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Adtalem Global Education announced today that it will acquire Walden University, an online institution that enrolls 48,000 students, from Laureate Education. Adtalem agreed to a pay $1.48 billion for Walden, the company said.

The for-profit Walden has one of the largest online enrollments in the U.S., according to federal data. Most of Walden's students are enrolled in graduate programs -- just 7,000 are undergrads. About a third of its students are in nursing programs, with its next biggest enrollments in education, management and social work.

Adtalem is the former DeVry Education Group. In 2017 it sold DeVry University, once a large, prominent player in higher education, to a small private company.

Laureate has been selling off institutions for several years. The Baltimore-based, publicly traded Laureate has long been known for its broad global campus network. But Laureate in recent years has been selling off many international institutions as it shifts toward emerging or large markets, including South and Central America.

Walden apparently had been on the blocks in recent years. But Laureate last year decided not to sell the university after weighing some offers.

The acquisition positions Adtalem to become even more focused on health care, the company said.

"By adding Walden to its existing health care portfolio -- which includes American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, Chamberlain University, Ross University School of Medicine and Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine -- Adtalem is better positioned to increase the talent supply to address the rapidly growing and unmet demand for healthcare professionals in the U.S. and globally," Adtalem said in a statement.

The combined institutions will have 26 campuses in 15 states and four countries, the company said, with 6,100 faculty members and more than 90,000 students -- 34 percent of whom are Black.

"The combined organization will rank number one for total undergraduate and graduate nursing enrollment in the U.S. and be the world’s top provider of M.D.s, Ph.D.s and nursing degrees to African Americans," said Adtalem.

The deal is expected to close around mid-year in 2021. It will require approval by accreditors and the federal government.