Employee survey indicates support for Phoenix purchase

A majority of University of Idaho faculty and staff who responded to a an in-house survey say they support their employer’s plan to acquire the University of Phoenix.

Employees who have been following the Phoenix purchase seem more supportive of the idea, the survey says. But months after the $685 million proposal went public, many U of I employees still said they had no opinions about the purchase, or were unsure about it.

While unscientific, the survey offers a glimpse of employee sentiments, as the U of I pursues a controversial partnership with a for-profit national online school with 85,000 students and a spotty reputation. U of I and Phoenix officials hope to close the deal early this year.

The U of I’s Faculty Senate survey went out to employees by email in late November. This week, the Senate received a draft of the results, and responses from 723 staff members:

  • In all, 52% of respondents said they supported the acquisition. Meanwhile, 23% of respondents oppose the deal, and the remaining 25% are either neutral or unsure.
  • Staff members were more likely to support the deal — at 61%, as opposed to 50% of faculty members.
  • Among employees who said they have a high level of knowledge about the deal, 66% voiced support. For employees who reported a low level of knowledge about the deal, that support dwindles to 33%.
  • By a narrow majority, 53%, employees said the Phoenix partnership would have a positive impact on the U of I. Twenty percent disagreed and 27% were neutral or unsure.
  • Employees were almost evenly split on a question about whether they were adequately involved in the decision to acquire Phoenix. Thirty percent said staff involvement was adequate, while 36% said it was inadequate, and 35% were neutral or unsure.
  • A narrow majority of employees, 51%, said the Phoenix partnership would shield U of I from a looming enrollment cliff — tied to a declining birth rate and a scarcity of traditional college-age students. Seventeen percent of employees disagreed, and 31% were undecided or unsure.

The Faculty Senate will use the survey results to mitigate staff concerns and get more clarity on the proposal, vice chair Kristin Haltinner said Thursday.

“We intend to use the results to guide us in conversation with university leadership,” Haltinner, an associate professor of sociology, said in an email. “We take people’s concerns seriously.”

More reading: Additional coverage from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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