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Originally published October 16, 2012 at 5:57 PM | Page modified October 16, 2012 at 6:58 PM

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University of Phoenix closing some Puget Sound-area learning centers

The Associated Press and Seattle Times staff

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Apollo Group, the for-profit education company that operates the University of Phoenix, said it would close 115 of the university’s locations, including several in the Puget Sound region.

The company will retain its primary Western Washington campus in Tukwila but will phase out smaller “learning centers” in Bellevue, Lynnwood and Tacoma, as well as a student resource center in Kennewick, said spokesman Ryan Rauzon in Phoenix. He said the company will work with students, employers and state regulators to ensure people enrolled in degree programs can complete their studies.

Apollo said the closures will affect 13,000 students nationwide, or about 4 percent of the university’s students. The move was spurred by a 60 percent decline in Apollo’s fiscal fourth-quarter profit, which was hurt by higher costs and declining University of Phoenix enrollment.

Shares in the Phoenix-based company tumbled nearly 8 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday.

The closings nationwide include 25 main campuses and 90 smaller satellite learning centers. At least one location in 30 states is slated to be shuttered.

Students affected by the closures will be given the option of transferring to online programs or moving their course work to other sites, said University of Phoenix President Bill Pepicello.

If no other center is nearby, the company will continue courses at other space near the closed facility until students complete their degrees, he added.

The university, which also recently announced a tuition freeze, is in the process of notifying students.

The University of Phoenix currently has about 328,000 students, down from a peak of more than 400,000. Following the closures, it will be left with 112 locations in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The announcement comes as enrollments overall in the for-profit sector are declining after years of rapid growth, even as enrollment in other sectors of higher education rises. Recent federal figures showed enrollment in for-profits fell 2.9 percent in 2011. The sector has faced tighter regulations and more pressure to enroll students who have a better chance of graduating.

Another factor in the closures: students increasingly favor online courses. Others are put off by the shaky economy.

“People are simply holding off investing money in education at a time when the costs are escalating and the outcomes are uncertain,” Pepicello said.

In the June-to-August quarter, the number of students enrolled in degreed programs at University of Phoenix fell on an annual basis by 13.8 percent to 328,400. While enrollment of new students in degreed programs declined 13.7 percent.

That decline led to an 11 percent drop in fiscal fourth-quarter revenue for the university’s parent company, which helped weigh down earnings despite some changes in tuition prices and other fees.

Apollo reported net income of $75.4 million, or 66 cents per share, for the three months ended Aug. 31. That compares with net income of $188.6 million, or $1.37 per share, a year earlier.

The latest results included $9.4 million in restructuring costs and other charges. Excluding the special items, Apollo’s earnings amounted to 52 cents per share.

Revenue fell to $996.5 million from $1.12 billion.

Analysts on average expected adjusted earnings of 50 cents per share on $1.01 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

Information about the local closings was reported by Seattle Times staff.

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