Graduate Students

Struggling Private College Considers Sale of Assets to For-Profit University

February 23, 2009

Waldorf College, a financially struggling private institution in Iowa, is discussing a potential sale of its assets to a for-profit, online education company, The Des Moines Register reported.

In an announcement on its Web site, the 580-student college, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said that congregations in its governing association had met on Friday to review Waldorf’s plans “to pursue a collaborative partnership with an educational entity.” The college did not identify the potential partner and did not release the terms of any agreements under consideration, but the Register reported that Waldorf’s president, Richard A. Hanson, had confirmed that college officials were considering a sale of assets to Columbia Southern University, an online institution based in Alabama.

Mr. Hanson told the newspaper it would be several months before a sale agreement could be reached, if at all. The deal would require approval from education regulators and the institutions’ governing bodies. Waldorf is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the six regional accrediting organizations. Columbia Southern is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council, a national accrediting agency.

In the college’s announcement, Mr. Hanson affirmed that Waldorf intended to maintain its identity as a residential liberal-arts institution.

Partnerships between independent colleges and for-profit schools are rare but not unprededented. The private Sierra Nevada College was on the verge of closing before entering into a partnership in late 2006 with Knowledge Universe Learning Group LLC and Cardean Learning Group LLC. The for-profit partners promised the college a cash infusion of up to $15-million over five to seven years. —Charles Huckabee