How do DL institutions begin??

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Broderick, Aug 23, 2004.

  1. Broderick

    Broderick New Member

    Hello all,

    A question for the well versed: Many of us know the folklore behind the creation of Stanford University, but how do (legitimate) DL institutions begin that are not already part of an established institution of higher learning? What I really mean is, do a group of people get together and one day decide to create a school? Are they normally “academic” types or “businessmen” types? What is there (or the) motivation? The desire to create an institution in there own image? To build a better mousetrap? The almighty dollar?
    And how do they start? Do they get a lawyer and create a corporation or a partnership? Where do they get the startup capital and how much does it usually cost? Finally, how long is the process from the “meeting of the mind(s)” to actual enrollment of students?
    If anyone has some stories or examples of some of the well known like NCU, UoP, CCU, SCUPS, Walden, etc, please enlighten us.


  2. agilham

    agilham New Member

    The one I'm most familiar with (for fairly obvious reasons) is the Open University. In that case, the same expansion of the university system in the 1960s that brought places like my alma mater, Warwick also demanded that there should be a university that didn't care about your A levels, didn't care about where you were and didn't care where you went to school. It was an act of pure politcal will and naked philathropism by the Wilson government.

    More background at

  3. Mary A

    Mary A Member

    Michael - All of the scenarios you described above have likely happened at one time or another with the various schools you mentioned. In our case it was some academics with a vision. All of the legal stuff had to be taken care of, but also the regulatory stuff too. Depending on the state it can be onerous - again if you plan to do it right. It's easier, and cheaper to do it wrong. While I believe people did go into to it make money, they did not expect to make money for quite a few years because of all the things necessary to do it well - they cost money, at a time when precious few students are willing to take a chance on an unaccredited school. An absolute bare minimum is two years before any type of accreditation can be secured and more likely three years - you aren't making much money in that time. Speaking of money - it takes a lot, more than a lot, if you are going to do it right, we had a million in 1987 - funded by one of the founders - and it was not enough to do everything right- in our case marketing suffered. That was the right thing to do, and our small but untarnished reputation proves is our reward but it hurt us - you need marketing to get students... I wouldn't try it today without a minimum of 10M in the bank or committed.

    Interesting topic - I'll be following this one. BTW - I see your address line is CA - we started in CA. We're in CO now. I would not want to try and start a school in CA today without making sure I had even more money in reserve than $10M, but that is just my opinion.

    Mary A
  4. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Union: A consortium of schools formed to develop and deliver an alternative, learner-centered program, one that awarded bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees. That consortium eventually became the free-standing school we have now.

    Excelsior: The state was offering exams for credits; degrees seemed a natural following. It was privatized and re-named in the 1990's.

    National: David Chigos (a Ph.D. from USIU) was working for General Dynamics. He went to San Diego State University (in the early 1970's) and asked them to offer a nighttime MBA for his managers. One SDSU official said that if these people were serious about their education, they'd leave their jobs and attend full-time. So David began offering classes and kept the records in the trunk of his Cadillac. State approval and accreditation followed rapidly, and Natonal grew into the second-largest private university in the state.

    Capella: The founder cashed out of Tonka and consulted a noted DL expert about buying a school. It was suggested that he start one instead, and The Graduate School of America was born.

    UoP: The founder ran an operation in California, contracting with Bay Area RA schools to run degree programs using a learning team approach. WASC hounded the schools and bullied them into dropping their contracts. As they did, the founder created UoP and went after NCU accreditation.

    Northcentral: The founder ran SCUPS, but couldn't get anywhere with WASC. So he opened up a new school in Arizona and got it accredited through NCU. SCUPS still isn't accredited, and appears to have abandoned its recent effort with DETC.

    Hope this helps.

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