Several Texas colleges are using private recruiters for online classes

A UT System task force is studying how to serve more students online.

Jeff Sandefer, the Austin oilman, educator and Perry donor whose higher education proposals have sparked controversy at UT and A&M, has warned of a coming “tsunami” that will change the economics of education and how it’s delivered.

For-profit companies stand to benefit.

Share of tuition

With names like Academic Partnerships, 2tor and Embanet, these companies pledge to dramatically increase student rolls — often in fields like nursing, business and education — in exchange for a share of the university’s tuition revenues.

What makes this model different from, say, the for-profit University of Phoenix is that the nonprofit colleges provide the instruction and award the degrees.

100,000 recruited

Take Academic Partnerships, created by Dallas entrepreneur Randy Best. In less than four years, it has recruited more than 100,000 students into online programs. Clients include UT-Arlington, Texas A&M-Commerce, Lamar University in Beaumont and Arizona State University.

Professors at those colleges teach the classes and control the content. Academic Partnerships markets the program, recruits students and provides the online platform. The company receives 50 percent to 80 percent of tuition costs, based upon a review of several contracts.

Hugill, the A&M professor, asked, “How the heck are you going to make money at the university if a private company’s skimming that much money off the top?”

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