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The U of Arkansas System brings together 2 online colleges to drive growth. Will it work?

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Last summer, the University of Arkansas system raised a stir when it announced plans to acquire Grantham University, a commercial online institution that serves military students, for just $ 1.

At that time, the system already had an online college – eVersity, which was launched in 2015. The idea was to end up combine Grantham University with eVersitya plan that is implemented in less than a year.

Late last month, trustees of the system voted to shut down eVersity and transfer its assets to an acquired institution now called the University of Arkansas Grantham or UA Grantham. UA Grantham is now a government agency.

The system began the transition process in January when eVersity stopped accepting new entrants and informed existing students of their ability to complete their programs before the summer semester or transfer to Grantham at the same rate. About 200 students have graduated since the transition began, and nearly 300 students have “taken up and enrolled in Grantham,” Nate Hinkel, director of communications for the system, said in an email. About 120 students are in the final eVersity session and will either graduate or transfer.

In total, the system closes about two dozen eVersity degree programs, all of which have parallel programs at Grantham.

The plan builds on eVersity’s efforts by expanding the system’s online diploma offerings, increasing its alumni presence and creating a greater national presence, Hinkel said.

“In short, it allows us to accelerate our growth quickly,” Hinkel said. This is also in line with the system’s mission, he added.

This is also happening at a time when several other government systems or universities are buying online colleges to increase their virtual offerings. University of Massachusetts and University of Arizona these are just two other colleges that have recently acquired or linked to online colleges to serve more adult students – a big market but one that can be hard to break through.

The online marketplace is much more competitive than it was a few years ago, said Michael Horn, who has written books on the future of education.

“And that’s why the cost of getting there is often significant,” Horn said. “You don’t see that many universities these days can do it on their own from a constant start. You either need a real boost, or an experienced partner.”

While buying online colleges can accelerate growth, these deals are not always slams. Higher education experts warn that buyers may find it difficult to connect the spirit of online colleges with the culture of public universities. Colleges may also face increased public scrutiny if they acquire a commercial institution. And they still have to occupy a niche for themselves in a competitive online marketplace.

Association of commercial and government agencies

Mergers and acquisitions of colleges tend to be complex, and leaders focus on the complexity of combining two different cultures and business operations. Buying a commercial can cause even more difficulties.

In 2017, Purdue University announced plans to acquire Kaplan University for $ 1, attracting approximately 32,000 students and 2,500 faculty members. Purdue used the purchase to build an online college for adult students called Purdue University Global. Meanwhile, Kaplan’s former parent company is providing the new online college with services such as marketing, in exchange for a share of its revenue.

The University of Arizona closed a similar deal in late 2020, buying the University of Ashford Commercial and rebranding the school as University of Arizona Global Campus. The University of Arizona has also retained Ashford’s parent company, Zovio, as a service provider in exchange for reduced tuition revenues.

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