Compilation of feedback from Dr. Pepicello's presentation

About this page: Attendees at the Aug. 20 presentation by Dr. William Pepicello were asked to respond to questions following his remarks. The questions and comments are summarized below. You can offer your comments on our discussion board.

Jump to: Question 2 | Question 3 | Question 4 | Question 5 | About Dr. Pepicello


Pepicello video

As part of UA's strategic planning process, Dr. William Pepicello, the president of the University of Phoenix, visited campus Aug. 20 to discuss UP's business model, its approach to education and its plan for the future.

Question 1:

What is the University of Phoenix’s primary purpose? (Not the mission statement.)
What is The University of Akron’s primary purpose? (Not the mission statement.)
Discuss the clarity of the two and subsequent impact on the organizations.
What should be The University of Akron’s primary purpose in the future?

  • Make money
  • Serve as a catalyst for regional development
    • including access to education
    • economic development
    • generally improving the quality of life for individuals within the region
    • prepare students for a career
  • The purpose of the University of Phoenix (UP) is more clear than the University of Akron (UA)
  • Similarly to UA, the University of Phoenix does need to foster student success and produce quality graduates in order to fulfill its purpose (to make money)
  • The purpose of UA would stay the same, but how we go about fulfilling our purpose would change with time, due to changing demographics, economies, etc.
  • The knowledge that is being disseminated is the same, but the vehicle by which UA disseminates the knowledge is different
  • UP is disseminating the knowledge for a specific group of people.

Feedback from Dr. Pepicello to this specific response:  You missed one salient point: the purpose of Phoenix is not to make money. If that were the purpose, we wouldn’t need to do the things we do. We could make more money if we cut corners, had a larger curriculum, tried to be more things to more people. The point you missed: Phoenix does well by doing good.  Phoenix was founded on a social agenda. In fulfilling the social agenda Phoenix found the pent up need in the US for that niche – a fairly large niche. It turns out that the founder never expected to be rich. He thought he would help people in San Jose, CA.  The heart of it – you struck on the other piece -- if all we wanted to do was make money, I could do better financially with lower quality. I could take in two to three times more students a year. They could stay for a couple of courses and then drop. And we would make money in the long run.

What is University of Phoenix’s primary purpose?

  • To provide an educational product targeted to 73% of the population that will make profit for shareholders
  • They have identified weaknesses and limitations in access to higher learning and hence reinvented higher learning

What is UA’s primary purpose?

  • Allow students to experience hands-on learning
  • Provide cumulative educational experience, including the higher education campus, dorm living, social experience
  • We help students acquire a cumulative experience in learning so upon graduation they are prepared to contribute to society
  • Provide this for traditional and non-traditional student

Discuss the clarity of the two and subsequent impact on the organizations.

  • We have to contribute more money to the physical campus and the community
  • We have more liability to the community as a part of a community

Feedback from Dr. Pepicello to this specific response:  The university of the future will not be heavily invested in facilities. In the future there will be a balance between facilities and virtual.

Question 2:

Pepicello at UA

University of Phoenix President Dr. William Pepicello fields a question during his presentation Aug. 20 at UA.

Focus groups at UA have indicated that access is a priority for UA but that access also speaks to affordability. Affordability was one of the themes in the readings for Dr. Pepicello’s visit suggesting that the business model of higher education is broken …

“The universal four-year liberal arts education may have become economically untenable given the debt levels students are being forced to bear post-graduation.”

In addition, access as defined as opportunity, has been a core principle of UA since our founding. With the changing face and economies of higher education, what might the definition of access include as we prepare for our 150th year?

With the two definitions of access as background, how will UA define access in our next strategic plan and how do we ensure access for all students who want an education from UA?

