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Friday, March 31, 2017

UMUC Takes Privatization to Another Level

The concept of third-party vendors leasing campus services is all too familiar to college store professionals. The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is taking that a step further, spinning off it’s own units into start-up companies offering their own services to others, all in an effort to grow endowments and keep tuition rates down.

“We believe that if you look at higher education, there is a core—what you teach, who teaches it, and how we teach it,” UMUC President Javier Miyares said in an interview for Inside Higher Education. “That is the existential, essential core of the university. Everything else are business processes that do not have to be run in the traditional way within the university.”

In 2015, the UMUC office of analytics was converted into a data-analytics service and there are plans to spin off the IT department into a company to be known as AccelerEd. UMUC Ventures was formed as a holding company to help the university realize some financial benefit when these new firms sell their services.

“UMUC recognizes that higher-education institutions have an obligation to students to reimagine how they achieve their missions,” said Ryan Craig, managing director of the investment firm University Ventures. “Too much of college and university spending is currently allocated to functions that do not directly serve the interests of tuition-paying students.”

However, there are critics of UMUC’s unbundling tactics.

“As a taxpayer of Maryland, I think of UMUC as a state treasure,” said former UMUC employee George Kroner. “The university has a special academic mission, and I hate seeing it put on the back burner. I don’t want to see the great work of UMUC privatized.”

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