What Does Apollo Group’s Deal For Carnegie Mean for Ed?

The Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, has acquired Carnegie Learning — but will it have an effect on online education’s future?

Is Apollo Group’s recent acquisition of Carnegie Learning, a small company providing online math tutorials, a sign of things to come in higher education? Others might consider the $100 million deal by the parent company of University of Phoenix small fish, as far as deals go, but the story in the Atlantic Magazine claims that this is an attempt by Apollo to change how high school students view their future education.

Carnegie Learning was developed by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to assist teachers in math instruction. The system they developed is not only cutting edge in terms of computer technology but also utilizes the latest research in cognitive science in order to individualize tutorials for each student in an unprecedented way.

These scientists have created adaptive computer tutorials that meet students at their individual level of understanding and help them advance via the kinds of exercises they personally find most engaging and effective. The personalization and sophistication is hard for even an expert human tutor to match. It is a powerful, affordable adjunct to classroom instruction, as manifest by Carnegie Learner’s user base of more than 600,000 secondary students in over 3,000 schools nationwide.

Now, University of Phoenix is in a position to put itself in front of Carnegie’s userbase, creating possible enrollees even out of students who might have never considered UofP as a viable choice for their college education. In this, it is taking advantage of something discovered by Sony in the 1980s. By selling personal cassette players to teens at a loss, the company was likely to keep them as profitable customers later on, when they became adults. It is never to late to grow brand loyalty, the Atlantic writes.

Still, while the idea behind the purchase might be sound, Suman Chatterjee, writing for SeekingAlpha.com, doesn’t believe that it will lead Apollo group to profitability in the near future. Although the purchase will up its enrollment by putting its brand in front of prospective students earlier than the rivals like DeVry Inc, and Career Education Corp, it won’t be enough to counteract problems that loom on the horizon. The for-profit education industry is facing some tough hurdles, like the introduction of new regulations that link access to federal student loans to graduation rates, and the general state of the economy.

With around 14 million Americans unemployed, further education does seem to be the way out. But submerged in debt, how can Americans afford costly educational programs when they don’t even know will come to fruition?

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