Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global

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Purdue University Global
Type Public, Distance education
Established 2018 (2018)
Academic affiliation
Purdue University system
Chancellor Betty Vandenbosch
Students 29,000[1]
Official Purdue University Global Logo.png

Purdue University Global (PG) is an adult-serving public university, operated as part of the Purdue University system. With content delivered mostly online, Purdue University Global's programs focus on career-oriented fields of study at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. The university also has eight physical classroom locations and an online law school.[2]

Purdue Global was created in April 2018 from Purdue University's acquisition of the former private for-profit Kaplan University.[3] Kaplan continues to offer non-academic support services such as human resources, marketing and technology support by contract, under the supervision of Purdue University. PG's academic headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois; its main campus (for accreditation purposes) is in Indianapolis, Indiana; and its online support centers are in Chicago and in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[4]


Purdue University President, Mitch Daniels, announced the intent to acquire Kaplan University in April 2017 in order to expand Purdue's land-grant mission by serving a wider group of students than the university was able to reach at its traditional campuses, and to bolster Purdue's online education capabilities.[5] From 2017 to January 2018, the school's temporary placeholder name was NewU.[6][7] Purdue University Global's lineage is rooted in a series of for-profit colleges: American Institute of Commerce (1937-1999), Quest College (1999-2000), and Kaplan College (2000-2004), later renamed Kaplan University (2004-2017).[8][9] In the years prior to its sale to Purdue University, Kaplan University's parent company, Kaplan Inc., closed or sold several schools, including Kaplan College (a primarily brick and mortar vocational school, not to be confused with the online university that became Kaplan University in 2004),[10] and Kaplan Career Institute, which were purchased by Education Corporation of America in 2015.[11][12] Kaplan University was the last accredited higher education institution owned by Kaplan, Inc.

Purdue University, a state university in Indiana, purchased Kaplan University for one dollar in March 2018.[13][14] In February 2019, Papa John's Pizza announced that all its employees would receive free tuition at Purdue Global.[15] In June 2019, Walmart announced that Purdue Global would be one of six schools in their Live Better U education benefit program.[16] The program is being marketed with the "chance to get a degree for the cost of a dollar a day."[17] At least five Purdue Global physical locations have closed or are in the process of closing since Purdue took over.[18]

Academic relationships within Purdue System

Purdue incorporated Purdue Global into its network of campuses, which also include a flagship, Tier-1 research university[19] in West Lafayette, Indiana, and two regional campuses known as Purdue Northwest and Purdue Fort Wayne. Each campus of the Purdue University system has its own admissions policies and transfers between the campuses are highly limited.[20] With the exception of Purdue Global, all degrees from all Purdue University campuses and Purdue degree programs offered through Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis and Purdue Polytechnic Institute share a similar diploma bearing the name of the institution granting the degree and the city in which it is given. Purdue Global graduates receive a diploma that uses the name "Purdue University Global" instead of the system name, and bears the Purdue Global logo in place of the Purdue University seal. Purdue University and Purdue University Global share the same alumni association.[21]

Purdue University Global is classified by the U.S. Department of Education as a four-year public university[22] but because it does not receive state tax dollars, it is exempt from some of the public records disclosure requirements of public universities in Indiana. According to the 2017 law that enabled Purdue or any other Indiana university to create an affiliated education institution,[23] it still must report financial, academic and student success data to Indiana regulators, and any decisions made by the traditional side of Purdue or emails received by Purdue's administration remain eligible to the open records law, even if they pertain to Purdue Global.[24]

In July 2019, Purdue Polytechnic Institute announced it had received a $12 million grant from the US Department of Labor to enable 5,000 students to go through a cybersecurity apprenticeship program over the next four years. The Polytechnic Institute will partner with Purdue Global to offer online instruction nationwide for "nontraditional students" seeking work in the cybersecurity industry.[25][26]

Campus and learning site locations

Purdue Global's main campus is in Indianapolis, Indiana. Purdue Global has additional learning sites in Iowa (Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Des Moines), Maryland (Rockville), and Nebraska (Lincoln).


