Apollo Education Group, Inc. was founded in 1973 in response to a gradual shift in higher education demographics from a student population dominated by youth to one in which approximately half the students are adults and over 80 percent of whom work full-time. Apollo's founder, John Sperling, believed -- and events proved him right -- that lifelong employment with a single employer would be replaced by lifelong learning and employment with a variety of employers. Lifelong learning requires an institution dedicated solely to the education of working adults.
Today, Apollo Education Group, Inc., through its subsidiaries, the University of Phoenix, the Institute for Professional Development, the College for Financial Planning, Western International University and Meritus University, has established itself as a leading provider of higher education programs for working adults by focusing on servicing the needs of the working adult.
Apollo Education Group, Inc. has enjoyed continual growth in student enrollments as well as building a strong financial record by having more than doubled its total enrollments and revenues between 2001 and 2005. Apollo Education Group, Inc., completed its initial public offering on December 6, 1994 with a split-adjusted price of $0.72 per share.
In 1976, the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation was just turning 30. That same year saw the introduction of the first personal computer, the Apple I -- an event that signaled the birth of a new economic system in which intellectual capital would eventually supplant industrial might as the dominant economic force. These milestones marked the beginning of a sea change in higher education, though many (perhaps even most) within that system did not recognize it at the time.
Considered together, these phenomena suggested that the jobs that would make up the workforce of the future were only just beginning to be created or imagined. In order to fill those jobs, the bulk of the new workforce would require higher-level knowledge and skills than those needed in a manufacturing economy. At the same time, the largest-ever age cohort of the population, working adults, would be going through the stages of life during which they would be most affected by the coming economic dislocation and would need advanced education to adapt to these changes.
It was in this historical context in 1976 that Dr. John Sperling, a Cambridge-educated economist and professor-turned-entrepreneur, founded University of Phoenix. Sperling anticipated the confluence of technological, economic, and demographic forces that would in a very short time herald the return of ever-larger numbers of working adults to formal higher education.
In the early 1970's, at San Jose State University in San Jose, California, Sperling and several associates conducted field-based research in adult education. The focus of the research was to explore teaching/learning systems for the delivery of educational programs and services to working adult students who wished to complete or further their education in ways that complemented both their experience and current professional responsibilities.
At that time colleges and universities were organized primarily around serving the needs of the 18-22 year-old undergraduate student. That is not at all surprising, given that the large majority of those enrolled were residential students of traditional college age, just out of high school. According to Sperling working adult students were invisible on the traditional campus and were treated as second-class citizens.
Other than holding classes at night (and many universities did not even do this), no efforts were made to accommodate their needs. No university offices or bookstores were open at night. Students had to leave work during the day to enroll, register for classes, buy books or consult with their instructors and advisors. Classes were held two or three nights per week and parking was at the periphery of a large campus. The consequence, according to Dr. Sperling, was that most working adult students were unable to finish a four-year program in less than eight years, or a two-year program in less than four years (Tucker, 1996, p. 5).
Sperling's research convinced him not only that working adult students were interested in counterparts in significant ways. He saw a growing need for institutions that were sensitive to and designed around the learning characteristics and life situations of the working adult population. He suggested how these institutions would pioneer new approaches to curricular and program design, teaching methods, and student services. These beliefs eventually resulted in the creation of University of Phoenix, and they continue to this day to inspire the University's mission, purposes, and strategies. As an institution, University of Phoenix is unique in its single-minded commitment to the educational needs of working adults. This focus informs the University's teaching and learning model, approach to designing and providing student services, and academic and administrative structure. It also guides the institution as it plans and prepares to meet the needs of working adult students.
Over the last quarter-century, University of Phoenix has come to be regarded by many as a leader and change agent in higher education. Outside observers often attribute this to the University's dedication to creating applied professional education for working adults, an academic model designed specifically to facilitate adult learning, and an organizational culture that prizes innovation.