Exterior of Kaplan University on Lisbon Street in Lewiston.
LEWISTON — Purdue University announced Thursday that it is acquiring the for-profit Kaplan University, including its Maine campuses.
The purchase, which requires no money up front, will allow Purdue to start a new global nonprofit public university to serve working adults and nontraditional students. It will also expand the university’s online reach.
Kaplan serves 32,000 students, both online and at 15 campuses in seven states. Three campuses are in Maine: Lewiston, Augusta and South Portland.
“This is a great day for the entire Kaplan student body,” Kaplan-Maine president Christopher Quinn said by phone Thursday. “This is a big day for Maine, as well. Our mission of serving students is the same as we move to partner with Purdue University. It’s an exciting day for us.”
All existing Kaplan students and faculty will transfer to the new university, which does not yet have an official name, but will have Purdue in its name.
Founded in 1869, Purdue University, based in West Lafayette, Ind., is one of the largest public research universities in the nation with an enrollment of more than 40,000. Besides its main campus, Purdue has two branch campuses in Indiana.
The partnership with Kaplan will be a new university with its own identity.
“Nearly 150 years ago, Purdue proudly accepted the land-grant mission to expand higher education beyond the wealthy and the elites of society,” Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said in a statement. “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.”
Purdue had struggled to build a strong online component the past few years, Daniels said. The purchase of Kaplan gives the university the infrastructure to meet a critical need.
“This is the first time a public university is coming together with an established online university,” Daniels said. “I think by any definition, it’s a national first.”
Kaplan was owned by the Graham Holding Co., the former owners of the Washington Post.
Purdue said the transaction will involve no up-front cost. The school will be self-sufficient, relying on tuition and fundraising to cover operating costs. Kaplan will still provide operational support.
With its partnership with Purdue, Quinn said, Kaplan could have the resources to expand its course offerings in the future.
“I’m excited by this opportunity for a world-class university to expand its reach and help educate adult learners by acquiring a strong for-profit university,” former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “This is a first, and if successful, could help create a new model for what it means to be a land-grant institution.”
The U.S. Department of Education and the accreditation agency Higher Learning Commission must approve the deal.
Quinn estimates that the process will take at least six months.
The Kaplan University sign welcomes visitors and students to the Lewiston campus.