Another Question about GCU's Ph.D. in Psychology

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by PuppyMama, Feb 5, 2016.

  1. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member

    I realize that my threads with regard to Grand Canyon University are becoming bipolar... I alternate back and forth between wanting to apply and warning the whole world about how horrible they are, and for that I am sorry. The problem I am having is that I discovered my love for higher education too late in life and since I have chosen to give 100% priority to my growing family, my options to further my education are limited. I could certainly find babysitters and apply for my nearest state university, but I would rather forego the Ph.D. than do that. I realize other people do things differently, but this is my way.

    Since i have never attended a for-profit university and have heard very little good about them, I am scared senseless to even apply to one... but then I come to this website and so many people discuss their for-profit schools in positive lights, confusing me to no end. Which is it?? Are these places scam holes run by satan, or are they beacons of light for people who need alternative solutions? I should add that I expressed interest in the program about a year and a half ago and I am still receiving e-mails from the admissions advisor, asking if I am ready to get started. This puts a very bad taste in my mouth. Usually, graduate students are biting their nails, waiting to see if they get into their program of choice. With GCU, it seems like the school is biting its nails to see if they've made a sale. Ugh.

    My goal is to one day teach online, but I understand that a doctorate from a for-profit could limit my options, as most traditional schools want instructors from their own kind. I thought that maybe I could teach online at GCU some day, but their own job description for an instructor in the psychology program states that the applicant must have something like 5 years of teaching experience. How is one supposed to get that if they are not able to find a job? If you earned a doctorate from a for-profit university, where did you get a job? Are you able to teach for a university, traditional or for-profit? Can you tell me if you were happy with your decision or if you regretted it?

    Anyway, I came across a student review website yesterday where someone stated that GCU HAS NEVER GRADUATED A PH.D. IN PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT. Can anyone confirm if this is true? I know someone who entered the program in, I believe, 2011 or 2012, so the program cannot be newer than that. I know that he is still attending in 2016. The program boasts that students will graduate in 3.5 years, so he should be finished by now (we don't talk much anymore; I moved away).

    Here is the website if you want to check out the comment: Grand Canyon University (StudentsReview) - College Reviews Graduate Student Opinion school Ranking, Reviews and Comments by Graduate Students. I am asking in sincerity. I am super tired of going back and forth with this decision and I want to make a choice and stick with it. This is getting annoying!


    1. Do you know if it is true that GCU has never graduated a Ph.D. in psychology student?
    2. If you have a Ph.D. from a for-profit, have you had any success finding teaching jobs either in for-profit or traditional universities?
    3. Are for-profits scam holes run by satan, or are they beacons of light for people who need alternative solutions to higher education?

    Thanks for putting up with me! I'm getting pretty sick of myself as far as this is concerned so I'm sure I'm driving you all crazy!
  2. FJD

    FJD Member

    Here is a feature on GCU's 1st PhD graduate, who finished the program in 2014: GCU's 1st Ph.D. a heady accomplishment - GCU Today As you note, the PhD program is new, having launched in 2011. I don't know how many other PhD graduates there have been since the 1st grad. I would recommend contacting the College of Doctoral Studies and asking them.
  3. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member

    Thanks, FJD. You have always been so helpful. Are you in the dissertation process? If so, how is that going? Are you finding that they are slowing you down/overturning staff/dragging out the process, or are you happy with how things are going? Thank you for your patience with me.
  4. jmcl

    jmcl New Member

    While I do not have a PhD, I have many friends who have earned theirs through for-profit universities (Walden, UoP, Argosy). In each case, they have been able to find a job as adjuncts and/or advanced positions in their field. I will point out that they all have significant professional experience which may have facilitated their ability to accomplish what they do; the doctorate was more of a bonus for them and the employer. I do not regard for-profit as scams, though some will disagree. Its a business model that is catering to the demands of the students (like you). If you want a PhD and determine you have no other viable courses of action, then it seems obvious what your choices are. Any doctoral program is going to take more than 3.5 years and will be a significant investment in your time, focus, and energy. There is no way around that reality.

