Federal government takes over management
of student loans
Mark Brenner, chief communications officer and senior vice president of External Affairs for Apollo Group.
Recently, the federal government changed the way it handles all federal student loans, and these changes have affected many University of Phoenix alumni. Phoenix Focus sat down with Mark Brenner, chief communications officer and senior vice president of External Affairs for Apollo Group, parent company of University of Phoenix, to learn more and to find out how alumni can get involved to ensure that their interests are represented in Washington.
PF: Can you explain the recent changes to the way the government now handles student loans?
MB: These changes are part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act that the U.S. Congress passed in 2010. In short, banks and other financial institutions previously made and collected most student loans. When the bill was passed last March, the federal government took over the management of all federal student loans and now all students get their money directly from the U.S. Department of Education.
PF: Who is impacted by this change?
MB: All graduates who are in the process of repaying a federal student loan are affected. The existing loans themselves are not altered, but the process has changed. For some of our alumni, it has caused confusion. For others, it meant their loans went delinquent due to no fault of their own, but because the government did not properly tell our graduates about the change.
PF: What is Apollo Group doing to ensure University of Phoenix alumni aren’t adversely affected by these changes?
MB: We knew this would be difficult for the government to manage, and we have worked proactively to help the government give students and graduates a clear understanding of the changes. We continue to offer the Obama Administration our assistance. Like our alumni, we want to help prevent delinquent loans. We want to make sure the system is easy to navigate for graduates paying back student loans. And if there are ways the system can work better, we think we have a role to play in making it happen. But to do that properly, we want to hear from University of Phoenix graduates.
PF: Education has been in the news a lot lately. What are some other changes on the horizon for higher education?
MB: As the debate in Washington focuses on spending, the federal budget deficit, jobs and the economy, policymakers understand the important part higher education plays in our country’s future. Earning a college degree and ensuring job training is closely aligned with the evolving needs of the global economy is how best to grow the American workforce and, as we’ve heard President Obama say, “win the future.” Education policies are being debated in both the state and federal legislatures, and I urge all students and alumni to pay close attention to these discussions.
PF: How can alumni get involved to ensure their interests are being represented by their elected officials?
MB: We’re organizing a growing network of alumni by actively seeking graduates who are willing to tell politicians their stories. University of Phoenix alumni are voters and the very people lawmakers are suppose to listen to. They’re employees, mothers, fathers, nurses and soldiers, and they all have powerful stories to share. I’ve found that leaders in Washington are astounded by what University of Phoenix alumni have accomplished with their lives. But frankly, too often they form their impressions of us from less than ideal sources.
That’s why we have a tremendous opportunity to help educate our leaders in Washington. There are a lot of us at University of Phoenix—almost 500,000 current students and more than 622,000 alumni. And there are more than 45,000 combined University of Phoenix employees and faculty. Those are big numbers, and as we more actively tell our story, lawmakers are realizing we are an important voice in their home districts. They want to know about the issues that are most important to University of Phoenix graduates. I think the voices of our alumni, students and faculty will change the debate in Washington and will impact who is elected to represent us.
To share your story with federal and state elected officials, email Mark Brenner’s team.
Teach for the Future scholarship
Angelique Batsel, Emily Omondi and Crystal Davidson received full-tuition scholarships to pursue master’s degree programs in education at the University of Phoenix through the Teach for the Future program. Batsel resides in Anaheim, California, and plans to pursue a master’s in early childhood education. She currently holds a bachelor’s in psychology from UCLA and a Juris Doctor from Chapman University School of Law. Omandi, who lives in Fullerton, California, plans to obtain a master’s in teacher leadership. She has a bachelor’s in liberal studies from Westmount College and has six years of classroom experience. Davidson lives in Boise, Idaho, and previously earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Boise State University. She will pursue a master’s degree in Secondary Teacher Education. Three additional Teach for the Future scholarships will be awarded in August. Applications for these scholarships open in May. Learn more at phoenix.edu/scholarships.
Showcase in Excellence Award
For the second consecutive year, University of Phoenix was honored with the Arizona Quality Alliance (AQA) Showcase in Excellence Award. The Arizona Performance Excellence Program recognizes manufacturing, health care, nonprofit, government and education organizations using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, the nation’s highest recognition for organizational excellence.
This year, the University was recognized for its Online Faculty Certification Process, a multi-month program that prepares new instructors to be classroom-ready and thoroughly familiar with the University’s curriculum.