The University of Arizona’s acquisition of an online, for-profit institution has significantly contributed to the university’s financial woes, according to an investigation by The Arizona Republic.
Arizona announced its plan to buy the formerly for-profit Ashford University in 2020 and absorbed its related online program management company in 2022. While the university technically purchased Ashford for $1, the transactions added roughly $265 million to UA’s operating budget in 2023, contributing to a significant deficit, according to documents from the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public universities. UA announced in November that it just had 97 days’ worth of cash on hand, due to financial miscalculations and accounting errors.
Enrollment at Ashford—now called University of Arizona Global Campus—steadily declined over the last four years; the institution lost about a third of its student body, the newspaper reported.
University officials insisted that the purchase remains good for the university. “To date, UAGC has been nothing but a positive financial impact on the university,” John Arnold, who serves as executive director of the Arizona Board of Regents and UA’s interim CFO, told the newspaper.
He added that the University of Arizona Global Campus is on track to operate at only a $2.5 million deficit in 2024.