Back in April 2017, faculty were called into a meeting and told that Purdue University would purchase for-profit Kaplan University, according to professor and University Senate member David Sanders. He said the response was “stunned silence.”
Faculty were not consulted on the deliberations. The decision was made by upper administration and Kaplan University.
Faculty speculated on why Kaplan University was bought in the first place.
Sanders hypothesizes two reasons: “One is that eventually the tuition freeze is unsustainable ... so eventually there will be money from Purdue Global finding its way to help Purdue West Lafayette. Another hypothesis is certain people see this as the future. I refer to it as the Walmart-ization of higher education. ... It’s cheap, it’s fast, but in two years, it’ll be broken. The same thing is true with this sort of education.”
Purdue President Mitch Daniels explained his decision to Fox correspondent Paul Gigot in May 2017.
“We are a land-grant school. We take that very seriously,” he said. “Abe Lincoln and his allies put us there explicitly to democratize higher education, to open it up beyond the wealthy and the privileged. And in this era where there are tens of millions of Americans who miss the chance at a post-secondary degree the first time around, we cannot honor that mission if we stop at age 22.”
But Sanders questions how this acquisition aligns with Purdue’s mission.
“The whole model is how much money can we make, rather than how can we actually serve the students, treat the faculty with respect and so on,” Sanders said.
The co-chair of the Senate Select Committee on the Global Entity, Stephen Beaudoin, had a different opinion.
“The model is not contradictory (to Purdue West Lafayette’s), but is entirely different. Purdue Global is interested in identifying people already established in their lives and giving them additional skills,” Beaudoin said.
One of Sanders’ main concerns over the intentions of Purdue Global lies in the amount spent on advertising.
“The marketing budget for Purdue Global is $100 million,” he said. “If the goal is to serve students, why do we have to recruit them so hard?”
Beaudoin’s answer is that online education is a very competitive environment.
“I don’t think marketing is sacrificing what they are doing in the classroom,” Beaudoin noted.
That comment may be invalid when recruiters are being paid more than faculty, according to Sanders.
The biggest worry Sanders has is that Purdue Global will devalue the West Lafayette degree. He says association with the business model, inferior standards and questionable practices of Purdue Global could lead to the tarnishing of Purdue’s reputation.
“If you look at the ad, the ad ends up with Purdue Global logo on the space station,” he said. “Now there’s no ... aeronautical engineering being taught at Purdue Global; there’s no astronomy; there’s no physics being taught; they are exploiting the Purdue name and Purdue’s glorious history of ... making major contributions to the space program in this country.”