Although they've experienced years of growth both in Oklahoma City and nationwide, for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix are beginning to see signs of decline.
The Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, announced plans to close 115 campuses and satellite locations nationwide, including two learning centers in Oklahoma.
That announcement followed news that the for-profit education sector began shrinking last year, after more than a decade of explosive growth.
Federal figures released last month show college enrollment lagged across the board in fall 2011, particularly at for-profit colleges. The overall decline was just 0.2 percent, but it was driven by a 2.9 percent drop in the for-profit sector, which offset an increase at four-year nonprofit colleges.
Among the University of Phoenix locations slated for closure are the university's West Oklahoma City Learning Center on SW 3 St. in Oklahoma City and another center in Owasso. The university's main Oklahoma City campus will remain open.
Students currently enrolled at the affected campuses will be able to continue taking classes at those locations or another location nearby until they graduate, said Ryan Rauzon, a spokesman for the University of Phoenix. Those campuses won't accept any new students, he said.
The campuses will then be phased out once all the students enrolled in classroom-based courses there have left, he said.
The university doesn't have a date in mind for when it will close the West Oklahoma City Learning Center, Rauzon said. University officials will develop that plan after speaking with students enrolled at the site about their plans for completing their degrees. About 30 students are enrolled at that location.
No students are enrolled in classroom-based courses at the Owasso site, he said, so that location will be closed fairly quickly. Students have used the location as a kind of student union, meeting with learning teams or using the computers for coursework.
Rauzon said the closures represent a shift in the university's student population. About 70 percent of the university's enrollment is online, he said. While that population of students is robust, he said, it creates less demand for classroom space.
Closing unused or underused locations allows the university to focus more of its resources on its online offerings, he said.
The Associated Press