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Why State Universities Are Buying Up Online Colleges

Why State Universities Are Buying Up Online Colleges


Jeffrey R. Young
September 6, 2022
Even before the pandemic, big-name colleges and universities were getting serious about online education. And that already-growing interest has ballooned since COVID-19 forced pretty much every institution to teach temporarily online.
But we’ve seen an interesting trend in how some state universities have decided to get into online learning—with a big splash. Here’s the emerging approach: buy an existing online college that already has thousands or even tens of thousands of students.
Purdue University did it in 2017 when it purchased the for-profit Kaplan University, which boasted about 32,000 students, most of them online. The University of Arizona followed the same playbook in 2020 when it bought for-profit Ashford University, which had 35,000 online students at the time. And more recently, the University of Massachusetts announced that it would essentially buy control of Brandman University, a nonprofit institution with roughly 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 at colleges and schools?
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