The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees will vote on Monday, April 24
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees met on Wednesday for a special meeting to discuss a potential affiliation with the University of Phoenix.
The board appeared split during the meeting, with multiple members expressing they were for the deal, while others expressed concerns.
Trustees Ted Dickey, Jeremy Wilson and Kelly Eichler were vocally in support of the deal during the meeting.
“If we’re not willing to disrupt our own business, someone else will,” Dickey said. He later likened passing on the deal to Blockbuster failing to purchase Netflix.
Dickey says that the affiliation would appeal to a new audience of students and keep tuition low.
“This is a sustainable model,” Dickey said. “Raising tuition every year is a broken, non-sustainable model.”
“This is a conversation about growth,” Wilson added. A healthy organism “has to grow over time.”
Eichler felt that the deal would be a lifeline for the university, saying “Online education is here to stay, and we’re going to have to get into this realm.”
Trustees Sheffield Nelson and Morril Harriman, on the other hand, expressed reservations.
Doubts have been circling since the deal was announced, and the University of Phoenix’s reputation plays a huge role in that.
The University of Phoenix has been in trouble in the past, most notably for misleading advertising that led to a record $191 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
“I think the best thing to do is stay clear of it,” Nelson said.
“We’re losing focus on the state of Arkansas,” Harriman added.
Some of the trustees are still on the fence and noted that they needed more time.
“I need time to digest it,” trustee Steve Cox said, later adding “I hate to be rushed.”
Trustee Kevin Crass was in the same boat, adding “I am completely torn. I see good reasons to vote for and against it.”
The University of Phoenix is an online college with over 75,000 enrolled students and markets itself to workers and veterans.
While the cost of the deal is confidential, Bobbitt confirmed to the Washington Post that the original estimate of at least $500 million is accurate.
Despite the steep price, Bobbitt stresses that no public or university funds will be used in the deal.
The UA System formed a nonprofit called Transformative Education Services that will buy the University of Phoenix from its current owner, a private education company called Apollo Education Group, and will work with international banks to finance the affiliation.
The board will reconvene for a Zoom meeting on Monday, April 24 at 1 p.m. to vote on a proposed agreement.
The University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt has the authority to affiliate with the University of Phoenix without board approval but noted that he wanted the board to weigh in.