Why State Universities Buy Online Colleges

Even before the pandemic, major colleges and universities were taking online education seriously. And that already growing interest has exploded since COVID-19 forced nearly every institution to teach temporarily online.

But we’ve seen an interesting trend in how some state universities have decided to jump into e-learning, with big buzz. Here’s the emerging approach: buy an existing online college that already has thousands, if not tens of thousands, of students.

Purdue University did this in 2017 when it bought the for-profit Kaplan University, which had about 32,000 students, most of them online. The University of Arizona followed the same playbook in 2020 when it purchased for-profit Ashford University, which had 35,000 students online at the time. And more recently, the University of Massachusetts announced that it would essentially buy control of Brandman University, a nonprofit institution with about 10,000 online students.

Why don’t these well-known universities just build their own online campuses instead of buying institutions with a very different faculty and model? And what does it say about the future of online education, both in colleges and schools?

We dig deeper into these questions for this week’s EdSurge podcast.

To achieve this, EdSurge spoke with new UMass Global Chancellor David Andrews. UMass Global is still adjusting to its merger last year with Brandman University. Brandman was created as a spin-off by Chapman University in 1958 to serve Army students and other students of non-traditional ages.

Andrews has only been at the helm for a few months and he brings an interesting perspective as someone who has long worked to use technology to better tailor education to each student. He was most recently president of the National University, and before that, dean of education at Johns Hopkins University.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher or anywhere you listen to podcasts, or use the player on this page.

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