U of Arkansas system plans to acquire Grantham University online
The University of Arkansas system is set to acquire Grantham University online for profit if the system’s board approves the deal this morning, as scheduled.
The 15-institution system has been striving to build a strong presence in online education for some time, and currently offers 24 undergraduate degrees through its in-house eVersity online program. Incorporating Grantham into the Arkansas system as a stand-alone institution would increase the number of available degrees to 60, introduce online graduate programs, and increase its current virtual enrollment by approximately 800 students. 4000.
An acquisition is “the fastest way to grow rather than investing a lot of money in these efforts,” said Michael Moore, vice president of system academic affairs and director of operations and studies for eVersity. “You can certainly develop a program that way, but it’s expensive and incremental.”
Without this growth, the system’s online efforts could fail, said Trace Urdan, managing director of Tyton Partners, an education consulting firm.
“It’s a market where you really just need a scale to be effective,” said Urdan.
The agreement is virtually free for the University of Arkansas. The terms of the acquisition dictate that Grantham would transfer its assets – which include its employees, students, marketing department, tuition revenue and course offerings – to the system for just $ 1.
It sounds too good to be true, but Grantham was looking for a “successor-steward” for the 70-year-old institution based in Lenexa, Kan., Moore said. As the online market gets more crowded, it has become more difficult to stand out.
“At first, online was pretty much the preserve of for-profit alone,” Moore said. “The shift of nonprofits and the public to the Internet – along with the increased regulatory scrutiny of for-profit organizations – has made it really tough to compete. “
A spokesperson for Grantham declined to comment on the pending acquisition agreement and redirected questions to the University of Arkansas.
The University of Arkansas plans to retain Grantham’s 170 staff and 240 part-time faculty. Grantham students will have access to course offerings in the university system online and on campus, although Moore expects them to choose to stay online.
If the system board votes to approve the acquisition agreement, the Grantham board of directors and the board of Level Playing Field Corp. – the owner of Grantham – will have to give the green light to the transaction. The plan is also dependent on the approval of the Distance Education Accreditation Commission, Grantham and the eVersity Accreditor.
The acquisition would expand the system’s online revenue stream and provide it with another defense against shortfalls and budget cuts, said Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, a non-profit think tank. Grantham’s available credentials also match current careers in the state.
“It struck me as very focused on particular areas of career guidance that are likely needed within the state,” Horn said. “I suspect that the other thing that was exciting for them was that it probably corresponded to the areas where they knew there would be a demand.
Arkansas’ acquisition of Grantham differs from some of the other high-profile for-profit acquisitions in recent years. Purdue University’s purchase of online giant Kaplan University in 2017 raised eyebrows as it allowed Kaplan, Inc. – the university’s former owner – to continue to tap into the university’s non-academic facets and included a revenue sharing agreement between the company and Purdû.
More recently, the University of Arizona has come under fire for its acquisition of the University of Ashford, a for-profit online institution. Faculty members spoke out against the deal last year, saying Ashford used to prey on vulnerable students.
Grantham has a good reputation among students, Moore said. The deal also does not include a revenue sharing agreement between the two institutions, nor does it allow the owners of Grantham to continue to control the institution after the transaction is complete.
“We did our due diligence on this institution,” Moore said.
The University of Arkansas has a head start, said Urdan of Tyton Partners. It is likely that more and more public systems will seek to acquire universities online, in part because most – including Grantham – primarily serve adult learners, the military and veterans, who are populations rather than institutions. public should work to register in the first place. , he said.
“It’s a market that is really, from a mission point of view, the business of state institutions,” Urdan said. “I think this migration from for-profit schools to public universities is still in its early stages.”