For the second time this year, a high-profile leader of the Apollo Group is stepping down. The Phoenix-based company that offers degrees to working students said Monday that Laura Palmer Noone, president of the University of Phoenix, will retire July 1 to spend more time with her family.
Noone served as the school’s leader for more than five years. Apollo is the parent of the University of Phoenix.
Her departure comes after former Apollo CEO Todd Nelson resigned in January, leaving a post that made him one of the highest paid chief executives in the Valley.
Palmer Noone declined an interview request.
“We wish to express our appreciation to Laura for her many years of service and her unwavering focus on the mission of the University of Phoenix,” said John Sperling, interim executive chairman of the board, in a statement.
After retirement, she will serve as president emerita for the university, and continue to represent it on numerous academic policy boards, including the Arizona Private Postsecondary Board and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.
Noone began her career at the university 19 years ago, rising from a faculty member, to director of academic affairs, to vice president for academic affairs and finally to president.
The university announced that it will conduct a formal search for a permanent successor.
Earlier this year the company said Nelson left on his own accord to pursue personal investment opportunities after five years as chief executive and 19 years with the nation’s largest, private college system. His severance package was valued at $18 million.
Apollo’s stock has been falling in recent months. After Nelson left, the stock was about $62 per share. It fell $1.33 Monday, or more than 2 percent, to $53.31, more than 35 percent lower than its high of $82.54 in June.
Some analysts predicted slower growth this year and tougher competition for educational companies.
In March, the company reported a slight decline in earnings but a rise in student enrollment. Brian Mueller, Apollo Group president, outlined a new marketing program aimed at potential students aged 18 to 24. Enrollment of students on the Internet increased nearly 21 percent for the second quarter ending Feb. 28.
However, the second quarter net income dropped 7 percent to $80.6 million, or 46 cents per share from $87.1 million, or 47 cents the year before. The dip included money paid to Nelson. His severance package lowered earnings by 9 cents per share, the company said.
Apollo is expected to release third-quarter results in June. Wall Street is looking for earnings of 74 cents per share. An analyst upgraded the stock last month on bigger student enrollments and marketing efforts.
The company ranked 1,335 on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s 2000 largest companies.
Besides the University of Phoenix, Apollo Group operates Institute for Professional Development, The College for Financial Planning Institutes, and Western International University. It offers educational programs and services in 39 states, Puerto Rico, Alberta, British Columbia, the Netherlands and Mexico.