Ashford University Online Degrees – Who’s First? Recruiting or Student Success?

Ashford University Online Degrees are aimed at adult working students looking to improve their lives and careers.  The costs are high, but the promises are appealing.

Ashford is clearly focused on recruiting.  We wonder if the university is equally focused on student success.

Online Accounting Degrees at Ashford University

Considering the Ashford University degrees for an accounting education?  You can enroll and earn a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting degree completely online.  The program promises to give you a broad background in accounting and the general knowledge you need to advance your career or start your own business.

Accounting at Ashford is a general program with a number of courses you can use to personalize your education.  Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Operations Management are just some of the options offered.  Interested in technology?  You can focus on Information Systems within your accounting education adding technical skills to your business education.

If you are interested in an advanced degree in accounting, you will need to look elsewhere.  Ashford offers an MBA program, but that program does not provide an accounting emphasis.  

There is no Master in Accounting available at the university.

While Ashford does discuss preparation for the CPA Exam in its materials, student at Ashford appear more likely to work in an accounting role in business rather than go on to public accounting. 

Ashford encourages students to consider the Certified Managerial Accountant designation and the CMA Exam as a part of their career path after graduation.

What results can you expect after graduation?  There isn’t much available data to evaluate.  Ashford is not ranked by U.S. News and does not report placement rates.  No specific CPA Exam or CMA Exam results are reported either.

Ashford and Controversy – 2011 US Senate Hearings

In March, 2011, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) chaired a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee of the U.S. Senate.  The hearing focused on a case study of Bridgepoint, the parent company for Ashford University and other for-profit schools.  

Bridgepoint purchased Ashford University in 2005.  Since its purchase, Ashford has experienced a significant growth in both profit and student enrollment, moving from 300 students in 2005 to over 78,000 in 2011.  

The issue?  High enrollment and profitability despite low graduation rates.  

According to Senator Harkin, 63% of students enrolled at Ashford during the 2008-2009 school year withdrew without graduating.  During this same time, Bridgeport reported significant profits generated largely by federal funds.

Kathleen Tighe, an inspector general with the U.S. Department of Education testified that during an audit of Ashford she discovered nearly 75% of the funds in the audit sample were distributed to students who never became eligible to receive them.

In a March, 2011 article in the New York Times, Senator Harkin described Ashford as an institution that gets 86% of its revenues directly from the federal government while the vast majority of students drop out before graduation burdened with student-loan debt.

Another concern was the lack of placement services for those who do graduate.  According to Senator Harkin, Bridgepoint employed 1,703 recruiters in 2011 but only one job placement advisor.

How does Ashford defend itself against these claims?  Ashford’s website attributes high dropout rates to the fact that they include students as enrolled who may have only attended the first night or week of class.  These students never fully began studying at Ashford.

What about the ratio of recruiters to career service staff?  Ashford is not apologetic.  Its website states “Because 74% of Ashford University students and graduates are already employed, traditional placement services are not necessary.”

Bring Realistic Expectations 

So, should you shy away from Ashford University online degrees?  Not necessarily. However, bring realistic expectations to your experience.

Ashford University is a for-profit school.  You should expect their recruiting team to view your enrollment as a potential “sale” for the university.  As with anything else, you as the “buyer” must be fully aware of the value Ashford University offers in return for your investment.

Student reviews are surprisingly quiet as to the academic quality of Ashford’s online degrees.  Instead, students express frustration with the customer service offered by admissions counselors, the financial aid office, and academic advising staff.  

Overall, students felt the support staff at Ashford University was unresponsive and offered poor customer service.

Should You Select The Ashford University Online Degrees For Your Accounting Education?

Ashford University is an attractive option for working students but is it right for you?  That depends on your willingness to set realistic expectations for both the difficulty of achieving a degree and the services a school must provide.

If you are disciplined and willing to search out your own answers to advising and financial aid questions, Ashford University online degrees can meet your needs.