American Intercontinental University Online Degree Programs – Not Such Great News

The American Intercontinental University online degree programs come with a ton of baggage that you need to be fully aware of. AIU has a few physical campus sites, but is largely an online school.  Known as AIU Online, the majority of American’s students learn using technology and the Internet.  In fact, the AIU Online headquarters is considered the school’s largest campus even though it’s an administrative location.

With high academic standards and efficient use of technology, online learning is a great option.  Unfortunately, American Intercontinental University has challenges to overcome in both areas.  

Let’s take a look.

Academics and Accounting

AIU Online offers two accounting focused degrees – the Bachelor of Accounting and Master of Accounting – as well as an MBA with an Accounting specialization.  At first glance, the course offerings appear robust and challenging.  

The Bachelor of Accounting includes core competencies in use of technology, critical thinking and communication as well as a traditional emphasis in accounting principles, ethics, and analysis.  The MBA – Accounting focuses on accounting from a global perspective, including the role of strategic financial analysis in improving business operations. 

The Master of Accounting is designed to prepare students for a career in public accounting.  Students are promised an education that adequately prepares them for great results on the CPA Exam.  Both public and non-profit accounting is emphasized, as well as leadership and ethics in a senior accounting role.

Does American Intercontinental University deliver on its academic promises?  Not really.  

For example, the 2011 CPA Exam performance numbers for Illinois report an overall pass rate of 6.7%.  The average for all students in Illinois that year was 51% with top ranking schools at 70%.   American Intercontinental students had an average score of 47.7 – the lowest for Illinois that year.

Accreditation Issues – A Repeated Problem

Low academics are difficult to hide.  Repeated accreditation issues at AIU indicate a performance issue.

First accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1987, the university was placed on probation in 2005 for failure to comply with various principles of accreditation.  The probation was eventually lifted in 2007.

In 2009, AIU switched accreditation from SACS to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in response to the high number of online student enrollment.  While this transfer was successful, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General questioned the accreditation based on a review of credit hours and program length.  

In its official report, the Department of Education said “This action by HLC is not in the best interests of students, and calls into question whether the accrediting decisions made by the HLC should be relied upon by the Department of Education when assisting students to obtain quality education.”

Enrollment Policies and Recruitment Controversy

AIU Online has an open enrollment policy, meaning anyone is welcome.  Test scores and academic ability are not considered for admittance.  

There are even recurring allegations that AIU makes a practice of admitting students who have not graduated from high school and includes students in enrollment numbers even if they’ve never attended class.  AIU denies these allegations, and stated in 2007 that past issues were addressed and resolved.

What do these controversies indicate to prospective students?  Like other “for-profit” universities, there’s a concern that educational quality is being sacrificed for profitability.  You must make your own judgment.

What are Students and Alumni Saying about American Intercontinental University?

Some students enjoyed their educational experience and felt prepared for a career after graduation.  They credit an interactive web-based tool - My Unique Student Experience (MUSE) – with improving understanding of course material.

Other students report a negative experience.  More than one student mentioned receiving a course map at enrollment that did not include some key graduation requirements.  At graduation time, these students were told additional classes were needed to earn their degree.  

Financial aid funds were exhausted at this point, creating a significant student balance and opening the door to aggressive collections practices.

The Placement Rate Story

In November, 2011 The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on an internal investigation into placement rate practices by The Career Education Corporation, AIU’s parent company.  This investigation found that several placements reported “lacked sufficient supporting documentation” or otherwise failed to meet the company’s own “placement guidelines” and should be removed from consideration.

When these graduates were removed, several CEC owned schools fell below the company’s own 65% placement rate benchmark.  While results of the investigation are not available for AIU specifically and placement rates are not public, the issue is a concern.

Be Cautious When Considering American Intercontinental University

We don’t fault American Intercontinental University for considering financial gain in its decisions.  The pattern of sacrificing academic quality for financial gain, however, is a serious concern.  Approach the American Intercontinental University online degree programs with care.