- The U.S. Department of Education has approved the sale of Kaplan University to Purdue University — a controversial transaction which came with a $1 price tag and allows the Kaplan company to still maintain administrative control, while potentially reaping profits.
- The department also gave its blessing on the sale of for-profit Art Institutes, which Buzzfeed calls "much murkier" because the buyer, the Dream Center, is "a tiny, inexperienced nonprofit."
- These approvals are a good sign for the rest of the industry, as more for-profit institutions consider converting to non-profits as a way to revive the struggling institutions.
There is much scrutiny around the move to transition these for-profit entities to nonprofit status, but the blessing of the U.S. Department of Education presents a huge opportunity for revival among struggling for-profit institutions. Purdue-Kaplan in particular sets a model for higher education as a whole which could also help provide a boost to traditional higher ed as well. Already, institutions like the University of Georgia and University of Missouri are partnering with bootcamps to help provide additional certification options for their students, unbundled for traditional degree programs.
In general, for-profit institutions do a better job with marketing and better understanding the needs of non-traditional students. As non-traditional becomes the new normal, the rest of higher ed has struggled to adapt to the different challenges these students bring to campus. On the other side, though, academic integrity is often questioned on for-profits, as there is a financial incentive to enroll as many students as possible, but no penalty for not graduating these students in a timely fashion. Marrying together for-profits and traditional nonprofit institutions would bring the administrative capacity and strengths of the for-profit sector to the academic strengths of the nonprofit sector and theoretically create a model which better serves students.