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Idaho State Board of Education approves U of I's plans to purchase University of Phoenix

University of Idaho
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via Facebook

The Idaho State Board of Education voted to approve the University of Idaho's plans to acquire the University of Phoenix, an online for-profit institution that serves 85,000 students nationwide.

Pending regulatory approval, the University of Phoenix will transition from a for-profit institution to a not-for-profit one. The purchase will cost $550 million and be funded by taxable and non-taxable bonds outside the University’s general budget.

At a board meeting Wednesday, Provost and Executive Vice President Torrey Lawrence said the acquisition would help the University engage with a growing population of older, working students.

“That's part of the excitement about this opportunity is aligning with an institution with frankly, a pretty different target audience for students,” he said.

In April, the Arkansas State Board of Education rejected a similar bid by the University of Arkansas to purchase the University of Phoenix, citing their quote “terrible reputation.” In 2019, the for-profit institution faced a multi-million dollar regulatory fine from the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising and paid $50 Million in refunds to students.

“There is some reputational risk there because all private institutions are under attack,” said U of I President Scott Green. “We are prepared to live with that at the University of Idaho. We're not afraid of it because we are comfortable with who they are and we know we can help them. So that's the first part.”

In a statement sent after the meeting, State Representative John Gannon questioned the board's decision.

“Board members lauded the need for online [sic] learning for rural areas, but after at least 10 years in Idaho, the University of Phoenix presently has only 600 Idaho students,” he wrote, referring to a number shared by Green during the meeting. “Its model certainly hasn’t been attractive in Idaho, and one wonders why the University of Idaho would even get involved.”

Gannon also called the hastiness of the deal “suspect,” and questioned why it was made “in secret in several closed door meetings.”

“The University of Idaho is not a business and should not become one,” he added.

The purchase is expected to be finalized by 2024.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.

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