Ivy Bridge De-creditation Raises Questions Over Online Colleges

Ivy Bridge De-creditation Raises Questions Over Online Colleges

BURNING THE (IVY) BRIDGE: Inside Higher Ed dives into the details behind a recent announcement by Altius Education that, under a directive from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Tiffin University can no longer offer associate degrees through Ivy Bridge College.

We don't fault you for wondering what these four names have to do with each other. In 2011, Altius, a San Franciso-based for-profit company, partnered with Tiffin, a private university in Ohio, to create Ivy Bridge College, an online university dedicated to helping students (mostly working adults) to transfer to four-year programs. Ivy Bridge students received an associates degree upon completion through Tiffin's accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission. That degree is supposed to help them get to a four-year school--most likely one of the 150 schools that partnered with Ivy Bridge.

At least until now.  

This case raises questions over the tricky relationship in the triangle between schools, companies and accreditors, especially as MOOC providers like of Udacity, Coursera, and edX expand their partnerships with universities.

As some key documents have yet to be made public, much of the battle so far is a war of words: HLC president, Sylvia Manning, has criticized the Ivy Bridge program for "very poor academic performance" and as "a bridge to nowhere." Altius CEO Paul Freedman has criticized the HLC review team for being "superficial." Tiffin president Paul Marion suggests that the decision was "purely a judgment on [HLC's] part about the business relationship."

Compounding the problem was the timing of the announcement, which requires that Tiffin to cease issuing degrees for Ivy Bridge students by October 20--right in the middle of the semester. Incensed students took to Facebook. Tiffin and Altius are currently scrambling to help students transfer under four options.

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