The for-profit educator Bridgepoint Education Inc. announced on Thursday that the Clinton, Iowa, campus of its Ashford University would shut down next year. The company cited an “inability to meet campus enrollment requirements” as a major factor in the decision.
Bridgepoint bought the Iowa campus in 2005 from a small Roman Catholic college and maintained it even though the vast majority of Ashford’s students are enrolled online and Bridgepoint’s corporate headquarters are in San Diego. The university’s accreditation at the time by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools was controversial because it raised concerns that the company was interested only in obtaining the accreditation of the college it had purchased.
The headquarters’ San Diego location, however, potentially put Ashford out of compliance with a Higher Learning Commission policy requiring that a college’s operations be concentrated within the accreditor’s geographic region. The university later applied for accreditation by another regional body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and received approval after its initial bid was denied.
The company said it would execute a one-year teach-out plan “for the 1 percent of its students who attend classes in Clinton,” and would pursue transfer agreements with nearby colleges for students who opt not to finish their degrees through Ashford’s online programs.