- The University of the Rockies and Ashford University announced plans for the two for-profit institutions to merge and for Ashford, which will become the combined institution, to seek authorization to convert to non-profit status, reported Inside Higher Ed.
- Pending approval from its accreditor and state and federal regulatory agencies, the converted institution will maintain its relationship with Bridgepoint Education, the corporation that owns Ashford and University of the Rockies, and that will serve as the online program management firm for new institution. The merger follows in the mold of other nonprofit conversions and acquisitions, such as Purdue University's purchase of for-profit Kaplan University, and for-profit Grand Canyon University’s successful bid for nonprofit reclassification.
- The nonprofit conversion movement is the continuing response to regulations established under the Obama administration designed to limit predatory student recruitment that led to the collapse of for-profits including ITT and Corinthian Colleges.
For leaders of the conversion institutions, great care must be taken to help enrollment management and academic development personnel understand the new rules they will face as nonprofit institutions. They will not be allowed to pass through students who barely meet or fall short of requirements for the sake of tuition revenue and completion, and they will not be able to cycle professors in and out of digital classrooms, as these could result in accreditation sanctions.
Traditional institutions must think more strategically about marketing and enrollment standards, particularly of underrepresented students, in order to get ahead of enrollment trends and federal regulations which will endorse the training these schools will bring to labor markets throughout the country.