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California Ends Deal With Kaplan

August 26, 2010

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has terminated a controversial deal with Kaplan University that allowed students at some overcrowded community colleges the ability to take online courses from the for-profit institution at a discount.

Last week, Barry A. Russell, California Community Colleges' vice chancellor of academic affairs, sent a formal letter to Greg F. Marino, Kaplan’s president, noting the decision to end the “memorandum of understanding” made last year. Though no formal rationale was given, Russell did note that he and other officials heard concern about the deal.

“Community college constituencies express concern that transfer agreements with University of California and California State University have not been completed …,” Russell wrote. “Without these transfer agreements, the [memorandum of understanding] could have a negative effect on students and the community college system.”

Jack Scott, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, and other officials from his office did not wish to make any additional comment on the termination. Kaplan officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The deal with Kaplan was seen by some as a solution to the overcrowding problem at the state’s community colleges, where many students have stopped making progress toward earning a degree simply because they are unable to get access to a handful of necessary courses. As news of the deal spread this spring, however, faculty groups were up in arms about the move, raising concerns about the quality of the courses offered by Kaplan. Others argued that the state was trying to hide from its responsibility to provide the needed courses at the community colleges, and noted that the Kaplan courses, even with discounts, were more expensive than those at community colleges.

Jane Patton, president of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and a communications professor at Mission College, applauded the news of the termination.

"The faculty in the community colleges appreciates the chancellor's decision to exercise the option to terminate the [memorandum of understanding] with Kaplan University," Patton wrote in a statement. "We have been concerned about potential negative effects on students — particularly the fact that Kaplan courses could not later be carried with them to other universities. Terminating the [memorandum of understanding] was the right thing to do."

Scott Lay, president of the California Community College League, an independent lobbying group for the state’s two-year institutions, said in an e-mail that he did not know of any college that had formally started a working agreement with Kaplan to offer online courses during the nine-month period.

“This really just ends the commitment to provide research data on students who enroll at Kaplan,” wrote Lay, referring to a data-sharing stipulation of the deal that some critics of for-profit education were looking forward to seeing. “Kaplan could go a long way to building goodwill with California by voluntarily sharing this data with the Chancellor's Office.”

 

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