October 25, 2021
The California Community Colleges system has signed a transfer agreement with American Public University System, a for-profit group that operates American Public University and American Military University.
Under the agreement, students who graduate from the California system’s degree transfer program can go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in 38 academic areas at American Military University and American Public University. They will transfer with junior status and without losing credits.
The deal quickly generated criticism that California’s community colleges are working with a for-profit institution with a history of poor student outcomes. But system leaders say students were already transferring to the for-profit system and that the new deal ensures they receive credit for their community college work.
The American Public University System has historically catered to U.S. active military members and veterans. But its owner, for-profit operator American Public Education Inc., has begun to expand its footprint in the last couple of years.
It last year moved to acquire Rasmussen University to grow its pre-licensure nursing programs. In August it agreed to purchase Graduate School USA, which trains employees of the federal government.
The agreement comes as public institutions have tried to build out educational pathways for working adult students and nontraditional students — sometimes by dealing with for-profit providers. Some flagship universities have expanded their online offerings by snapping up for-profit schools, including Purdue University with its purchase of Kaplan University in 2018 and the University of Arizona’s acquisition of Ashford University last year.
In California, a bill signed in July strengthened transfer pathways between California’s community colleges and its two four-year public systems. First-year applicants are guaranteed admission to a University of California or California State University campus of their choosing if they complete an associate degree within two years at a state community college.
Now, students who earned an associate transfer degree at one of the 116 California community colleges can also move to an American Public University System institution and work toward an online bachelor’s degree. Some of the most popular of those programs are criminal justice, accounting and public health.