Opinion: If you can buy a university for $1, you’ll likely get what you pay for

Why are large universities taking risk by partnering with toxic schools, instead of developing organic capabilities in-house or working with a reputable OPM?

This past month, thousands of student veterans found themselves opening their email inboxes only to find out their school had lost eligibility for the GI Bill, meaning they would be on the hook personally for the cost of attendance. It’s also not the first time that Ashford University — now renamed the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) — has been on the rocks with the GI Bill. As student veterans once again are left in the lurch, the big question remains: How do we keep ending up here?

In 2020, the University of Arizona announced its plan to acquire Ashford University for the price of $1. In doing so, the school soon became the proud owner of what is essentially a distressed asset.

The past two years have ramped up existing pressure on otherwise good schools to rapidly scale their online learning footprint, resulting in several bad deals. The first major transaction of this type occurred in 2018, when Purdue University, a world-renowned school, went forward with a deal to buy Kaplan University for $1. Purdue proceeded with this deal despite widespread outcry from faculty, staff and policymakers — echoed again more recently at the University of Arizona. Then, this past fall, the University of Arkansas announced its plan to buy Grantham University for $1, likely to be yet another bad deal for students.

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