In 2017, Purdue President Mitch Daniels stated that the Purdue University deal with Kaplan incurred "virtually no financial risk", and had a "strong upside potential."[27] Purdue Global receives revenues from student tuition, tuition from corporate partners, grant or scholarship aid, Title IV funds, GI Bill funds, and Department of Defense Tuition Assistance. Title IV funds include Pell Grants and federal student loans. The 2017-18 statistics are:[22]

  • Federal student loans: $78,642,648
  • Grant or scholarship aid: $64,847,510
  • Pell Grants: $55,790,475

According to Purdue University, Purdue University Global spent $18 million more than it took in as revenue in FY 2018, its first year of operation.[28] Purdue University Treasurer Bill Sullivan said this was "a deliberate strategic choice and was, importantly, prefunded by Kaplan Higher Education (KHE) through the assets it brought to Purdue at acquisition" valued at more than $66 million in cash. Sullivan also stated that he expected "elevated startup costs to continue into 2019 and more modestly in 2020" but pointed to elements of the acquisition that prioritize revenues to Purdue University and protect the assets of the Purdue traditional system.[29] Graham Holdings Company, reported that it recorded $16.8 million in service fees with Purdue Global in 2018, based on an assessment of its collectability under the Transition and Operations Support Agreement.[30] In April 2019, Purdue spokesman Tim Doty stated that Purdue University "has invested over $1 million so employees and their families can continue, complete or further their education” through Purdue University Global in the form an employee benefit that offers free tuition to all Purdue employees and their families.[31]

In June 2018 it was estimated that Kaplan Higher Education would spend about $200 million on 'back office services' and $100 million in marketing for Purdue Global.[32] The left-leaning Century Foundation claims that in 2016-17, before the change of management, the school spent 18 cents for instruction for every dollar of tuition received.[33] Although Purdue Global has not stated the current ratio publicly, CFO Bill Sullivan dismissed such claims, saying lower costs are "the nature of the internet age. It also costs Amazon less to operate than Target and iTunes or Pandora less than your local record store."[29]

Offerings, enrollment, and student body

Purdue Global serves approximately 29,000 students.[1] It is mainly an online university, but also has locations in Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, and Maine.[3][34] Following the management change that put Purdue in charge, six physical classroom spaces were closed or will close in 2019, including Hagerstown, Maryland; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri; Cedar Falls, Iowa;[35] Mason City, Iowa; and Omaha, Nebraska.[36]

Purdue Global is academically organized into seven schools:

  • School of Business[37] and Information Technology[38]
  • Concord Law School[39] Concord Law School is not accredited by the American Bar Association, which does not accredit online universities. As such, California is the only state allowing Concord's graduates to take the state bar exam.[40] Concord's pass rate for the July 2018 sitting of the California bar exam was 29% for first-time takers and 9% for repeat takers, compared to 55% and 16% overall pass rates, respectively.[41]
  • School of General Education[42]
  • School of Health Sciences[43]
  • School of Nursing[44] Purdue University Global has a 68 percent NCLEX pass rate.[45]
  • Open College[46]
  • College of Social and Behavioral Sciences[47]

According to Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, the contrast between the typical Purdue West Lafayette student and the targeted Purdue Global student is "stark."[48][49] Around the time Kaplan transitioned into the Purdue system, approximately 12 percent of Purdue Global's student body were full-time students.[50] The demographics of the student population were 71 percent female, 49 percent white, 29 percent black, 12 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian, 1 percent Pacific Islander, and 1 percent Native American. According to Purdue Global, 60 percent of Kaplan's students were over age 30, and the mean student income at enrollment was $22,323. For 55 percent of the students, neither parent attended college.[51] While the socio-economic diversity of Purdue University is 17 percent, the federal government has not yet reported a diversity number for Purdue Global.[52]


Purdue University Global offers both traditional programs and standardized competency-based learning.[53] This allows Purdue Global to offer college credit to students who can demonstrate they have mastered certain learning outcomes[53] through professional and military training.[54] Members of the US Army, National Guard, Reserves, and veterans can obtain an AAS degree in small group management with six courses, a bachelor's degree in liberal studies with seven additional course and a master's in management with 10 additional courses.[55]

Following the acquisition, all Kaplan faculty became Purdue Global faculty which now include approximately 320 full-time faculty and 1,590 part-time faculty.[56] Purdue University faculty are expected to become increasingly involved in launching programs and courses in the Purdue Global online system. To date, three new programs have been added in collaboration with Purdue's West Lafayette faculty including programs in pharmacy, and aviation.[57]

