By Goldie Blumenstyk
The legacy of John G. Sperling, the founder of the University of Phoenix who died on Friday at the age of 93, includes more than the sprawling institution that he began in an Arizona union hall in 1976 with eight students.
Mr. Sperling was instrumental in creating today’s for-profit-college industry, a sector now known for both its focus on working adults and the prominence of giant publicly traded companies.
Several of the companies that now dominate the industry are led by executives who either worked closely with Mr. Sperling at Phoenix or learned the education business while working at the Apollo Education Group, the university’s parent company.
In the 2013 fiscal year, the 15 publicly traded higher-education companies generated $16.4-billion in revenue, according to BMO Capital Markets. Nearly half of that, about $7.5-billion, came from Apollo and three other companies led or formerly led by those executives.