LEWISTON — One final accreditation hurdle remains before Purdue University’s purchase of Kaplan University is complete.
What that will mean for the future of Kaplan’s physical campus in Lewiston remains uncertain.
“At this time, there have been no determinations made regarding the physical campuses,” Brian Zink, Purdue’s senior director of news and information, wrote in an email last week to the Sun Journal.
In April, Purdue, a renowned public university in Indiana with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 30,000 with an additional 10,000 graduate students, announced the deal to purchase the for-profit Kaplan to obtain its vast online network.
The purchase also includes the 14 campus locations throughout the U.S., including Maine sites in Lewiston and Augusta.
Kaplan, however, is confident that all the facilities will remain in operation after the sale.
“There are no plans to close any campus,” Kaplan spokesman Stephen White said.
The deal for Kaplan has already been approved by the U.S. Department of Education and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
All that remains is approval by the Higher Learning Commission, which is reviewing the sale, according to Steve Kauffman, a public information officer for the commission.
It is expected to rule on the matter at its next meeting in February. The commission is a regional accrediting organization that has previously certified both universities individually.
Purdue has made no secret of its desire to create a new online university with Kaplan’s infrastructure in order to expand its programs to reach nontraditional students.
Purdue has said virtually nothing about continuing the brick-and-mortar campuses.
But the Lewiston campus has one unique advantage, Zink noted.
“Specific physical campuses are utilized in certain disciplines for required lab and/or clinical training,” he said. “In the case of the Lewiston site, one of the offerings is a medical assisting program that has on-site clinical requirements.”
While the partnership does not yet have an official name, Purdue will be part of the name. The working title of the new online college is Purdue NewU.
The school will be self-sufficient, relying on tuition and fundraising to cover operating costs. Kaplan will still provide operational support.
Kaplan, which has 32,000 students nationwide, is expected to maintain its open enrollment policy.
The sale has its detractors, most notably the Purdue University faculty. More than 300 have signed a petition that opposes the deal, which was sent to the Higher Learning Commission. The faculty fears that the purchase will harm Purdue’s name, stature and reputation.
“The standards at Kaplan University are not consistent with the emphasis on academic integrity and academic rigor that Purdue University maintains,” according to one of petition’s nine reasons to oppose the deal.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana, isn’t worried following months of negotiations with Kaplan.
Daniels said universities must improve online access to reach the millions of adults who went to college but never finished their degrees.
“We cannot honor our land-grant mission in the 21st century without reaching out to the 36 million working adults, who started but did not complete a college degree, and to the 56 million Americans with no college credit at all,” Daniels said in a statement when the sale was announced.
The rest of the story...