In an effort to expand its online offerings, the University of Arizona (UA) has agreed to purchase the fully-online, for-profit college Ashford University — but two U.S. senators are concerned that UA is risking becoming the owner of a predatory institution, reports tuscon.com.
“Without clear protections for students built into this transaction by UA, its accreditors and the Department of Education, Arizona taxpayers risk becoming owners of a predatory for-profit college cloaked in the aura of your prestigious university,” wrote Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in a letter to UA President Robert Robbins.
UA is purchasing the university for $1 but will share 19.5% of its tuition revenue with Zovio, the publicly traded parent company of Ashford University. Zovio will pay the university $225 million over the course of 15 years as part of a long-term strategic services agreement.
In acquiring Ashford University, home to 35,000 students, the University of Arizona plans to create a fully-online, nonprofit entity called the University of Arizona Global Campus. The new entity will be accredited separately from UA and will maintain its own leadership, faculty members and academic programs.
Yet, despite Zovio’s track record, Robbins is confident that UA will deliver a “high-quality, ethical” education, reports tuscon.com.
“One of the issues is that Ashford was a for-profit university, and there have been practices around aggressive recruiting and individuals not finishing their degrees but having large debt,” Robbins said. “I think we’ve got to execute and make sure that we deliver a high-quality, ethical education to these students, and I’m confident that we will do that or I wouldn’t have agreed to do this deal.”