Dr. John Sperling envisioned a learning community that reached working adults and members of underserved populations. In 1988, when he proposed implementing a distance learning degree program, the idea was still in its infancy. But with the launch of University of Phoenix, online education was about to change.
The following article is an overview of University of Phoenix; it highlights a few of our many key milestones and innovations. But nobody tells our story better than our faculty members and staff. When asked why they were proud to work here, we found their words powerful. For this reason, we have woven their quotes throughout this narrative. We hope that one day soon, you’ll join us in this conversation. We look forward to hearing your voice.
In the 1970s, John Sperling, PhD, a Cambridge-educated economist, professor and entrepreneur, noticed a rapidly widening gap in access to higher education as a result of the shifting workforce. At the time, more and more people, especially women, were becoming wage earners; some out of need, others out of desire and many out of both need and desire.
To bridge the education gap and to provide opportunities to individuals long overlooked by colleges and universities, Dr. Sperling founded University of Phoenix in 1976. The University’s educational model began addressing the needs of working men and women. Classes were held at night and a critical element of the curriculum was collaborative learning.
“The faculty member is an equal in the classroom,” Sperling told Fast Company in a 2003 interview. “His job isn’t to expound wisdom, it’s to serve a learning group.”
As it turned out, there was a big demand for what the University offered. By 1988 the University of Phoenix had enrolled over 4,000 students. But Dr. Sperling envisioned a larger learning community and one that reached far more working adults as well as members of underserved populations. When he proposed implementing a distance learning degree program, the idea was still in its infancy but that certainly did not deter Dr. Sperling.
In 1989, University of Phoenix launched its first distance learning degree program. At that time only 15 percent of all households in America had a home computer and none had Internet connection (Source: U.S. Census Bureau).
While Dr. Sperling and University staff and faculty were trailblazing, disrupting and innovating education, the University objective always remained the same: To help people enhance their lives through education. It continually explored methods to help ensure the academic success of adult students. Dr. Sperling introduced an online library, accessible 24/7.
University of Phoenix introduced its online library in 1995, making it one of the first institute of higher education to have a digitized, online library that was accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Today, every student and employee has 24/7 Internet access to University Library, which now houses more than 400,000 eBooks and 170,000 full-text journals.
Soon after, the University ventured into new academic territory: online doctoral degrees. In 1998, the Higher Learning Commission (“HLC”) approved the Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership program, one of the first online doctoral programs.
Distance education, however, wasn’t an overnight success but when it did begin to catch on fire in the mid-1990s, there was no stopping it.
Dr. Sperling’s goal of breaking down some of the traditional barriers to obtaining a higher education degree was becoming a reality for adults across the country and around the world. In 2006, University developed a new blended education format that combined both online and campus-based experiences.
When Dr. Sperling first envisioned education designed for working adults, he knew accessibility was central to its success. And by 2007, the University’s contributions to making higher education attainable to all garnered national recognition. A report in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, ranked University of Phoenix number one (#1) in graduating master’s degree students from underrepresented populations. (Source: Borden, V. M., & Brown, P. C. (2007, July 12). Top 100 Graduate Degree Producers: Interpreting the Data. “Diverse Issues in Higher Education”, 22-80.
Today, over 40 years after its inception, University of Phoenix still offers students a higher education that is innovative and career relevant. For students willing to make a commitment to improving their lives, at the University of Phoenix they can rise. And so can you. Join us.