Dear Colleges: Take Control of Your Online Courses


  • Building on The Century Foundation’s earlier research, this report presents new data and analysis on the state of public–private partnerships in today’s online higher education landscape, along with what schools can do to protect themselves and their students from the predatory behavior that pervades it.
  • Universities contract with private, for-profit online program managers (OPMs) to develop, deliver, and recruit for their online degree programs. In some cases, the universities hand over 40 to 80 percent of the tuition revenue to the contracted company.
  • Some universities allow computer coding “bootcamps,” a popular form of online program, to operate under the brand name of the university even though they are completely run by an outside company—and on terms more typical of predatory for-profit schools.
  • Most university–OPM contracts tie colleges’ hands for a long period, preventing them from innovating their programs or responding to student needs or changes in the labor market.
  • Colleges can protect themselves and their students by contracting out selectively, and by retaining control over tuition price-setting and financial aid, recruiting and admission, program and institutional integrity, and ultimately, their brand.