April 25, 2023
The deeply divided Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas system on Monday rejected a proposal by the system’s chancellor to affiliate the university with a nonprofit entity that has been seeking to buy the for-profit behemoth University of Phoenix.
By a vote of 5 to 4, with one abstention, the Arkansas system’s board rejected a resolution (courtesy of The Arkansas Times) supporting an affiliation with Transformative Education Services.
Under the proposed arrangement, the services company would buy Phoenix (at a price that estimates have placed at about $500 million) and then enter into an agreement with the Arkansas system that would have provided the university up to $20 million a year, according to published reports.
The one trustee who abstained, Kelly Eichler, expressed support for the partnership at a board meeting last week, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. She did not speak at Monday’s emergency meeting, where her abstention was the difference between a 5-to-5 tie and the narrow loss for the proposal.
System president Don Bobbitt, who has led the push to purchase Phoenix, opened Monday’s meeting by asserting that he was seeking the board’s approval even though the arrangement was merely a licensing agreement that he had the authority to carry out.
Although Bobbitt did not offer a public statement after the board’s vote, a spokesman, Nathan Hinkel, offered the following: “Dr. Bobbitt has previously said it would be difficult to move forward without support from the Board for this project. That statement remains true, and he is certainly disappointed in the outcome of the meeting.”