By Cait Etherington April 09, 2018
Last week, Purdue University Global finally launched its website and took the first steps toward enrolling new students. They also used the occasion to break out branded swag, including t-shirts and ballcaps emblazoned with the Purdue University Global logo. But can swag tame the controversy that has surrounded Purdue University Global since President Mitch Daniels announced plans to create the new entity last year?
When announced last April, Purdue University’s acquisition of Kaplan received mixed reviews from many members of the Purdue community. For some, the purchase was the ideal way to honor the university’s longstanding mandate. As Daniels explained at the time of the announcement, “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.”
However, following the announcement, the initiative also received harsh criticism from many Purdue faculty members. The ICAAUP (Indiana Conference of the American Association of University Professors), which represents Purdue faculty members, issued a statement objecting to the acquisition on five key grounds. Specifically, they 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, “Non-profit institutions serve the public good; for-profit private institutions serve corporate interests. The two should not mix.”
As stated in a press release issued last week, Purdue University Global officially launched on April 2 by unveiling a new website and logo and opening enrollment to Purdue employees who will receive free tuition for most Purdue Global programs and degrees. Notably, most universities offer their employees and often their dependents free or discounted access to undergraduate-level courses, so the gesture is not unprecedented. Nevertheless, Frank Dooley, Purdue senior vice provost for teaching and learning, emphasized, “More than 450 Purdue employees already have expressed interest in Purdue Global enrollment to take advantage of the career development pathway that additional education can open up for them.” He further noted, “We also have faculty interested in working with the new institution and learning more about its online educational capabilities.”
Betty Vandenbosch, Purdue Global chancellor, described the launch as an “Exciting day for students and all of us involved with Purdue Global as it really marks an important milestone in Purdue fulfilling its land-grant mission even more broadly.” Vandenbosch further emphasized, “We want Purdue Global to be the standard for how public education can be offered to those who want to improve their lives in the way that only education can help realize.” To get into the spirit, the chancellor even modeled some of Purdue University Global’s new swag for the media.
The press release issued last week confirmed that approximately 30,000 students enrolled at Kaplan University have now become students of Purdue Global and further confirmed that Kaplan’s former students will “complete their programs of study with their current instructors without interruption” but will “earn a degree bearing the new institution’s name.”
While at least some Purdue faculty continue to worry about what the new arm of the university will mean for existing and future Purdue students and faculty members, there is no question that with enrollments in process and swag on the table, the university is now well beyond the point of no return. Purdue University Global is clearly officially up and running and only time will tell whether or not Purdue’s faculty had legitimate reason to object to the acquisition in the first place.