2017 TOP STORIES: Purdue buys Kaplan to expand online offerings

Purdue University took a huge leap toward expanding its online education offerings this year with a move higher education officials across the country are watching.

In April, Purdue announced it would acquire the for-profit Kaplan University and eventually rebrand it to include the Purdue name.

The university has hired an outside marketing agency to identify a full name.

Purdue officials—who are calling the school NewU for the moment—said they hope the initiative will address the need for post-secondary education for working adults and others unsuited to traditional campus-based education. It also bolsters Purdue’s online offerings, which have trailed other campuses.

The acquisition of Kaplan includes its 15 campuses, 32,000 online and campus-based students and 3,000 employees.

It was a move some faculty members criticized, in part because they say Kaplan’s reputation doesn’t measure up.

The school and its parent company faced investigations and lawsuits in multiple states regarding hiring and recruitment practices. But Purdue President Mitch Daniels said officials carefully vetted Kaplan and believe it has “by far the best record we could find in the industry.”

Under the 30-year deal, which is still moving through the approval process, Purdue would pay a symbolic $1 for Kaplan and enter into a somewhat complicated revenue-sharing agreement.

NewU would operate as a public benefit corporation, rather than a public institution. It would rely only on tuition and fundraising to cover expenses; no state revenue would be used.

The new entity will carry the Purdue name while creating and maintaining its own distinct identity, Purdue officials said.

It would primarily function online but would have 15 locations, including one in Indianapolis.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved the deal in August. In September, Purdue received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to move forward with the acquisition. 

One last hurdle remains, though. Purdue needs permission from the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accreditor for both Purdue and Kaplan universities. 

Officials from the commission visited Purdue’s campus at the end of October, and the group is expected to make a decision at a meeting in February.

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