Just because the University of Phoenix may be able to once again recruit on military bases and enroll new students using the military tuition assistance program doesn’t mean the for-profit college behemoth’s problems are behind it. Instead, a court ruled last week that the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group, must provide records requested by federal investigators nearly six months ago.
A federal judge ordered [PDF] the education company to comply with civil investigative demands for records in the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into the company’s use of deceptive advertising.
Judge Susan Bolton issued the order noting that “good cause warrants an order requiring the company to comply” with the request to produce the documents.
The judge gave the company 60 days from the time the order was issued to comply with the request.
Apollo revealed in an Securities and Exchange Commission filing [PDF] last summer that the FTC had requested documents related to an investigation into the company’s marketing practices.
According to the filing, the FTC sought documents about “marketing, recruiting, enrollment, financial aid, tuition and fees, academic programs, academic advising, student retention, billing and debt collection, complaints, accreditation, training, military recruitment, and other compliance matters, for the time period of January 1, 2011 to the present.”
At the time, the University of Phoenix said it would comply with the FTC’s request. However, according to Courthouse News, the FTC filed a petition on Jan. 13 seeking an order requiring compliance in producing records that contained information directly related to students.
The FTC said that Apollo Education Group, the owner of the for-profit chain, failed to produce documents that would “be impractical and complex given the nature of the responsive material, the number of current and former students, and the difficulty in locating students or their families.”
News of the court’s order comes just days after the Department of Defense announced it would take the University of Phoenix off probation, allowing the school to once again recruit on military bases and participate in servicemember tuition assistance programs.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the DOD freed the company of its probationary status based on an internal review, the school’s response to department concerns, and university administrators’ cooperation.
The college chain will still be subject to a “heightened compliance review” for a year, according to a Defense Department official.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the University of Phoenix emailed Consumerist the following statement about the court’s order.
“We have cooperated from the outset of the FTC’s broad, far-reaching inquiry, and we are committed to providing information for the federal government’s review,” the spokesperson said of the FTC request. “We are also committed to complying with federal privacy laws before producing student records. That is precisely why the FTC’s petition for a court order was sought without our objection and now provides a way for us to produce students’ records while remaining compliant with applicable federal laws protecting those very students.”
University of Phoenix president Timothy P. Slottow also tells Consumerist in a statement that the school is ready to move on from its DOD probation.
“Our commitment to compliance, transparency and continuous improvement remains constant and we are grateful to leaders at the Department of Defense and in Congress for supporting a clear process and high standards for all educational institutions, and for ensuring military students are able to use their educational benefits for career-relevant programs at University of Phoenix.”
University of Phoenix Must Produce Records [Courthouse News]
University of Phoenix Taken Off Probation by Defense Department [The Wall Street Journal]