The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits the University of Phoenix and roughly 500 other colleges across the United States, has formally approved the for-profit university’s acquisition by a nonprofit affiliated with the University of Idaho.
The arrangement, which was announced in May, has, like numerous other takeovers of currently or formerly for-profit institutions by public institutions, stirred controversy and drawn scrutiny from policy makers urging caution.
The Higher Learning Commission certainly knew that its decision would be closely watched. U.S. senators critical of the deal copied the leaders of the Midwestern accreditor (and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which accredits the University of Idaho) on a September letter asking a series of tough questions about the purchase.
But the commission’s Board of Trustees, among a series of actions taken at its meeting this month, approved what it calls a “change of control, structure or organization” for Phoenix, in which Four Three Education Inc., the nonprofit organization created by Idaho, will acquire “substantially all of the assets of the institution, thereby becoming the superordinate entity of the institution.”
In an email message Tuesday night confirming the board’s action, Barbara Gellman-Danley, the accrediting agency’s president, said that its policy and federal rules require that “an institution that undergoes a change of control must consummate the transaction within thirty (30) days of the approval and then must host a focused visit” by the agency’s officials with six months of that date.
The Idaho-Phoenix marriage will also require review from the University of Idaho’s accreditor, the Northwest Commission, and the U.S. Education Department before it becomes final.