April 30, 2018

Q&A: Purdue University Global Chancellor

Purdue University Global officially opened enrollment at the beginning of the month. The institution, formerly the for-profit Kaplan University, received final approval from the Higher Learning Commission in February.

Purdue announced its plans to take over Kaplan about a year ago, and a number of faculty members were not happy about it. Hundreds even signed a petition in hopes of stopping the deal.

WFIU/WTIU’s Lindsey Wright sat down with Purdue University Global Chancellor Betty Vandenbosch. The former Kaplan University President says school leaders are looking toward the future.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Wright: This has to be a really exciting time for you because we’re in April, the website, enrollment is open. Have you gotten off to a really smooth start?

Vandenbosch: It’s been terrific, just terrific because of course we all had to have new email addresses, we’ve got a new website, and there’s always a little bit of trepidation. Everything has been smooth as silk.

Once we knew that the higher learning commission was going to meet with us in February, or meet about us in February, then we started to make better plans. And so we had from the end of February to the beginning of April to really make it all come together.

Wright: It’s about 30,000 students who were Kaplan students who are transferring over to Purdue Global. How do you ensure for those students that it is a seamless process?

Vandenbosch: Well, we’ve done it. We sent them messages as things were happening. I’ve spent lots and lots of time sending them notes, talking on video, obviously, because our students are all over the country. And everything moved across just as it should have been so our students, I think, are very comfortable and very happy to go.

Wright: This deal was obviously a very controversial one. A lot of Purdue faculty members saying this could end up harming Purdue degrees, giving it less value. The deal is done now. How do you move passed that, how do you move forward?

Vandenbosch: We are very excited because we have had inquiries from 500 people, not all faculty obviously, staff and faculty on the Purdue campus about taking courses at Purdue University Global, doing degrees at Global. I don’t know that all 500 of them will end up joining us, but those students will tell the story about what it’s like to get a degree at Purdue Global for the Purdue system and we’re very excited about that opportunity.

Wright: I have heard some concern from people saying this isn’t opening any new doors because Kaplan already existed. So can you explain, how will this, down the road, create new avenues?

Vandenbosch: Yes, Kaplan existed and we believe being part of the Purdue system is that it will open doors because of the relationships that Purdue has with employers, with the community. Of course that’s going to be helpful to giving people insight into what Purdue University Global has to offer.

Wright: Why do you think it’s so important at this time period to hone in on adult learners? That seems like that’s been the whole goal with this. Why is that of so much importance right now?

Vandenbosch: We have, in the state of Indiana, 750,000 who have some university education. All of them probably started thinking they wanted to complete their degrees. Universities focused on typical university students, 18 to 24 year-olds, who have different objectives.

Students are different and when you’re teaching folks who have life and work experience, the way you teach them is different. What they bring to the classroom is different, they have real experiences that can be used in the classroom to build understanding for all students in a class, so the way that we structure our courses, the things we do in a classroom, the way that we assess students is very focused on what works for the adult learner.

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