Investigating the University of Phoenix

Apparently it’s not just the coming education debt rules about which the University of Phoenix needs to worry. Federal regulators have asked the school’s parent company, Apollo Group Inc., to provide information and documentation about the company’s internal practices.

According to an article by Jahna Berry in the Arizona Republic:

Federal regulators are widening an “informal inquiry” into University of Phoenix parent Apollo Group Inc. and have asked the company to provide information about several issues, including the company’s insider-trading policies.

While informal inquiry sounds vague and seems to imply something like “Hey, how’s it going, Phoenix?” this is actually a very serious inquest and reflects the concerns of several lawsuits against the for-profit school’s business practices. As Berry put it:

The [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission] wants to know when Apollo processed information about the U.S. Department of Education’s program review and how it made that information available. The SEC also wants to know more about some of the company’s revenue sources and about its insider-trading rules.

The company issued a statement on Tuesday. “Apollo Group takes its disclosure obligations very seriously and intends to defend this lawsuit vigorously.”

The company’s value is apparently unaffected by the inquiry. The shares of Apollo stock closed Thursday at $37.59. That’s up more than a dollar since Monday.

Meanwhile, Newsweek’s Ryan Tracy reports that Phoenix is lately making a few positive changes:

Starting in September the 470,000-student-strong University of Phoenix stopped paying its admissions officers based on the number of students they sign up, eliminating an incentive some see for those officers to mislead applicants or pressure them to sign paperwork. The school will also put all prospective new students through a three-week, tuition-free “orientation” course designed to help them decide whether they’re ready for the commitments that come with their studies.

These changes, however, are irrelevant to the informal inquiry, which appears to address only the institution’s past behavior.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer