The Purdue Acquisition of Kaplan – Background, Opinion, and Questions
Published by: Russ Poulin | 4/28/2017
Published by: Russ Poulin | 4/28/2017
There was quite a bit of surprise in the higher education world yesterday when Purdue University (a large land-grant university in Indiana) announced that it was essentially acquiring Kaplan University (a large for-profit institution). Lots of questions arise. This blog post includes some facts, opinion, and questions to keep the discussion rolling.
For $1, Purdue University will buy Kaplan University and, legislature willing, will operate it as a new Indiana public institution. In addition to the dollar, Kaplan will receive a cut of the income over the next 30 years.
In 2006, then-Governor Mitch Daniels spearheaded a controversial move to lease a toll road in the state to a foreign company for a one-time payment of $3.85 million. In 2010, Indiana created Western Governors University, Indiana, the first state-based affiliate of the institution. Again it was Governor Daniels who used and an executive order to form the partnership focused on expanding offerings to adult learners in Indiana.
In June 2012, the former Governor was selected as President of Purdue University. As a hallmark of his Presidency at Purdue, Mitch Daniels has frozen tuition increases and sought cost-saving efficiencies in University administration. In my opinion, it is harder to point to meaningful academic or structural changes implemented during his tenure. Until now.
In his presentation yesterday to the Purdue Board of Trustees, President Daniels showed that:
He also listed three “realities:
Purdue is too far behind to wait in an already crowded market. This move allows them to “fulfill their land-grant mission” of serving students more quickly than other options. You can see more in a brief introductory video featuring Daniels:
Others have created autonomous units before, such as the University of Maryland University College and Colorado State University Global Campus. Others have also created strong units that are less autonomous, such as Penn State Global Campus and, more recently, University of Florida Online. All of those examples built these entities rather than purchasing an existing one.
Purdue and Kaplan – By the Numbers
On Tuesday of next week, the new Digital Learning Compass (a partnership of Babson Survey Research Group, e-Literate, and WCET) will release its analysis the most recent US Department of Education IPEDS distance education enrollment numbers. With the help of Babson’s Jeff Seaman, I pulled some numbers on these two institutions:
IPEDS divides enrollments into three categories: students enrolled in no distance courses, students enrolled in some distance courses, and students enrolled exclusively in distance courses. For Fall 2015:
Purdue wanted to make a major splash in online education. In terms of mode of instruction, they certainly found their mirror opposite in Kaplan University.
IPEDS has collected enrollment data since 2012.
|———– Kaplan ———–||———– Purdue ———–|
|Enrolled in Distance Courses||2012||2015||2012||2015|
The trends over that time are:
On national enrollment rankings…
Burck Smith is the CEO of StraighterLine. He has been vocal about the changing landscape of the economics of public and private higher education. The following tweets provide a succinct analysis:
Questions (with a Few Comments)
Will the Indiana legislature approve this move? President Daniels is a beloved figure and the odds are good.
Will the Higher Learning Commission approve this move? They will be under tremendous pressure to closely scrutinize the agreement.
Is this just another ploy by a for-profit to become a non-profit? Could be.
Will the consumer groups object vociferously? Probably.
Will this fulfill the land-grant mission? In my interview with EdSurge yesterday, I was asked about their plan to “turn a large profit.” My response: “Profit is not a big part of the land-grant mission.” That does not mean that they shouldn’t profit, but raises even more questions.
Is this only the first of several similar agreements? We will keep you posted.
Will this lead to more competition and scrutiny for the rest of the distance learning providers? A good guess would be yes.