Arizona is home to many prestigious colleges and universities, such as Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University. However, not all schools in the state are equally reputable or successful.
In fact, one school has been named the worst college in Arizona by several sources, based on various criteria such as net price, student debt, graduation rate, and academic quality. That school is Western International University, a former for-profit private institution that was affiliated with the University of Phoenix.
The Rise and Fall of Western International University
Western International University was founded in 1978 as a school for adult learners who wanted to pursue higher education while working full-time. The school offered online and on-campus programs in business, technology, and liberal arts, and claimed to provide a flexible and affordable education for its students. At its peak, the school had over 10,000 students enrolled and several campuses across Arizona and other states.
However, the school’s reputation and enrollment began to decline in the 2010s, as it faced increasing competition from other online and for-profit schools, as well as scrutiny from regulators and accreditors over its academic quality and financial stability.
The school was also involved in several lawsuits and investigations, such as a class-action lawsuit filed by former students who alleged that the school misled them about the accreditation and transferability of their credits.
In 2017, the school announced that it would stop enrolling new students and would close its remaining campuses by 2018. In February 2019, the school lost its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accrediting agency for the North Central region of the United States.
The Criteria and Rankings of the Worst Colleges in America
Several publications and websites have compiled lists of the worst colleges in America, based on different sets of criteria and data sources. Some of the common factors that are used to evaluate the quality and performance of colleges include:
Net price: The average cost of attendance for a student after subtracting grants and scholarships. This reflects the affordability and accessibility of a college for low-income and middle-class students.
Student debt: The average amount of debt that a student graduates with. This reflects the financial burden and return on investment of a college education.
Default rate: The percentage of students who default on their federal student loans within three years of leaving school. This reflects the ability of graduates to repay their loans and find gainful employment.
Graduation rate: The percentage of students who complete their degree within 150% of the normal time. This reflects the academic quality and student retention of a college.
One of the sources that ranked Western International University as the worst college in Arizona is Washington Monthly, a bimonthly nonprofit magazine that covers politics, government, culture, and the media. In 2014, the magazine published four different lists of the worst colleges in America, based on different weights and adjustments for the four factors mentioned above. Western International University appeared on two of these lists:
- The first list weighted all four factors equally. Western International University ranked No. 4 out of 20, with a net price of $18,241, an average student debt of $32,335, a default rate of 26.3%, and a graduation rate of 15%.
- The second list gave more impact to graduation rate. Western International University ranked No. 2 out of 20, with a net price of $18,241, an average student debt of $32,335, a default rate of 26.3%, and a graduation rate of 15%.
Another source that ranked Western International University as the worst college in Arizona is Academicful, a website that provides information and advice on schools, scholarships, and careers. In 2023, the website published a list of the top 21 worst colleges in America, ranked by state.
The website used the same four factors as Washington Monthly, but also considered other aspects such as accreditation status, student reviews, and reputation. Western International University was the only school from Arizona that made the list, ranking No. 4 out of 21. The website described the school as “a for-profit private institution in Arizona and affiliated with the University of Phoenix” that “stopped enrolling students in 2017 and lost its accreditation in February 2019”.
The Conclusion and Implications of the Worst College in Arizona
Based on the criteria and rankings of the worst colleges in America, Western International University has been named the worst college in Arizona by multiple sources. The school has performed poorly on measures of affordability, debt, default, and graduation, and has lost its accreditation and closed its campuses.
The school’s downfall is a cautionary tale for prospective students who are looking for a quality and affordable education, and a reminder for regulators and accreditors to monitor and enforce the standards and accountability of higher education institutions. While Arizona has many other options for students who want to pursue their academic and career goals, Western International University is not one of them.