Like Purdue's other campuses, Purdue Global is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Specific degree programs are accredited by the ACBSP, ABET, CCNE, AHIMA, NALA, and others. Its master of science degree in finance is also registered with the Certified Financial Planner board and qualifies graduates to sit the CFP examination.[58] Purdue Global's law school,Concord Law School, is the only fully online law school in the country. Given that the American Bar Association does not accredit online universities, the school is unaccredited[59] but students may still sit for the bar in California, or pursue an executive JD, designed for executives and others who seek graduate level training in law but do not wish to become attorneys.

More than a 16 months after its ownership change, the US Department of Education's College Scorecard has not assessed Purdue University Global's online campus. Past scores of Kaplan University, conducted prior to the takeover by Purdue University, placed Kaplan's on-time graduation rate at 23 percent, similar to other Indiana schools serving non-traditional students such as Ivy Tech and Vincennes University.[60][61][62] In the same era, the typical Kaplan student had on average 3.7 risk factors proven to lead to lower student outcomes, including being older than age 22, attending school part-time, filing taxes as an independent, having a GED, working full-time, having legal dependents other than a spouse, or being a single parent.[63] Most Kaplan students enrolled were entirely online but of those enrolled at a physical campus, 26 percent had begun repaying their loans by 2018 after leaving school in 2015.[64]. To date, the College Scorecard only reports Kaplan data from brick and mortar programs. Data is not available for students who enrolled while under Purdue's management as Purdue Global.[65]

Leadership and administration

Mitch Daniels is the president of Purdue University Global.[66] He reports to Purdue Global's board of trustees, which is appointed by the Purdue University Board of Trustees. Five of Purdue's University's trustees also serve on the Purdue Global board.[67] Dr. Betty Vandenbosch serves as Chancellor of Purdue Global and reports to the president of Purdue University and the six-member Purdue Global Board of Trustees. Vandenbosch previously was Dean of the School of Business and Information Technology at Kaplan University.[68] Christopher Ruhl is the Chief Financial Officer. Ruhl served as the senior vice president, chief financial officer, and general counsel at Ivy Tech Community College from 2012 to 2017. He also was director of the Indiana Office of Management & Budget (OMB), director of the Indiana State Budget Agency, and policy director and general counsel for the Indiana OMB under Governor Mitch Daniels.[69]

Relationship with Kaplan Higher Education, Inc.

Purdue University Global contracts with Kaplan Higher Education, Inc., a division of Kaplan, Inc., for support in "marketing and advertising, front-end student advising, admissions support, financial aid and student finance, international student recruitment, test preparation, business office, technology support, human resources, finance and accounting functions".[70] The Purdue trustees retain management control and responsibility over these areas.

According to the contract terms, Kaplan receives 12.5 percent of the university's revenue, as long as funds are available after all operating expenses and guaranteed payments to Purdue have been covered.[70] Kaplan guarantees Purdue $10 million every year for the first five years. Kaplan will make up the difference if PG revenues are insufficient. At the time of purchase, Kaplan's owners paid $20 million to Purdue, pursuant to that agreement.[70][71] The agreement also stipulates that if Purdue alters the university's operations in a way that significantly reduces the school's revenues, Kaplan could seek reimbursement for 12.5 percent of the lost revenue. An independent financial analyst would be tasked to adjudicate the issue.[72] Since the acquisition, Purdue leadership has made several changes including lowering tuition for Indiana residents, offering free tuition to Purdue employees and their families,[73] and closing ground campuses in at least five locations.

