Ashford University: A Place for Growth

Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude in a graduation cap and gown

After recent rains followed by abundant sunshine, the hills around San Diego have begun to bloom in beautiful shades of green. Spring is always a time for growth, and today it makes me think about the growth of Ashford. Back in the spring of 2005, Bridgepoint Education and Ashford University were just ideas in the mind of Bridgepoint CEO Andrew Clark as he looked for a way to address the educational needs of adults who had often been overlooked by traditional higher education.

Andrew searched around and found the Franciscan University of the Prairies, a small and struggling liberal arts university in Clinton, Iowa that needed nourishment and care. Bridgepoint acquired it, renamed it Ashford University, invested in it, and began to nurture the school. Shortly thereafter, Ashford launched its first online educational programs.

From that seed, Ashford flourished. Our online programs fit the educational needs of thousands of students across the country and enrollments rose rapidly. In response, Ashford grew. We added many new programs and hired new faculty and staff to support our students. By 2012, enrollment topped 90,000 – outstanding growth for the higher education sector. Ashford was soaring.

Of course, our growth has slowed as the entire higher education sector has downsized. We are at about 50,000 students currently, which I believe we can sustain if we care for the University and tend to its needs. To do so, we must pursue a new kind of growth.

What does this new growth look like? First of all, Ashford is growing in quality and reputation. The addition of new faculty, external reviews of our courses, program reviews, the Waypoint Outcomes assessment system, and other tools we can use to measure student outcomes all add to our quality. We are growing in our sophistication as we design new programs with cutting-edge components. We are also growing in the types of programs that we offer. Much of our program growth over the next two years will be at the master’s level and many of the new programs will be in the STEM disciplines. Strategic growth is critical for Ashford’s sustained success.

Just as spring is spurring nature to new growth, Ashford is actively pursuing new opportunities to expand. We are maturing and spreading our branches. It’s an exciting time to be part of Ashford. I am convinced we will continue to grow into the very best online adult education university in the country.

Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.

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