Carl Forkner

My advice for students who are considering a PhD in higher education administration at University of Phoenix is to be sure that they can handle the challenging workload.


University of Phoenix


Master of Strategic Studies and International Affairs, Air University (2006); Master of Science in Special Education and Education Administration, Western Illinois University (1984); Bachelor of Arts in History and Government, Monmouth College (1980)


PhD in Higher Education Administration


Why did you decide to attend University of Phoenix to get your PhD in higher education administration?

I decided to attend University of Phoenix to get my PhD in higher education administration because I was retiring from the military and knew I would need a degree that I could take with me anywhere. What attracted me to University of Phoenix as opposed to Walden University or Capella University was its course schedule, which was a better fit for my learning style.

What are your school’s biggest strengths?

The biggest strength of University of Phoenix is the format of its courses. Instead of overwhelming students with multiple courses at the same time or dragging out courses for several months, students take a single 8-week course at a time. I think this format allows students to immerse themselves entirely in the topic of the course without having to divide their attention.


How are you paying for college?

I am paying for college through the G.I. Bill. I am eligible for full benefits and do not have to take out any student loans. Otherwise, the cost for my program would be around $750 a credit, and I am required to earn 65 credits total.

Admissions Requirements

Can you describe the admissions process from start to finish?

The admissions process at Phoenix was very straightforward. I submitted transcripts, a registration fee, the application form and a brief questionnaire. I did not need to submit GRE scores. I heard back from Phoenix within about 4 weeks.

During the admissions process, did you interact with an admissions advisor?

Yes, I interacted with an admissions advisor named Anthony Brown, who was Phoenix’s senior admissions counselor. We had a brief discussion over the phone about the program which I found particularly helpful.

Classroom Experience

How is class material presented?

The class materials include digital articles and textbook readings, as well as class discussions on topics or questions that the instructors introduce at the start of each week. We do not have to log in at certain times to complete our coursework, but we do need to make a certain number of high-quality posts each week to get good participation and attendance grades.

What are the drawbacks of this style of presentation?

The drawback of this style of presentation is that I do not read well on computer screens. As a result, I print out all of my reading assignments and have them bound at my local office supply store. That way, I can highlight and take notes.

Are you able to stay engaged in your online coursework?

Yes, I am able to stay engaged in my coursework. In fact, I typically stay ahead of the coursework in all of my courses because we get the syllabus the night before the class begins. I go through and outline all of the papers that I will need to write.

Do your instructors encourage class participation?

Yes, the instructors encourage class participation by requiring students to make 2 substantive posts at least 3 days a week. Most of the posts have to be between 200 and 300 words and include citations from scholarly sources to support the student’s point. Some responses do not require citations but do have to be well reasoned.

What method of communication do you use to keep in touch with your instructors?

I use the private forum on the Phoenix website to keep in touch with my instructors. I can post a question or thought privately to the instructor and he or she will see my post and respond. The public classroom forum is another great place to ask questions because, in my experience, many students share the same questions but some are too afraid to ask.

Can you rate the faculty on a scale of Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, Extremely Poor, in terms of:

Criteria Rating Reasons
Overall  Good Instructors are generally strong teachers with few exceptions.
Qualifications Excellent Instructors have extensive education in their fields.
Knowledgeable Excellent Instructors have outstanding levels of professional and academic knowledge.
Lectures 1) Content: Good

2) Clarity: Excellent

Instructors provide relevant and cogent lectures.
Assignments 1)Relevance: Excellent

2)Reasonable: Good

3)Clarity: Good

4)Assistance Provided: Good

5)Feedback Given: Good

Instructors generally provide well-organized assignments that relate to the course topic and give strong feedback.
Grading Average Instructors occasionally inflate grades or assign unreasonably low marks.
Responsiveness Good Instructors demonstrate a high degree of responsiveness to their students.
Reliability Good Instructors occasionally post grades late.
Interest taken in class as a whole Excellent Instructors seem genuinely interested in the success of the classes.
Interest taken in student as an individual Excellent Instructors take an exceptional interest in the well-being of their students.

What resources does University of Phoenix provide to help you succeed in the classroom?

University of Phoenix provides comprehensive resources to help students succeed in class. The library alone allows access to dozens of the most prominent academic search engines and journal clearinghouses. The instructors themselves and the classroom interactions they facilitate expose students to broader perspectives. Even the financial advisors at Phoenix are exceptional.


Why did you choose to enroll in your higher education administration program?

I chose to enroll in higher education administration because I needed a terminal degree that would build on my experience in education. I was also retiring from the military and knew that I would need to have a degree that I could take in different professional and geographical directions.

Does your program include a dissertation component?

Yes, my program has a dissertation component that requires several steps. First, students have to come up with a topic, although I picked out my topic during my second year. Then we have to start researching so that we can understand our topics well enough to get them approved. Part of that preparation process includes choosing a dissertation chair and committee who will guide us through the process. The committee will help us outline our dissertations and plan for the research and methods we will use.

Next, we do residencies and take a comprehensive exam. If we pass that exam, we can formally move into the actual dissertation phase of our program, although some people choose to start working on their topics much sooner.

Then we enroll in a dissertation course and spend the remainder of our time writing and performing research for our topics. Once we finish, we submit the dissertation to our dissertation committees who must ultimately decide whether or not we can successfully defend our work.

Does your program have a residency requirement?

Yes, my program requires students to participate in at least 2 residencies, each of which last for 5 days. My residencies are at a convenient Phoenix campus in Atlanta. The first residency of the program is more like an orientation to doctoral programs in general, and the second residency has more to do with preparing and writing dissertations and future professional work.

What are your program’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?

The biggest strength of my program has been its flexibility. People from all over the world, in different time zones and with different work schedules and responsibilities, are able to pursue higher education.

I also think that the resources available to students in this program are exceptional. The online library and real-world experience of the instructors are 2 of the most notable of these resources.

However, the weak point of the program has been the inexperience of its academic advisors. Unlike the other institutions I have attended, Phoenix considers academic advisor positions to be entry-level. As a result, many of the advisors lack the experience and knowledge that would make them truly effective in their roles.

Another weakness is the internal structure at Phoenix. It is a business first and foremost, and although the business aspect does not affect the quality of the education in the classrooms, it does affect university-wide policies and communication, which is perhaps the most troubling area. Phoenix communicates like a business and not an academic institution, which means that it communicates inadequately, in my opinion.


What general advice would you give to a student who is considering a PhD degree in higher education administration at University of Phoenix?

My advice for students who are considering a PhD in higher education administration at University of Phoenix is to be sure that they can handle the challenging workload. Phoenix requires students to maintain a B average, and online education is more rigorous than offline education in many cases, without the benefit of face time with instructors and classmates. Many students may find that they just cannot cut it at this level.