If Purdue Global incurs $25 million in cash operating losses for three consecutive years, or total cash operating losses of more than $75 million at any point, either Purdue or Kaplan Higher Education can terminate the contract.[74] Upon termination, Purdue University Global would retain the assets that Kaplan contributed, but would also assume responsibility for any liability arising from the operation of the institution.[72] One critic, Bob Shireman, argues the cost of buying out of the 30-year deal is "prohibitive."[75]

Praise and criticism

In May 2017, the Purdue University Senate passed a resolution condemning the deal between Kaplan Higher Education and Purdue University.[76] In September 2017, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) warned that Purdue's acquisition of Kaplan University posed major risks for Purdue University's students and reputation. They added that Kaplan has a “shameful record” as a “predatory” school.[77] Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, stated that the two senators were "misinformed".[78] Regarding criticisms of Kaplan's for-profit days, Daniels quotes former Democratic Senator Tom Harkin who led a massive 2011 investigation into the for-profit education sector but praised Kaplan for standing "alone among the large, for-profit education companies for having taken what are, in my opinion, real and significant steps to reduce high withdrawal rates and high default rates by implementing the Kaplan Commitment program."[79][80]

In January 2018, the former Under Secretary of Education under Barack Obama, Ted Mitchell, praised the university that would become Purdue Global for its massive investments "in a learning platform that is, in my estimation, among the best in the country ... It is a 'lab' whose continued work promises insights not only for [Purdue Global] but for [Purdue University] and the wider field..." and that "Kaplan has been a pioneer in creating protections for students." Mitchell, the force behind Obama's Gainful Employment rules, also praised Kaplan for strong results and for taking action when they came up short, saying "Kaplan’s results have been strong, and where they haven’t, as in the failure of a number of their programs to meet the Gainful Employment thresholds, they have taken action to either remediate or close the programs…That’s how we want institutions to react to troubling outcomes.”[81] Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education under Obama who, with Mitchell, led a crackdown on the for-profit sector, praised the potential behind Purdue's acquisition of Kaplan University, saying “...I’m excited by this opportunity for a world-class university to expand its reach and help educate adult learners by acquiring a strong for-profit college. This is a first, and if successful, could help create a new model for what it means to be a land-grant institution.”[82] Harvard researcher Todd Rogers praised the launch of Purdue Global for its potential to generate “more learning and greater scaled implementation of interventions that help students succeed" and that the university had "...a genuine commitment to using learning and motivational sciences to improve student outcomes, and to conducting high quality research to become a leader in contributing to those sciences".[83]

On January 16, 2018, the Purdue Exponent editorial board stated that the Purdue University Global name was "downright deceitful" for using the Purdue name and not including the Kaplan name.[84] In August 2018, former deputy undersecretary of education Bob Shireman called Purdue University Global "a for-profit college masquerading as a public university."[85] Daniels pointed out that Shireman has been accused of misrepresenting facts in his criticisms[86] and had been forced to leave the U.S. Department of Education under a cloud of accusations that he had colluded with short-sellers attempting to reduce stock values in the for-profit sector.[87][88] PG initially required students to waive most rights to sue the school and submit disputes to arbitration. The American Association of University Professors called this policy “the stuff of predatory for-profit colleges, not a leading public research institution”. The AAUP petitioned the Higher Learning Commission, the school's accrediting body, on this issue. In September 2018, Senators Durbin and Brown called for Purdue to get rid of that policy, which came from the Kaplan rulebook.[14][73] The policy was eliminated within the first year of the acquisition.[89][90]

In January 2019, the Purdue Exponent stated that faculty were not consulted on the deliberations for the Purdue Global acquisition.[91] Biologist David Sanders, a Purdue professor, university senate member, and local Democratic politician, hypothesized that the deal was enacted to help pay for the tuition freeze at the West Lafayette campus or that "'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.'" Sanders added he was concerned about Purdue University Global's $100 million marketing budget.[91] That same month, professors at Purdue University complained that Purdue Global was enrolling traditional students, which was in opposition to what Global had originally promised.[92] The PG chancellor responded while there was no formal policy that prevented a full-time, traditional student from enrolling in a course as a non-degree seeking student, it was not the university's intent to enroll such students, and that only five of PG's 29,000 students enrolled in a single course in 2018.[93] In May 2019, three professors claimed that Purdue University Global was draining Purdue University's branch campuses, and the deal with Kaplan Higher Education was "online folly.[94] Purdue University CFO Bill Sullivan responded that the degree to which the piece "misread Purdue's financial statements and distorted both the financial state and mission of Purdue Global is truly disappointing and unfortunate." Sullivan added that "In negotiating the acquisition of Kaplan University, we crafted an agreement that provided a nearly impenetrable defense of Purdue's finances.[29]

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