WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue is known for its prestigious education. Its agriculture, engineering and technology degrees, among others, are all highly regarded by employers across the world.
But would you think less of those degrees if Purdue had an online college?
Since its announcement of the Kaplan University acquisition on April 27, questions have swirled around the direction of Purdue going forward.
Does a Purdue University, recently named the 4th best public university in the nation by the Wall Street Journal, lessen because of the deal? What does it do to the value of a Purdue degree?
As Indiana's land-grant college, President Mitch Daniels says it is Purdue's duty.
"We were put here to open up the doors of higher education," said Daniels. "We don't think we can live up to that assignment, to bring education to the masses, if we stop at age 22."
"A 34-year-old single mom that is working and trying to take care of kids at the same time will never come to this campus," said Daniels during the acquisition announcement in April.
David Sanders is the former Chair of the University Senate and faculty in the department of biological sciences. He, along with more than 300 other faculty members, has signed a petition addressed to the Higher Learning Commission opposing the acquisition of Kaplan University.
"I was willing to take a 'wait and see attitude' toward the process," said Sanders. "I have waited and seen. What my faculty and I have seen, has not pleased us."
According to Purdue University, Kaplan University offers associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees through online and campus-based learning. The university's degrees are primarily non-STEM; offering degrees in business, nursing, education and criminal justice, among others. More than half of its students are first-generation college students.
With the purchase of Kaplan, Purdue will acquire all of Kaplan's 15 campuses, its 45,000 students, and roughly 2500 employees. Kaplan will transition from a for-profit education model to a not-for-profit model.
The closest Kaplan campus is located behind The Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing in Indianapolis.
Who are the Kaplan faculty? Purdue's Senior Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Frank Dooley was named the Purdue lead for the Kaplan acquisition. He said Kaplan faculty are non-tenure and roughly 350 staff members have a Ph.D. They are scattered around the country.
"Kaplan/NewU has a faculty today and when they become part of our system, they will continue to have the same faculty," said Dooley. "If you're looking for the comparison to West Lafayette, their faculty by our definition would probably be the closest thing we have to a continued lecturer."
Purdue (West Lafayette) has around 450 continuing lecturers.
When judging educational quality, the Higher Learning Commission sets parameters on what a quality instructor is. The same guidelines apply to Kaplan and Purdue.
"You have to have a degree level that is at least one level higher than the students in the room," said Dooley. "For the undergraduate courses, you have to have at least an earned master's."
When finding out that information, and who the faculty is, Sanders says the information is just not there.
"My salary and my benefits are public information," said Sanders. "The Senate has a public website where you can find out its agenda. You cannot find that out about Kaplan."
This is part one of a two-part series. Thursday on News 18 at 6 an 11, we will look at Kaplan student profiles and talk with former Kaplan students.