January 19, 2022
More than a year after the University of Arizona acquired Ashford University, a for-profit institution with a long and checkered history of allegedly deceiving prospective students and graduating a relatively small number of them, the accreditor for the merged entity, known as the University of Arizona Global Campus, is poised to announce investigative findings—including potential sanctions.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission sent UAGC a letter in July warning UAGC that the accreditor “has strong concerns that the targets set for academic improvement are seriously inadequate to reach levels of student outcomes that should be expected at an accredited institution.”
WSCUC placed Ashford University, the earlier iteration of UAGC, under a notice of concern in 2019, citing “longstanding concerns” about poor student success metrics there. The University of Arizona acquired Ashford in late 2020 and rebranded it University of Arizona Global Campus.
Commission officials visited UAGC, which is headquartered in Chandler, Ariz., in December. The results of that visit will help inform the WSCUC decision on whether to remove the notice of concern, keep it in place or potentially sanction the institution, commission president Jamienne Studley said in an interview. She added that WSCUC is “closely monitoring this institution.”
The commission’s looming decision comes at a fraught moment for the University of Arizona, where many faculty members remain incensed about the state’s flagship university partnering with a troubled for-profit university known for exceptionally poor student outcomes.
Ashford’s parent company, Zovio, is providing enrollment and marketing services to the University of Arizona in exchange for a 19.5 percent cut of tuition revenue across the first 15 years of the deal. The deal’s terms guarantee UAGC will receive at least $225 million in revenue over the same period, including $37.5 million that Zovio paid up-front.