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Purdue launches new public university that will take no state funding

Deal criticized by lawyer who can’t spell ‘Purdue’

During a time when public university leaders around the country are complaining that taxpayers aren’t doing to enough to pad their budgets and salaries – already bloated by easy federal money – Purdue University is doing the opposite.

It’s buying Kaplan University, the sprawling for-profit institution that specializes in “distance education” and operates 15 campuses and learning centers, serving 32,000 students.

And the Indiana public university is promising taxpayers they won’t pay another dime for this massive expansion of public education.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana and smartest man in higher ed, said in a news release today that it was fulfilling its “land-grant mission in the 21st century”:

None of us knows how fast or in what direction online higher education will evolve, but we know its role will grow, and we intend that Purdue be positioned to be a leader as that happens. A careful analysis made it clear that we are very ill-equipped to build the necessary capabilities ourselves, and that the smart course would be to acquire them if we could.

Unlike other institutions in the Purdue system, the new university will only take “tuition and fundraising” to sustain its operations, which will be primarily online. Indiana students will get a tuition discount that is yet to be determined; the state already has a Kaplan facility in Indianapolis.

It’s also being careful not to bloat up like so many other public universities: A long-term “transition and operations support agreement” with a Kaplan Inc. subsidiary will cover non-academic services like tech support and HR.

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President Obama’s controversial secretary of education, Arne Duncan, also praised the deal for setting an example that “could help create a new model for what it means to be a land-grant institution.”

Inside Higher Ed says Kaplan Inc. will provide non-academic services “with a 30-year term, with a buyout option after six,” and Purdue is paying only a “nominal” up-front payment:

Purdue will join several nonprofit institutions that are increasingly dominating online education, including Arizona State, Liberty, Southern New Hampshire and Western Governors Universities.

The transaction is already drawing scorn from a Huffington Post contributor who can’t even spell “Purdue” correctly.

The College Fix previously covered lawyer David Halperin because he’s helping students sue George Mason University to get records about Charles Koch Foundation* donations to the school.

Halperin writes:

The deal looks like the latest attempt by the owners of a struggling, troubled for-profit college to salvage its investment, in an era where terrible abuses by many for-profit schools ― deceptive recruiting, sky-high prices, and misrepresentations to government overseers ― have tarnished the reputations and hurt the bottom lines of many companies in the industry, and led to new regulations to curb for-profit misconduct.

He doesn’t believe Purdue that taxpayers won’t pay for anything the new university does:

But locking the taxpayers of Indiana into a deal to take over Kaplan and retain Graham Holdings [for non-academic services] for decades doesn’t look like the right way forward, even if Purdue says New University “will be self-sufficient and will not require an appropriation from the state.”

Read the Purdue statement, IHE story and HuffPo article.


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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.