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Purdue University's proposal last month to buy Kaplan University, the degree-granting arm of the for-profit education company that bears the Kaplan name, has the potential to reshape the online learning landscape and redefine the role of public universities. But the arrangement will require approval from a range of regulatory entities for those possibilities to become realities.

Inside Higher Ed on Tuesday published a deeply reported analysis of what may lie ahead for Purdue and Kaplan as they try to gain regulatory approval for New University, the placeholder name for the new institution created out of the Indiana land-grant university's proposed purchase of Kaplan.

Perhaps the biggest question marks about regulatory approval of the Purdue-Kaplan deal revolve around the unusual way that the arrangement may seek to blend characteristics of public, private nonprofit and for-profit institutions.

This is terrain that the accreditor charged with reviewing the deal, the Higher Learning Commission, wrestled with several years ago as it assessed -- and ultimately quashed -- the development of an online two-year college by Ohio's Tiffin University and a for-profit company.

“They’re in a position where they feel very vulnerable and they’re working with these anomalous institutions that nobody had in mind when regional accreditation was put together,” Sally Johnstone, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management and a former vice president for academic advancement at Western Governors University, told Inside Higher Ed.

Purdue says the new institution will be classified as a public institution for federal financial aid purposes, but critics wonder: How can the department consider this new institution to be a public university if it’s structured as a limited liability corporation that poses virtually no financial risk to the state?

To read the full Inside Higher Ed article, please click here.

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