which provides important data on universities and colleges. We also searched business periodicals (e.g., Forbes) and white papers (the Christensen Institute) that discussed WGU's business model.

We found enrollment numbers from November 2019--broken down by state, ethnicity, age, etc.--on WGU's website. The team also searched through their news releases to find recent innovations in curriculum or programs that received awards.

Finally, we searched through education periodicals, as well as, newspapers, to find recent stories and press releases concerning WGU.
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University of Phoenix Competitive Landscape, Pt 2

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a sizable and highly lauded academic institution, that also has a successful business model and distinguished track record of large-scale innovation.

Overview & Enrollment

  • SNHU is a private, nonprofit academic institution that offers over 200 programs to its more than 3,000 on campus and 90,000 online students as of 2019.
  • Founded in 1932 in Manchester, NH as a school of accounting and secretarial science, the university has significantly expanded its scope of programs offers as well as the scale of its student population to become one of the "fastest growing universities" in the US.
  • Additionally, SNHU has received a variety of accolades, including its recognition as the Most Innovative University in the North by US News & World Report, one of the nation's Best Regional Universities by US News & World Report, one of the 50 Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company and a Great College to Work For by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Health as a Business

  • A review of SNHU's health as a business indicates that its current and future prospects are bright.
  • From an enrollment perspective, the university continues to attract a growing population of students, with enrollment for the university rising from approximately 70,000 in 2016 to over 93,000 at present.
  • Moreover, from a financial perspective, SNHU is one of the few on campus or online programs to consistently cap or freeze its tuition rates over time.
  • Specifically, the university recently recommitted to holding its tuition rates flat through 2021, following ten years of freezing its online tuition costs and five years for on campus programs.
  • This longstanding and ongoing cap on tuition fees not only indicates strong financial solvency, but will continue to bolster the attractiveness of the university to future students.

Recent Innovations

  • Perhaps the most significant area of innovation for SNHU over the past two years is the university's launch of unique scholarship and grant programs to improve access to education for under served or disadvantaged groups, including SNHU's $20 million grant program in partnership with The Shapiro Foundation for DREAMers, as well as SNHU's launch of Inclusive Innovation Grants program in 2019 to facilitate greater diversity and inclusion.
  • In addition, SNHU introduced a significant innovation to its education system through its 2018 merger LRNG, thereby enabling the university to build and deploy innovative learning and workforce solutions for specific cities and employers such as learning playlists, digital badges and other creative degree programs.
  • Similarly, SNHU partnered with Salesforce in 2019 to bolster Salesforce's free online learning platform, Trailhead, in order to help these training programs to translate into formal certifications and degrees.
  • Meanwhile, the university continues to develop and introduce smaller-scale changes and innovations through its $1.2 billion innovation lab.

Recent Press

  • Significant recent press from outlets including EdSurge, Campus Technology and E Learning Inside between October to November of 2018 highlighted the SNHU / LRNG merger, with EdSurge reporting that the newly formed organization was established to develop the "WeWork for education."
  • Numerous media outlets such as New Hampshire Public Radio, Inside Tuscon Business and also reported in April of 2019 that SNHU would be expanding its operations to include a new 350 person facility in Tuscon, AZ by early 2020.
  • Meanwhile, and Education Benefit News were among the variety of publications to report the partnership between SNHU and Chipotle in offering free college degrees for Chipotle's employees.
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University of Phoenix Competitive Landscape, Pt 3

Liberty University operates as a comprehensive, co-educational, religious, and private university that was first established in the year 1971. It offers more than 600 different degree programs and has a total of 100,000 enrolled students, as of 2019.

Brief Description

  • Founded in 1971, Liberty University is located in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the campus is over 7,000 acres.
  • The Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission accredited the institution to provide several programs, along with specializations, in both online and residential formats, including Master, Specialist, Associate, Doctorate, Bachelor, and Postgraduate. Furthermore, postgraduate programs are supplied by the Rawlings School of Divinity, along with diverse specializations.
  • Liberty University offers more than 600 degree programs, including on-site and online programs, with over 2,500 faculty members. Online programs are available in 80 countries.
  • It is a co-educational, private, comprehensive, and religious university whose motto is "Knowledge on Fire." Also, it serves as a member of the Board of Independent Colleges of Virginia as well as the International Association of Christian Schools (ACSI).
  • Liberty University offers courses in various areas such as medicine, health, arts, philosophy, social sciences and economics, law, engineering, and technological, with accreditation in the associations that respond to each area. The university is also licensed by the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, New York, and Washington.