  • Addressing both academic and affective skills in higher education is also included in making higher education accessible
  • Affordability is a problem for UA and other state universities
  • We have to think comparatively with other states to see what they have done to make higher education more affordable
  • State funding has steadily decreased over the years which limits our discussion
  • Affordability is directly linked to accessibility
  • How many high school students have access to college information to determine best opportunities for them
  • Need to look at opportunity
  • Other local institutions are doing more with less. How are they able to do so?
  • Working more effectively with non-traditional students and helping students better face life issues which impact affordability
  • Providing more resources to address such issues as childcare, for example
  • Individualization – how to create strategies to address individual student needs
  • Partnering with local businesses and employers to create jobs conveniently located near UA
  • Creating linkages between programs and jobs, such as co-ops
  • Creating more informal structures and strengthening current formal structures linking students with employers
  • Need to put more resources into developing online programming and other creative ways of delivering courses
  • Need to look at how we manage class scheduling to maximize course offerings throughout the year
  • Need to look at fee structure – charging varying fees for different programs
  • Scheduling policies must change to schedule more courses
  • Need to put more courses online to offset constraints of on-campus space
  • Need more resources to support online course development and delivery
  • Faculty is unwilling to put in the time without proper compensation or incentive
  • Related training to help faculty learn how to create online courses is needed
  • Our students are digital and faculty must adapt
  • Need to restructure and redirect more resources towards the 73% non-traditional student population and not solely focus on the 27% traditional student population
  • Access is an issue for second language students – English is not their first language
  • We need to think about courses in other language for many students
  • Not sure what the business model is for higher education – there may be many business models that need to be looked at
  • Are we competing with the University of Phoenix – is access a reason we do or don’t compete?
  • We need to be able to offer classes starting every week (52 times a year) – that is what access is all about
  • Why can’t we admit students and get them in the system at any point of time
  • Do we need to look at life credit in our system – get people in the system with their life experience in their program.  How do we quantify this?
  • Is the military an access point – we need to make it easier for them to get into the system
  • Rethink how we review transfer credit, give credit for other academic accomplishments, life credit
  • Some people don’t know how to get into the system, get the appropriate requirements together (financial, enrollment needs, scheduling, etc.) , and get in the door – they get frustrated with all the requirements and red tape
  • Make students accountable for what they have when they leave, versus what they bring in to the institution
  • Should we rethink what the required courses are when you come into the university (lets help put the student on a fast pace)
  • Higher education feels the student should leave with a good education; the student believes he/she should leave with a degree and now can get a good job….how do we bring these two views closer together
  • One-stop shop works well to get people in the system
  • What is the most effective way to get the student through the system – are we flexible, do we help or hurt their chances of success
  • Do we really review potential students in terms of succeeding in college
  • Are we too strict on requirements to get our degrees – the general education courses especially

Question 3:

According to the posted readings, who are UA’s students in 2020 and what will those students expect from colleges in the future? With this knowledge, what should UA’s learning environments look like in the future for both students and faculty? What should UA’s strategic priorities be in serving these students?

  • Net generation
  • Digital natives
  • Michael Wesch on You Tube: Did You Know? – an hour long video on digital ethnography
  • How do you engage them in active learning in smaller time slices?
  • More specific about what they want
  • Comfortable with technology
  • Minority students will outnumber whites
  • 25- to 34-year-olds
  • Need modular classes – 3- or 5-week blocks – for flexibility
  • Earn and learn model
  • Optimizing physical facilities
  • Need mixture of physical and online classes
  • What are student expectations?
  • Students need to have relationships with full-time tenured faculty, so such faculty need to be given special incentives to teach weekend and evening classes
  • Student Affairs needs to offer weekend services
  • Financial Aid process must change to accommodate changes
  • Students need courses in personal finance, as bad credit ratings are the main reason why new young college grads don’t get hired into a job
  • 2,500 students at UA took an online course in 2008
  • Need instructional designers
  • Give students what they want: online, weekend, evening and accelerated academic programs, according to data collected by UA Admissions
  • Accelerated programs desired by business student

Feedback from Dr. Pepicello to this specific response:  Bingo!  The students are going to be very different.  We have to know who they are. We have to watch them and not make assumptions.  We assume now that our students are computer literate and savvy.  Our experience with the online program reveals that is not true at all.  Lots of students don’t own computers – we make students take orientation before taking an online class.  “What is this webpage you keep talking about?”is a question we hear.  I think we have to continue to track these guys carefully.  It is like nothing we have encountered before.

Library ….

