The University of Phoenix's Detroit campus has a graduation rate of 10%, but a student loan default rate of 26.4%, according to USA Today. Other controversies concern marketing and recruitment practices, instructional hours, being one of the top recipients of student aid, and having a student body that shoulders the most student debt of any college.
The University of Phoenix claimed a peak enrollment of almost 600,000 students in 2010, but its numbers have declined sharply since then. Enrollment was 142,500 in August 31, 2016. In 2017, it was acquired by Apollo Global Management, an American private equity firm.
The university was founded by John Sperling in 1976, where the first class consisted of eight students. In 1980, the school expanded to San Jose, California, and in 1989, the university launched its online program.
In 1994, University of Phoenix leaders made the decision to take the parent company, Apollo Group, public. Phoenix had more than 100,000 students within the first five years of going public. Growth in the company made John Sperling a billionaire. According to Senator Tom Harkin, who chaired hearings on for-profit colleges, "I think what really turned this company is when they started going to Wall Street."