    It sounds as though you are exceedingly apprehensive about this decision. If that is the case, I would not embark upon the journey. Have you considered a post-graduate degree (perhaps an Ed.S)? In many cases Ed.S. credits can be applied to an Ed.D. and may give you time to determine if you want to continue on. Good luck on your decision.
  5. FJD

    FJD Member

    I'm just beginning the research phase, so I can't yet offer a good evaluation. In the courses leading up to the research phase there was a fair amount of attention paid to preparing the dissertation prospectus. We had to turn in several drafts for comments and revision. I can let you know how things go. Again, I haven't heard any horror stories about the school intentionally slowing down the process. I've never seen any complaints of this on the doctoral message boards or elsewhere. GCU continues to graduate people from their EdD program each month (usually about 6/month), and I saw at least one DBA grad recently (I don't follow this closely, so I would recommend reaching out to the school for exact numbers).
  6. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I have taught for more than 16 years as an adjunct for traditional and for profits. As long as the degree is regional accredited, an adjunct career is quite feasible with a for profit degree.
    As for a career as a full time faculty, it depends, many for profits have full time faculty with for profit degrees but many of these faculty members have long professional careers. Traditional small colleges also have many faculty members with PhDs from for profit schools.

    I have a friend who refused to get a for profit PhD and registered at a prestigious traditional school but then realized that it was not feasible to satisfy the requirements given the time commitments, lack of faculty support that do not see part time students as priority, etc. He ended withdrawing from the program and couldn't graduate although he completed all the course requirements.

    In few words, a for profit PhD means low risk, the program is meant for working professionals and you will graduate as long as you do the work. This type of programs are highly structured and are meant to graduate people in little time.
    The main con is the lack of prestige, you will not impress people with a for profit PhD and also will not be able to profit from the networking of a good research school which means most likely will not be able to publish in top journals that is the main requirement for some faculty jobs. However, you will be able to apply for jobs that you want and can compensate the lack of prestigious degree with work experience and teaching skills.
  7. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Really good and valuable post. I would just add that degrees from some of our more popular not-for-profits would function similarly.
  8. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Thanks Rich, bottom line is that you have to be realistic about your expectations. I know someone that completed a PhD from a for profit and was very disappointed that most companies would ignore his resume for executive positions paying top dollar. He had the idea that a PhD in management would set him apart from the MBA crowd.

    Finally, he decided to take two years off and went for a second MBA from MIT. He realized that he couldn't just get what he wanted with a part time PhD from a for profit school. It is too bad that it cost him about 50K from his pocket to learn this lesson.
  9. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member

    Thanks to everyone for the information. I am still trying to make a decision, but your comments have helped a lot. This would be a pricey commitment, so obviously I want to make sure that it is the right thing to do. One thing that scares me is that I have heard that the for-profits tend to engage in shenanigans with people's student aid money i.e. Hanging onto it for much longer than they should, not giving the full refund, randomly telling students that they need to repay loan money to the school, etc. It has been reinforced in my mind for so long that for-profits are bad that it is difficult to see them any other way. I realize the degree of which we speak would not be highly regarded in academia... At the same time, I would really love to teach even as an adjunct and in my field, a master's just isn't enough because so many people have Ph.D.s. It's also a goal I have had for so long so it's hard to let it go. Oh well. I guess I'll know some day! Thanks again!
  10. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    The only for profit that I have experience with for PhD programs is Walden. Walden is one of the better for profit schools, their programs are highly structured so it helps you to keep on track and complete the program in 3 to 4 years.
    If you google for full time faculty with Walden PhDs, you will find quite a few teaching at small colleges and Universities.
    Walden is not cheap but I think that it has good feedback in general. Maybe others can tell you about other for profit programs around.

    Bear in mind that most of the PhDs offered by for profits are not APA accredited and are not meant to gain a clinical license in your state or province.
  11. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member


    Thank you for your reply. Has Walden University ever been shady with your financial aid (if you pay using financial aid)? How about the dissertation process? I once read that Walden tends to keep students for much longer than they tell the students to expect. They require students to work on their dissertations for years and collect financial aid from them every semester. Has this been your experience? I realize that the reviews could be from people who do not have previous research experience and do not understand how to select a realistic project or write a prospectus for that matter. Do you have any information about that?

    Also, how much time do spend per day on your homework? Please be honest because I am trying to assess whether or not this would work for me. I clearly do not have the time for a traditional program.

    Yes, I do not believe that the APA accredits non-clinical psychology programs. I would like to teach with the degree, even though it sounds like my chances of doing so are not great. Plan B would be to use it to re-specialize later or even earn a second master's degree in either counseling or social work.

