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Let’s begin by juxtaposing recent press releases from the president’s office of the University of California and Purdue University.

An audit of the University of California President Janet Napolitano’s Office recently was requested by legislators after concerns with recent tuition increases and ‘complaints about a bloated administration’ arose. According to California State Auditor Elaine Howle: "Our report concludes that the office of the president has amassed substantial reserve funds, used misleading budgeting practices, provided its employees with generous salaries and atypical benefits, and failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on system wide initiatives.” (L.A. Times, 25 April 2017)

In stark contrast, a recent release from the President of Purdue Mitch Daniels states, “…Purdue students and their families will pay less to attend Purdue in 2019 than they did in 2012. We’re unaware of any other American university that can make that statement.” Purdue, for the sixth consecutive year, has frozen tuition at the 2012 levels, while dramatically expanding cutting-edge research and incentive pay for faculty and employees.

Purdue’s strengths are in business, Krannert School of Management is well known for its 3+2 BS/MBA programs, and particularly STEM: Purdue has awarded more bachelor’s degrees in engineering than any other institution in the country and ranks 18th (Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016) internationally.

Purdue established the first Computer Science program in the 1960s, which today is ranked 21st in the world. The program comes in many forms: a five-year combined BS/MS degree, an Honor’s program, extensive undergraduate research opportunities, and a coop program, to gain work experience beyond its 6 core courses and 9 academic tracks.

The coop program allows a student to alternate between full time study and work. While Northeastern University is well known for its extensive coop program, Purdue’s coop adds a unique dimension: students often continue working at the same company, building relationships and assuming ever greater responsibilities, making for a valuable addition to the student’s resume, confidence and ability to create value in the marketplace.

Another stellar, internationally acclaimed department within Purdue is its aeronautics program. Purdue was the first campus in the world to offer a 4-year degree in aviation, build its own airport (Purdue University Airport) and, in 1935, even included Amelia Earhart among its faculty. It counts Chesley Sullenberger of US Airways fame among its alumni. By the middle of the last century, the aeronautics program extended into advanced spaceflight technology, training dozens of future astronauts, including Neal Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon. Yet, despite its track record of filling the void with top caliber departments, Purdue is poised to teach not only to the best, but to all.

Purdue’s College of Technology was formed in 1964 to organize applied learning programs in such areas as construction management and aviation technology. After years of decreasing enrollment, Purdue added competency-based learning, which structures how to uniformly gain a mastery over defined skills, and, in 2015, transformed the college into the Purdue Polytechnic Institute with 11 satellite campuses offering majors customized to the needs of the locality, and ranging across certificates, associates and 2 + 2 degrees — 2 years associate’s culminating in a bachelor’s.

Now, Purdue is taking on another challenge: acquiring the for-profit, online Kaplan University and transforming it into a not-for-profit extension of Purdue University. According to Purdue President Mitch Daniels, who was the former governor of Indiana, the reason behind the acquisition is that there are 36 million working adults older than age 25 in America, with some college credit, but no degrees. 750,000 are in Indiana. Another 56 million have no college at all. The basic purpose of a public university is "to provide students with access to education and degrees."

How well Purdue will be able to leverage the Purdue brand is anyone’s guess. But its intention to reach as broad an audience as possible with higher level learning leading to transforming students of all ages is noteworthy. Possibly the new online Purdue can offer a certificate in prudent budgeting — there seems to be a need in California.

Ralph Becker, is founder of Ivy College Prep, LLC (www.ivycollegeprep.net) and a resident of Long Beach. He has been counseling students for 11 years. He has a certificate in college counseling from the UCLA Extension, and has published "SAT* Vocab 800." He can be reached at rbecker@ivycollegeprep.net.

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