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University of Arizona to expand, buy online college

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona has announced that it is acquiring a San Diego-based online college and creating an online university to play into the digital college market.

The Tucson-based university said Monday that it will buy the assets of Ashford University, which has 35,000 students, and create a new private online university called University of Arizona Global Campus, which will focus on nontraditional students such as older adults, parents and veterans.

“We see this as an important step in expanding the reach of the University of Arizona,” Vice Provost for Global Affairs Brent White said.

The University of Arizona has agreed to a long-term deal with Ashford’s operating partner and education technology services company Zovio. Ashford University will be sold for $1, and the transaction is expected to be completed later this year, after regulatory approvals are granted and the deal is finalized, White said.

Zovio will still provide services to the Global Campus under a long-term agreement, the university said.

University administrators have investigated the potential sale since spring to bolster the university’s digital offerings of more than 65 programs. The purchase is expected to help the university serve more underrepresented and nontraditional students and provide additional career paths in a flexible and affordable manner.

“As the demography of students change, our modality of delivery needs to be reflected on that change. That’s why moves like this are necessary — to be positioned not just for tomorrow, but for the next decade,” Vice Provost for Online and Distance Education Craig Wilson told the Arizona Daily Star.

Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University are already in the online-only student market.

Grand Canyon had more than 80,000 students enrolled online as of 2019, the Arizona Republic reported. Arizona State’s online enrollment topped 66,000 during the 2019 academic year, the university said.

The University of Arizona currently has about 4,200 students enrolled online.

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