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UMass Online's Grand Plan? A Partnership With Brandman

June 17, 2020

The University of Massachusetts system's announcement last March that it would create a new virtual college aimed at adult students spurred considerable speculation that UMass would become the next public university to make a major move into online learning -- perhaps by buying an existing institution, like Purdue University did with Kaplan University in 2015. Rhetoric from system leaders saying they wanted to compete with major players like Southern New Hampshire University and Western Governors University, and a consultant's report suggesting that the university's best path forward was an "acquisition," fueled that talk.

But it isn't to be. The UMass system announced Tuesday that it was pursuing a "strategic partnership" with Brandman University, a nonprofit spin-off of Chapman University that specializes in educating adult students, 85 percent of them online. In an interview, UMass officials were tight-lipped about the nature of the prospective arrangement, saying more details would be available before the end of 2020. But Don Kilburn, president of UMass Online, said that "we're not buying anything, acquiring anything, and nobody’s putting money out up front."

He added, "There's a real demand for better ways of educating adults in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and recent events have only accelerated the need, and we'll be working with Brandman to address those needs."

Katherine Newman, interim chancellor of UMass's Boston campus, will return to the UMass president's office at the end of July and oversee the academic side of the new arrangement with Brandman.

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Doug Lederman

Doug Lederman is editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed. He helps lead the news organization's editorial operations, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Doug speaks widely about higher education, including on C-Span and National Public Radio and at meetings and on campuses around the country, and his work has appeared in The New York Times and USA Today, among other publications. Doug was managing editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, Doug had worked at The Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. He has won three National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, including one in 2009 for a series of Inside Higher Ed articles he co-wrote on college rankings. He began his career as a news clerk at The New York Times. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and graduated in 1984 from Princeton University. Doug lives with his wife, Kate Scharff, in Bethesda, Md.

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