    I think I am the type of person who can't quit anything and I feel like stopping at the master's level is like quitting graduate school before finishing. I realize that is not true, but my brain is just annoying and so I cannot get this out of my head. My greatest fear is that this kind of thinking will get me more deeply in student debt and will yield no real payoff. My second greatest fear is not going for this and regretting it later.

    Thank you for your response.
  12. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member

    RFValve and FJD,

    I also forgot to ask if your classes in your respective schools force you to work in groups? I realize that there are many traditional, highly respected programs that do utilize group work for some projects, but I understand that some for-profits (UoP) use them for just about everything. I would not like that.
  13. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Don't really have much information as I don't study there but just adjunct once in a while. Most PhD students graduate in 3 to 5 years part time. The program is not really meant for you to spend more time as you pay per credit and not per time spent so it is in the best interest of the school to graduate you as fast as possible. The program is structured in a way that the PhD becomes a collection of written assignments that help you to write your thesis.
    Faculty is paid per student so it is not the in the best interest of the dissertation adviser to keep you long time in the program either.

    As for the other questions, I would talk to an academic adviser and he or she will let you know all the finance options, etc so you can learn more about the program.
  14. NMTTD

    NMTTD Active Member

    If I may chime in, I happen to live in Phoenix. GCU is a very large, well known, and highly respected university here. Major campus, athletic teams, stadium, etc... While they are technically for-profit, they operate more like a non profit, and even cheaper than 2 of the 3 other major non profit universities in Arizona (Arizona State and University of Arizona. Only Northern Arizona University is cheaper).
  15. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

  16. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member

    Wow, Kizmet. That is interesting. I wonder what the change would mean for students attending during the transition? Clearly, this makes GCU a more attractive option. Thank you for the information.
  17. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member


    I have seen photos of the campus and it looks beautiful. It certainly does not resemble a typical for-profit, online school. Do you personally know anyone who has attended? Has anyone mentioned anything about shady financial aid practices or the school intentionally dragging out the dissertation process in order to collect more tuition dollars?
  18. expat_eric

    expat_eric New Member

    Good morning Puppymama.

    I attend GCU and am enrolled in the DBA program. I have left a few personal experiences as I have gone through the program. I am just about finished with the coursework in the program. I am in my second to last course and then I will be in the dissertation courses.

    One thing that I have observed is that from the very beginning, the program is fairly focused on the end result of completing your dissertation. They start you early thinking about your research and have you completing an outline called the Ten Strategic Points. This is your working document though much of the program that leads to your prospectus and dissertation.

    I have met a great many of the doctoral students that in various programs with GCU through the mandatory residencies. While I have heard some whining about chairs, etc, most people seem to be on track. I don't think many people actually graduate in 3 years (the minimum for the program) but I did meet one who did do it.

    My biggest gripe with the program is the hit or miss quality of the instructors. Some are just awesome. I took a knowledge transfer course that changed completely my interest in my dissertation. The instructor was engaged and always there to talk. On the other hand I took a research methods course where the instructor was a nightmare. She was inconsistent in grading and just a plain old jerk. Funny enough that instructor showed up at a residency and she turned out to be ok in person.

    The student support can be hit or miss. Sometimes they respond really fast and sometimes they respond slow. I think that is pretty universal for universities in my experience. I only use partial financial aid, but I can tell you that I have never had an issue. They also have provided all the documentation I needed for my employer reimbursement program in a timely manner.

    The bottom line is that I would recommend the program to most people. Like all distance programs, you must be self-motivated. As long as you can handle that I think you will find a decent program.
  19. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member

    That was very helpful! Thank you, Expat_eric! Once you get started on your dissertation classes, I'd love to hear an update if you remember!
  20. PuppyMama

    PuppyMama New Member


    If you have the time to reply, I was just wondering if you could give me an idea of roughly how much time you spend per day on your coursework? My master's degree was a heavy workload - I didn't work while in school and I was still doing homework all day, every day. I have been told that GCU is designed for busy adults, though. An acquaintance of mine explained that there are 1 or 2 discussion boards per week and then 1 or 2 papers due per class. He also said that there is no group work (is this true?). I realize you are in the DBA program and I am interested in the psychology program, but I assume they are structured similarly. If I broke up this work and did a little every day, how much time could I expect to spend every night? I am hoping to be able to do all of my homework after the kids are in bed!

    I am trying to get as many answers as possible before I re-engage the enrollment advisor. I was hounded for about a year and a half after the first time, and I feel that feedback from actual students is more reliable than answers I might get from the school (which has a personal interest in earning my business!).

    Thank you!

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