The University of Arizona announced that it is acquiring the assets of Ashford University and is incorporating it into a new nonprofit entity called the UA Global Campus to further the UA’s expansion of online education.
In an email sent early Monday morning, UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins announced the formation of the UnA Global Campus, a “new nonprofit corporation … which will be operated in affiliation with the University of Arizona.” The 35,000 students enrolled in Ashford University would continue their degrees as students at UA Global Campus.
Ashford University is a for-profit, all-online university accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission. It offers more than 50 associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.
Ashford University is operated by Zovio, an education technology services company. A Frequently Asked Questions document released by the UA explained that in selling Ashford University to the UA, “Global Campus will become Zovio’s client.”
Though the FAQ document states the UA is “investing only $1 to acquire Ashford University” from Zovio, it later explained that “Zovio will receive 19.5% of the annual tuition revenue for the duration of the 15-year partnership in exchange for providing education technology services.”
This annual payment is conditional on Global Campus providing a “guaranteed” 15-year income stream of at least $225 million, according to the FAQ document. The university will also receive an upfront payment of $37.5 million.
“Global Campus will enter into an affiliation agreement with the University of Arizona, with upfront and ongoing payments to the University of Arizona that will have both immediate and long-term positive impacts on our university’s fiscal health," the FAQ document said. "Notably, we anticipate using initial revenues once the transaction closes in December to help alleviate the financial burden that we are currently facing."
For the time being, UA Online and the newly formed UA Global Campus will remain separate and distinct entities, but that could change in the future.
“It is not logistically possible at the outset to merge Arizona Online and Ashford University, given the different faculty, programs and accreditation of the two universities," the FAQ document stated. "Arizona Online and Global Campus will operate separately but in collaboration. The University of Arizona will have the option to eventually incorporate Global Campus into Arizona Online at its discretion in the future.”
In the aforementioned email, Robbins named four areas in which the UA will benefit from this new initiative: diversity, access, financial and synergy. These four areas are emphasized throughout the university’s communications regarding Global Campus.
"By establishing University of Arizona Global Campus, the University of Arizona will greatly expand its reach and live up to its responsibility as a land-grant university to provide access to quality education, will enhance our Arizona Online platform, will further diversify our educational enterprise and will provide much-needed short- and long-term revenue,” Robbins said in a press release.
The press release also stated that the targets of the Global Campus are “nontraditional” students who can’t afford the traditional costs associated with obtaining a university degree.
Arizona Board of Regents Chair Larry Penley released a statement Monday affirming both Robbins' sentiments and the initiative to provide accessible education to a diverse body of students.
“The board believes this opportunity aligns with its promise to Arizona to increase affordable access to quality education at Arizona’s public universities, as well as its commitment to innovation and entrepreneurialism which makes Arizona’s public universities among the best in the world,” Penley said.
One major point of controversy surrounding the acquisition of Ashford University is past allegations of fraud, claims for which the university paid $7.25 million to settle while also denying wrongdoing.
The university states in the FAQ document that it has paid “due diligence” in assessing Ashford University’s past and will not assume responsibility for these past financial and legal liabilities.
“Ashford has worked to address those concerns and to ensure that it adheres to best practices in recruitment, enrollment and all areas of engagement with its current and potential students," the FAQ document stated. "The University and its outside advisers and attorneys have conducted due diligence on Ashford University over several months and the University of Arizona will assume no responsibility for any past financial or legal liabilities.”
The acquisition of Ashford’s assets is pending approval from the Arizona Board of Regents.
“The board anticipates a public meeting this month to formalize the University of Arizona Global Campus progress report requirements for President Robbins and the leadership team,” Penley said.
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