Kaplan-Purdue Merger Has a Name but Remains Controversial

By Cait Etherington January 11, 2018

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Kaplan University

Early last year, Purdue University, one of the nation’s prestigious land grant institutions, announced that it had purchased Kaplan University from Kaplan Inc. This week the university announced that the new entity will be called Purdue University Global. But will this new institution be able to overcome the controversies that have plagued its existence from the start?

Reactions to the Initial Announcement

Purdue President Mitch Daniels Mitch Daniels announcing the university’s purchase of Kaplan in April 2017 (Purdue University photo/John Underwood).

When announced last April, Purdue University’s acquisition of Kaplan came as a surprise to many and angered some stakeholders. The unprecedented acquisition was orchestrated by Purdue University’s current president, Mitch Daniels, a former Republican governor. For at least some Purdue faculty, the move appeared to be nothing more than an attempt to undermine the university’s commitment to public education, but Daniels disagreed. As Daniels explained at the time, “Nearly 150 years ago, Purdue proudly accepted the land-grant mission to expand higher education beyond the wealthy and the elites of society. We cannot honor our land-grant mission in the 21st century without reaching out to the 36 million working adults, 750,000 of them in our state, who started but did not complete a college degree, and to the 56 million Americans with no college credit at all.”

At the time of the announcement, Daniels was clear that the acquisition was directly tied to Purdue’s desire to expand its online course and program offerings: “None of us knows how fast or in what direction online higher education will evolve, but we know its role will grow, and we intend that Purdue be positioned to be a leader as that happens. A careful analysis made it clear that we are very ill-equipped to build the necessary capabilities ourselves, and that the smart course would be to acquire them if we could. We were able to find exactly what we were looking for. Today’s agreement moves us from a standing start to a leading position.”

As part of the deal, Purdue acquired Kaplan’s institutional operations and assets, including 15 campuses, over 30,000 students, and more than 3,000 employees. Following the announcement, however, the new project received especially harsh criticism from Purdue faculty members. In early May, the ICAAUP (Indiana Conference of the American Association of University Professors) issued a statement objecting to the acquisition on five key grounds. Specifically, the ICAAUP complained that “No faculty input was sought before this decision was made,” and “No assessment of the impact on the academic quality of Purdue was made.” The statement also emphasized that “Non-profit institutions serve the public good; for-profit private institutions serve corporate interests. The two should not mix.”

What We Know about Purdue University Global

In a press release issued this morning, Purdue indicated, “The name [Purdue University Global] will become effective when the acquisition of Kaplan University by Purdue clears the last step in the approval process – review by the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accreditor for both Purdue University and Kaplan University, which is scheduled for Feb. 22.” The university’s press release noted that the Indiana Commission for Higher Education had already voted unanimously to approve the acquisition in August and that the U.S. Department of Education gave its approval in September but with a stipulation that the new institution’s name include the name Purdue.

President Mitch Daniels, who continues to spearhead the project, was predictably enthusiastic, explaining, “Our campuses are typically named after the physical locations where they hold classes. Purdue University Global can be accessed from anywhere in the world, at any time. The name proved appealing and meaningful to our various stakeholders – most importantly prospective students.”

As part of the acquisition, Daniels will also be acquiring a new colleague. As reported this morning in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Betty Vandenbosch, president of Kaplan University, will become chancellor of the new entity known as Purdue University Global.


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    • Mike — you know not what you speak of, my friend. Kaplan University has been the leader in online education and learning technology for a number of years. As with all learning institutions, there are some dark moments and therefor some disgruntled students – who follow a career path to only find out that they made poorly in formed choices. The degree is as REAL and as VAID as the one you received from Purdue. The Higher Learning Commission – the SAME one that accredits YOUR degree from Purdue University, would not give them accreditation if the school did not meet or exceed their standards. Purdue University Global will adhere to the same collegiate standards as Purdue University does and probably more – considering the wild criticism people like you impose they have to be.

  1. Kaplan is and has been a school unrealistic expectations for students! Highly upset with Kaplan because my educational purposes were not in the best interest of the school! I have outstanding balance of 53,000 only to be unable to complete my degree and too, the admission department explained to me, the school woul give me a certificate! Wth! Personally I had “no idea,” the school degree plan in child and family welfare had changed to adolescent and youth administrative! That simply means I waste money and Kaplan stole money because I would have never attended Kaplan under those measurements! I’m contacting the educational department and explain to them, the classes Kaplan charged me for were a complete waste because I did not need the classes and to think my education has been placed on because of Kaplan University! I’m taking a stand because I was not an average student, above average while attending Kaplan! All that did read will read more about me in the near future because I am going to show this school up!