A New Model Community College

When for-profit companies team up with traditional colleges to offer instruction, many academics object. The Princeton Review inked a deal to offer a nursing program for a Massachusetts community college last year, and faculty unions scoffed that the high price students must pay for the program violated the traditional community college mission of open access and public accountability. Critics said the same about Kaplan’s failed deal to take on California students locked out of financially strapped community colleges.

In contrast, there has been relatively little controversy over a different kind of partnership between a company and a private college: a joint effort of Tiffin University, a small private institution in northeast Ohio, and Altius Education, a for-profit company based in San Francisco.

In 2008, Tiffin and Altius opened Ivy Bridge College, an online community college that offers a general studies associate degree program targeted at traditional-age students who wish to transfer to four-year institutions. Though tuition for an academic year of full-time study is $9,450, which is considerably more than a typical community college would cost, financial aid is available. Tiffin handles the academics — its accreditation extends to Ivy Bridge — and Altius handles the enrollment management.

Both sides argue that this divide helps maintain the program’s academic integrity, while also ensuring that the institution reaches out to a greater number of students, keeping the partnership financially viable. A year ago, at the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Michael B. Goldstein, a lawyer who heads the higher education practice at Dow Lohnes, praised Ivy Bridge, suggesting that it could be a model for other “joint ventures” between financially slumping private institutions and for-profit partners.

Traditional opponents of partnerships with proprietary entities have few criticisms of the Ivy Bridge model so far. Still, it is relatively new, and few outside of Tiffin know much about it.

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INSIDE HIGHER ED

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