A regional accreditor has approved Purdue University's acquisition of Kaplan University, clearing the way for Purdue University Global, a boundary-testing online venture that is slated to launch in April.
The Higher Learning Commission was the final regulatory hurdle for Purdue Global, which had previously gotten green lights from the U.S. Department of Education and the state of Indiana.
Purdue first announced the proposed acquisition last April. The public university will pay only a nominal fee up front for Kaplan, which enrolls 32,000 students, has 15 campus locations and employs 3,000. Kaplan, however, will continue to run a large portion of the new online university's nonacademic functions, including marketing and advertising, admissions support, financial aid administration, technology and human resources support, accounting, and facilities management.
Critics worry that Kaplan will have too much influence over Purdue Global, which will enjoy certain advantages as a public institution. Some faculty members at Purdue also have complained about the governance structure of the university.
However, Mitch Daniels, Purdue's president and a Republican former governor of Indiana, has said that Purdue Global will extend the university's land-grant mission by making its credentials more accessible to working adults in the state who lack college degrees. He also has pledged that no state money will flow to the new university. With HLC's decision, Purdue "hopes to take a leading role in online learning nationally," Daniels said.
"It opens a new era for our institution, with the opportunity to expand our land-grant mission to millions of adult students around the country," he said Monday in a written statement. "That opportunity brings with it the responsibility to provide the highest quality online education, not only to our new adult learners, but to all residential and online Boilermaker students."