Evaluation of Liberty University's Health as a Business

  • Meanwhile, its operating revenue in 2018 increased by $92.7 million, but its operating expenses expanded merely half of this reported rate. Also, its investments grew from $1.668 billion (2018) to $1.905 billion (2019), an increase of $237 million. As of September 2019, total investments amount to more than $2.029 billion.
  • Financial aid for Liberty University's students surpasses $277 million annually. In 2019, it initiated the Middle America Scholarship, the biggest student aid program in its history, which added an extra $17 million student investment annually.
  • According to New York Times experts, Liberty University crafted a billion-dollar empire when it began offering online courses to curious individuals.
  • As the university is a non-profit institution, it is exempt from taxes. Its statements indicate that the university is not at financial risk.

Liberty University's Enrollment Numbers

  • In 2019, Liberty University had 100,000 enrolled students.
  • Also, the university has around 85,000 students enrolled online.

Liberty University Recent Innovations

  • The Business School established a brand-new facility, while there have been remarkable investments in certain academic areas in the past year, including the School of Nursing, the School of Behavioral Sciences, engineering program, and the School of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • The institution plans to open a brand-new Veterans Student Center, tripling the total square footage for all of its military pupils.
  • In fall 2019, the institution extended its investment in the "Stay Close, Go Go Promise scholarship program, sponsored and funded by the nonprofit Lynchburg Beacon of Hope." The program promises a maximum $8,000 for each student over a period of four years.
  • A $40 million upgrade to the university's football stadium to accommodate its rise "to the highest level of the NCAA competition" occurred in 2018.
  • In 2019, the university created the Center for Entrepreneurship, with a variety of resources to assist entrepreneurial students in developing their projects and initiate startups. The current executive director of the project is Anthony Nobles, the founder of 28 successful businesses. Mentoring is also available to online students.


  • Following its investments in online education, in August 2018, Liberty University had gross assets of $3 billion, accumulating net assets of around $2.48 billion as well as cash and investments of almost $1.7 billion. For every $1 in spending by Liberty University, "$1.67 was generated in local economic activity," and about "one in four jobs is directly or indirectly attributable to the university."
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University of Phoenix Overview

The University of Phoenix is experiencing a decrease in enrollment while its revenue increases, making indicators of business health mixed. A recent innovation by the University of Phoenix is its partnership with online training platform

Business Health: Declining Enrollment

  • University of Phoenix enrollment in 2016 131,629.
  • By the 2017-2018 school year, enrollment was 103,975. This represents a decline in enrollment of 21% [(131,629-103,975)/131,629].
  • Based on 2017-2018 tuition of $9,467 for the 2017-2018 school year, this represents a $261.8 million [(131,629-103,975)*9,467] reduction in revenue from tuition.
  • Decreasing enrollment was selected as a factor in the business health of the University of Phoenix because tuition and fees are the primary revenue sources at for-profit universities.

Business Health: Increasing Revenue

  • Even with declining enrollment, it appears that the University of Phoenix's profit is increasing.
  • It is estimated the UOP had annual revenue of $484 million in 2016 and $1.6 billion in 2019. This represents an increase in revenue of 70% [(1,600,000,000-484,000,000)/1,600,000,000 x 100] over 3 years.
  • This increase in revenue was achieved during a period that the university was being sued for fraud, a case the ended in a $191 million settlement.
  • Increasing revenue was identified as a factor in business health because revenue is a main factor in determining business viability.

Innovation: Partnership with

  • In 2019, the University of Phoenix partnered with to offer university credit for over 150 online courses offered on the online education platform.
  • The partnership was lauded as overcoming many barriers for non-traditional students, including time and financial concerns.
  • online courses are flexible and self-paced, making them more accessible to a variety of students.
  • This partnership was chosen as an innovation because it occurred in the last year and was cited as innovative in multiple articles, including an article by PR Newswire and one by Best Value Schools.

From Part 03