Special to 1808Delaware

There was some exciting news academic news this past week from just over the Delaware County line in downtown Westerville that we thought we would share with our readers.

Otterbein University and Antioch University have unveiled a unique partnership that has the potential to revolutionize higher education through creation of a new, national private university system – the first of its kind.

Otterbein University and Antioch University are joining forces to create a system of affiliated, independent, not-for-profit higher education institutions with the goal of expanding access to high-quality programs for students and adult learners coast-to-coast, investing in new program development and system-wide collaborations, and working with employers across the country to offering tailored workplace education and organization credentials. Antioch University has locations in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Keene, NH, and Yellow Springs, OH, giving this new system national reach. While there are public university systems which are often statewide, this new national, private university system is the first of its kind. And the impact it stands to make is unique in that it is rooted in the mission of democratizing higher education — making an affordable education accessible to a broader population of students.

“This is really about collaboration. Too often, higher education is about competition, it’s sort of a zero-sum game about who can capture the most students. The reality is that we need to work better together and we are setting up a model to do just that,” said Otterbein President John Comerford.

“Our vision is that this will be a national system of schools who will all bring to the table their own strengths and their own opportunities,” Antioch University Chancellor Bill Groves said. “We know we can identify numerous ways to leverage those strengths to benefit our students and the students we would like to attract to the system on a national scale.”

The new system of independent universities is built around the concept of shared graduate and adult-learner programs. Member universities will keep their distinctive undergraduate programs and brand identities.

“If you think about who is going under-served in our higher education system, it’s so much more than just 18- to 22-year-olds. There are many people in our communities who can be served by what we do but often don’t know that our institutions are for them too,” Comerford said.

The system is undergoing review by the appropriate accreditation and regulatory agencies, a process that could take up to one year. Once approved, the system will bring new graduate degrees, degree completion, and certification options to adult learners in central Ohio.

“Ohio is becoming an increasingly popular location for major employers in a variety of industries. With that comes a growing need for skilled and upskilled workers. The system that Otterbein University and Antioch University are proposing will address that need by bringing new educational opportunities to Ohio for adult learners already in the workforce and traditional undergraduates preparing to enter the workforce,” said Lisa Patt-McDaniel, president and CEO of the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio.

Undergraduate students will also benefit from the system through accelerated programs, early admission assurance to graduate programs, and unique study opportunities at locations across the country. For example, an Otterbein environmental science major may be able to do undergraduate research at Antioch University’s campus in New Hampshire or may have an early admission

guarantee into Antioch University’s master’s degree program in environmental studies. These opportunities will better prepare traditional undergraduate students to meet the needs of employers.
“Higher education has an obligation and an imperative to adapt to the marketplace. I applaud Otterbein’s leadership to respond to the needs of our community and the country,” said Kenny McDonald, president and CEO of The Columbus Partnership.

Historically, Otterbein and Antioch University have much in common. Both universities were founded by abolitionists with socially progressive visions of higher education being accessible for all people, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity — and both universities are dedicated to the values of equity and inclusion today. Otterbein and Antioch University also complement each other in their differences. Otterbein focuses on undergraduate students and offers a wide range of majors. Antioch University focuses on adult learners and offers a variety of graduate programs that align with our majors, as well as an adult undergraduate degree completion program.

The announcement has received broad support from the communities of the two universities.

“Otterbein University and Antioch University saw a huge opportunity to be ahead of the curve, proactive and forward thinking in what is often an antiquated, slow-to-change higher education system. They both also saw a need to do something different at a time where change is sorely needed in higher education,” said Otterbein Professor Joan Rocks, Department of Health and Sport Sciences.

For more information about the new system, visit www.otterbein.edu/system.

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