What Happens When a Public University Buys For-Profit, Online School?

When leaders of Purdue University wanted to move into online education, they took the unusual step of buying an existing online university, a big one with 30,000 students. And here’s the most surprising part: that online school it bought, Kaplan University, was a for-profit business—part of a sector that’s been criticized for high costs and poor outcomes for students.

It’s hard to think of another example of two more different higher education cultures placed under the same name.

The deal sparked vocal protests from Purdue professors, and hundreds of them signed petitions opposing the arrangement, calling it an unprecedented privatization of public education. Purdue leaders, meanwhile, say that Kaplan has better outcomes than other for-profits and that it serves an important audience of adult students who aren’t able to go to a traditional campus.

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