Purdue University, a public institution with headquarters in West Lafayette, in the state of Indiana, announced this Thursday that it will acquire Kaplan, a for-profit university focused on online learning. According to the president of Purdue, Mitch Daniels, this unusual movement for a public institution is aimed at widening the access to Higher education, the “land grant” mission of the institution founded 150 years ago.

"A careful analysis made it clear that we are very ill-equipped to build the necessary capabilities ourselves, and that the smart course would be to acquire them if we could," said the president in a statement.

Today, Purdue is organized in two different divisions, its main campus in West Lafayette, and the regional campuses of Purdue Northwest and IPFW, both within the state of Indiana. The new university, yet to be named, will work completely detached from the existing structure and will not rely on taxpayer money for its funding.

Through the acquisition, Purdue will incorporate 15 new campuses in seven states across the United States and an online university. The 32.000 students and 3.000 employees will also transition to the new university.

Almost exclusively online

The new university, according to Purdue, will operate almost exclusively online, taking advantage of Kaplan’s know-how in the sector.

It will also be dependent solely on fundraising and tuition fees. Indiana residents will have a discount, yet to be defined.

President Mitch Daniels said Purdue is aiming to reach 36 million working young adults who couldn’t complete their higher education programs, along with 56 million adult Americans who do not have any college credit at all.

That may be an important step to provide higher education to those who can't afford it, weeks after New York state announced a ground-breaking bill granting free tuition for four-year institutions. The new university has yet to receive approval from the Education Department through the Higher Learning Commission, its accredited agency.

Change of focus

The sale of the university was the last step of Graham Holdings to get rid of its higher education division. Last year, the company sold 38 campuses to the Education Corporation of America. It also sold the Washington Post to Jeff Besos in 2013.

Kaplan was suffering from a sharp drop in its enrollment rate, like other for-profit institutions. Last year, the university had 22% fewer new students enrolled in its programs. Now, the operations will be concentrated within Kaplan International and Kaplan Test Preparation, which accounted for 60% of the company’s revenues in 2016. It serves more than 1 million students in 30 countries around the globe.