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Purdue Senate Forms A Committee To Question The Kaplan Deal

Stan Jastrzebski

The Purdue University Senate is taking additional actions to scrutinize the school’s decision to purchase online educator Kaplan University.

At the Senate’s first meeting of the academic year Monday, members announced creation of a special committee to serve as a fact-finding body about the deal and Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Frank Dooley took almost 20 minutes of questions about the agreement.

Senators grilled Dooley about some of the fundamental underpinnings of the deal, including President Mitch Daniels’ claim that the merger aligns with Purdue’s land grant mission.

Math professor Ralph Kaufmann noted the land grant legislation was designed for public universities to help students in the states where their campuses reside, and not necessarily educate students in other locations.

“So I’m puzzled why Purdue has acquired something which is sort of not really inside the mission as a land grant university towards Indiana, but larger,” Kaufmann says.

Senators also asked whether existing online courses Purdue offers would conflict with Kaplan’s offerings. Vice Provost Dooley says that’s still up for discussion.

“I think one of the criteria that probably determines is ‘are these programs really aimed at different populations of students?’ And if that’s the case, maybe you can maintain both,” Dooley says.

Economics professor Stephen Martin likened Kaplan to Ivy Tech Community College.

“And from my admittedly civilian knowledge, Ivy Tech isn’t working," Martin says. "And if Purdue is going to get involved in trying to serve the same market segment that Ivy Tech is trying to serve, we ought to try and get a good understanding why they are not working, because we don’t want to make the same mistakes.”

Indiana lawmakers have chided the state’s community college in recent years for poor graduation rates, even among students who study for six years or more.

Dooley says it may be an unfair comparison.

He says most Ivy Tech students are in the typical 18-24 year old age range for college students, while the median age for a Kaplan student is about ten years older than that.

Current Senate Chair Alberto Rodriguez says he wants to create, in his words, “resolutions with teeth.” He says he doesn’t want the Senate to seem combative about the Kaplan deal, but does want to aggressively question it.