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Purdue buys an online law school

Technology for Lawyers

Published: July 21, 2017

Purdue University, located in Lafayette, Indiana, is in the process of purchasing the private, for-profit Kaplan University, which includes Kaplan’s online law school. Purdue is calling this “the world’s next public university.” The purchase is awaiting “several regulatory approvals,” according to a spokesperson.

Purdue was founded in 1869 as Indiana’s only land grant college (Ohio State is also a land grant college). Land grant colleges were founded following federal legislation in 1862 and 1890 to, among other things, bring the ability to go to college to the masses. From Purdue’s point of view, going to the masses now includes acquiring a massive online presence in Kaplan.

That online presence includes the unaccredited, online-only Concord Law School, which was founded in 1998, in the infancy of online education. The ABA will not accredit online law schools in and of themselves, although accredited law schools can and do run LLM and other courses online. Kaplan also runs LSAT prep and bar review courses, and has both brick-and-mortar and online programs.

Purdue does not have a law school in its state-wide system. It remains to be seen if the acquisition will lead to an ABA-accredited law school affiliated with Purdue.

Because Concord is unaccredited, its graduates can only take the California bar exam, as that is the only state that allows grads of an unaccredited law school to take the bar. Several articles out there indicate that Concord grads have low bar passage rates, but a Kaplan spokesperson disputes that.

The merged university, which will be a separate entity from Purdue University, does not have a name yet, but the name will at least have “Purdue” in it in some way.

Concord currently has about 600 students, down from a high of 1200 in 2008. Kaplan University itself has about 32,000 students, 3000 employees, and its online college, and 15 physical locations in the U.S., who will all be folded into the new organization. Purdue purchased Kaplan for one dollar (the amount, of course, of the bet in Trading Places), as well as a 30-year support agreement from Purdue to Kaplan.

At any rate, to anyone’s knowledge, this is the first time that a major university, has acquired a strictly online law school. I’m guessing a lot of institutions are looking at this to see if it portends and future trends.