  • Ohio has best model in country with OhioLink consortium of higher education, millions of dollars worth of content, leveraging resources
  • Working towards virtual library but costly due to licensing
  • Also OhioLink pairing with K-12
  • We still need a library as a place
  • Are U Phoenix students actually using public libraries?
  • University of 2020 needs a physical place where students can go to get human help
  • University of Rochester study shows students rejecting some aspects of technology; e.g., final proofread on hard copy
  • Some rejection of PowerPoint (when instructors read slides)
  • Instructors need to be aware of best practices in using technologies
  • What will UA look like in 2020 if 73% continues to increase?
  • May still include large number of technology immigrants rather than natives
  • Cannot go totally online that fast -- maybe by 2060
  • Disparate access in different parts of Ohio, different school districts, due to broadband availability, technology access
  • Not all students have computers in their homes
  • Technology may be disconnecting people from a perspective of learning; would be suggesting that no one learned anything valuable before technology available
  • Education is never seamless; takes a lot of discipline -- students need to be aware of that
  • Where does discipline come into place?
  • Technology needs to enhance, not replace good teaching and learning strategies

Developmental learning …

  • If online, where does that take place?
  • Need to think about our own audience as opposed to U Phoenix audience
  • Computer labs are being dismantled in favor of checkout laptops; students used to ask each other for help when they were seated close to each other
  • Need for Learning Commons: strategic site for students to visit, get help from peers and from support staff
  • Many students now see no reason to visit library
  • Many students feel their needs are being met by social networking sites; but Counseling Center sees many of these students and needs to provide additional support, especially in times of crisis
  • When students graduate, need to have a concept of what constitutes an appropriate academic source, especially online
  • Need to combat “dumbing down”
  • Who are the students?  More diverse -- make sure people feel comfortable
  • What will they expect/need? 
  • These students are good with technology
  • They need discernment – ability to filter information, put in context and background --college can do that for them
  • Priorities should be access, screening, flexibility
  • What places are good for other people?  College or universities might not be good for everybody
  • Maybe what UA offers might have a different ‘look/feel’ than Phoenix
  • We need to work now with the people in elementary and middle school -- make sure they are ready
  • We don’t give degrees – we grant degrees
  • We have to perform the stretching operation
  • If students come with limited knowledge – need to stretch their ability to learn from sentences to paragraphs, paragraphs to pages, etc. .. complex thinking
  • Optimism:  For the first time we see students 9-11 years old excited for the future
  • In the 50s there was a malaise – then came the excitement and chaos of the 60s
  • We have to channel the excitement now for progress

Question 4:

Based on the readings you have reviewed for Dr. Pepicello’s visit, as well as Dr. Ehrenberg’s visit on June 3, how is our region, state, and nation different from when we developed Charting the Course in 1999? What should be UA’s priorities for our strategic plan for the next ten years that will address these changes?

  • Economy is worse than 1999
  • Higher education in Ohio was better in 1999 than today
  • There was no spending in the 70s -- because we didn’t spend, we didn’t crash
  • Having to rely more on funding, from tuition; not state funding
  • Chance that the state help will be less and less
  • Tuition has increased faster than inflation
  • Didn’t realize that higher education would benefit the whole state
  • Education plays a huge role in the economy -- Ohio has more public universities than other states
  • Inefficiency because there are too many state schools
  • Correlation because of population?
  • The underserved population needs the help
  • Outflow of population: manufacturing – not looking for people with higher education; they need that now
  • Strategic Plan –
    • Summit College needs to be clearly defined as a community college:
      • Provisionally enrolled
      • Supplemental instruction
  • The university does not have a clearly defined mission
  • Does the 73% even need college?
  • International students -- fewer students coming here because their own countries are becoming better

Question 5:

What are lessons we can learn from The University of Phoenix? What innovations from The University of Phoenix model are most applicable to The University of Akron and our future?

What are UA’s current and future points of differentiation that provide a value added aspect to a degree from UA – even an online degree?

  • They do things differently many of which UA is not doing -- attracting nontraditional market
  • Go to low hanging fruit even though nontraditional student body
  • Nested programs – the Governor is wanting this
  • Concept of constantly working with student throughout the entire program: curriculum, copyrights, libraries – 250,000 people that can help them
  • They tell students that they are fine where they are and then work in prep courses throughout curriculum
  • They give students list of courses they will need and can plan
  • College of Nursing is affiliated with Lorain Community College – you can see the prerequisites, you can see courses
  • Phoenix – high tech, high touch approach
  • Academic coach – better from student perspective
  • Student focused
  • Require student to become active participant in education
  • First generation group -- support systems in place to help them become successful
  • Do ‘just in time’ training
  • UA does some workforce development – noncredit certificate in pharmacy
  • Math component – UA has integrated some stuff
  • Where UA does add value – the schools of engineering, law school, nursing, education – there are joint efforts, degrees among colleges
  • Summit College, workforce development, other than Akron campuses
  • Does UA keep liberal arts programs? 
  • They help people think
  • They may not prepare them for perfect on the job training, but issues need to be thought about
  • Weekend programs

Feedback from Dr. Pepicello to this specific response:  I agree as a linguistics major that we need to rethink liberal arts. Don’t say they are not relevant.  Liberal arts prepare people to do lots of things.  I haven’t done badly with a liberal arts degree.  What is important: resource allocation.  In your remarks, and some others, UA is very forward thinking. They are thinking along the same lines as we are. The point: as you begin to look at how that ties to the business model, are there existing resources that could be reallocated? That is the first place to look.  The knee jerk reaction is need more, but you need to realign resources.

  • Emphasis on successful student entry into the program course
  • One person, one stop shop for student advisement and services (financial aid, registration, student support)
  • We are task centered, rather than serving the customer
  • Cultural change on what is important rather than completing the task
  • Adult resource center, counseling services, evening college, etc.
  • Leadership needed to do this
  • Remediation in all courses
  • What do the customers need to make it easier, not the curriculum but the services the students need
  • Flexibility -- student can’t drop class and can’t pick up another class for another 16 weeks
  • We know which courses students will not be successful in and perhaps have more frequent starting points
  • Could draw students in that drop from other institutions if we had mid-term start courses
  • Who are our students?
  • Which students are we going to target?
  • Current discussion has focused on STEMM
  • We can serve both the 27% and the larger group
  • Value added to students -- embedded courses that have certificates
  • Easier system for adult students to get credit for life experiences
  • We have a campus -- Phoenix does not
  • How are faculty to interpret these changes?
  • Merit points for faculty or reward for faculty
  • Beloit Study MindSet (who the incoming freshman class is)
  • Aggressive marketing plan
  • Ongoing courses – affecting financial aid
  • Virtual library – 1 fee includes books – textbook issues
  • Testing?  How are students tested? Proctoring?
  • Structure of scheduling -- track is set

Feedback from Dr. Pepicello to this specific responseHow do you know who is on the other end of the computer? For those who take classes in the classroom – do you know who they are? The way we do testing is through an essay format -- not true/false or fill in the blank.  It is not what a student can replicate – they can’t get a copy of the test.  We do look at styles.  If someone has a certain writing style and turns in a paper that is brilliant, they might get a call.  This is something that the federal government will require – a student authentication system.  Use security questions – similar to what a bank uses. 

Comments from the Guest Presidents/Provost table:
We are all in this together. Student success is what we are after and committed to. By achieving student success we create success for our whole society.

Biography: Bill Pepicello


Dr. Bill Pepicello, who spoke on campus Aug. 20 as part of UA's strategic planning process, was born and raised in Erie, Pa., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Classics from Gannon University. He holds both master’s and doctorate degrees in linguistics from Brown University and has held faculty positions at the University of Delaware, Temple University and University of the Pacific. He has conducted research and published in the areas of classical languages, linguistics, psychology, anthropology, folklore and humor studies.

Pepicello has held a number of administrative positions, including department chair for Classics at Temple and regional dean for Southern California for National University. Pepicello came to University of Phoenix in 1995 where he served as the first dean of the College of General and Professional Studies. He subsequently held the position of vice president of academic affairs until 2000. At that time, he assumed the position of president of the University of Sarasota; he helped transform that institution into what is today known as Argosy University.

Pepicello returned to University of Phoenix in 2002 as the founding dean of the School of Advanced Studies—housing the University’s doctoral programs. In November of 2003 he became vice provost for academic affairs and was promoted to provost for the university in January of 2006.

In June 2006, Pepicello was made acting president of University of Phoenix.  In September 2006, after a national search, he was appointed president. As the sixth president of the University of Phoenix, Dr. Pepicello is responsible for the leadership of the largest private university in the United States.

Pepicello is frequently requested as a guest and keynote speaker and has addressed audiences across the country regarding for-profit higher education, non-traditional education, and the changing landscape of American higher education. Serving nationally as a consultant-evaluator, Pepicello sits on the Accreditation Review Council of the Higher Learning Commission, a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that accredits degree-granting higher education organizations.

Pepicello also serves on:

  • the Commission for Postsecondary Education, under the Office of the Governor for the State of Arizona;
  • sits on the Advisory Board of the Greater Phoenix Boys and Girls Clubs;
  • was appointed Vice Chairman of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council Board of Directors, and
  • is a member of the United Way Board of Directors.

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