ANDERSON – As he neared the completion of his two-year degree as a certified surgical technician, Clint Huffman stood at an educational crossroads.
The 20-year-old Anderson resident knew he wanted to continue with school and earn a bachelor’s degree, but he wasn’t certain whether he should continue full-time or hold on to his job and go part-time or online.
“I was thinking about long-term what I wanted to do,” he said. “I was thinking it would drastically change my life if I went to a traditional university.”
Complicating things further, Huffman said, was he wasn’t sure which major to pursue. He had hoped to become a physician’s assistant but had been told that would be at least two more years of school.
That was until he found Purdue University Global. Formerly Kaplan University, Purdue Global, as it’s generally called, is an online affiliate of Purdue University designed for the non-traditional adult student like Huffman.
“It was important to me to be able to work full time,” he said. “Life would have been all about school and just trying to get by, and I wasn’t going to do that to myself.”
Purdue Global, which serves students across the United States, is one of many online colleges and universities that cater to the needs of non-traditional students. It is one of many post-secondary education options available to Madison County residents.
That, Huffman said, would allow him to maintain a consistent income and leave school debt-free.
“That means less classes, less money spent,” he said. “I graduated debt-free, which is an awesome feeling.”
Huffman graduated in May, after about a year, with his bachelor’s degree in health science.
Additional advantages, Huffman said, were a generous transfer of credits and a tuition discount because he had started his undergraduate career at Ivy Tech Community College.
Huffman said he was able to complete his major in only a year because of Purdue Global’s system of five terms offered annually, giving students more opportunities to start classes.
“Each term was 10 weeks long, which made it really easy to know how far along you were in class,” he said.
Though he admits doing better in face-to-face classes offered by bricks-and-mortar institutions, Huffman said he enjoyed his classes. One advantage, he said, was if he missed or didn’t understand something during the live online seminars, they were recorded so he could go back and listen to them again.
“I was a little bit concerned how would I do in an online class. It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” he said. “I didn’t think they were easy. I definitely had to utilize some time management.”
Though he was taking health-related classes, Huffman said he didn’t have any that required clinical or labs.
“It was a lot of research-based work and a lot of writing papers, so I got good at that,” he said.
Huffman said he also liked that he could study at home or in a coffee shop.
“Everything was done wherever I wanted to be,” he said. “It made things easier for me. That would appeal to anybody.”
Huffman, who also attended Purdue University for a while, said he started when Purdue Global was under the Kaplan name and was satisfied because it was an accredited school.
“I think it’s neat that it says Purdue Global,” he said. “People find Purdue very prestigious.”
Earon Davis, a full-time adjunct professor in Purdue Global’s School of Health Sciences, has taught there for about 10 years at the suggestion of a colleague when he was a massage therapist.
“A colleague who was an acupuncturist who was working in the same place that I was, an integrated medicine center, she left to start up a program for Kaplan University in health and wellness,” he said.
Like Huffman, Davis said he likes working under the Purdue name.
“I think it helps my attitude and pride. I’m from the Midwest, so the Purdue name is golden even though I am in Bloomington,” he said.
The online element is especially important for students, such as those in rural areas or those serving in the military, who don’t have transportation or time to go to larger urban centers for classes, Davis said.
“There’s a lot of logistical aspects in needing to work an education into an already full life,” he said. “With our program, students are going to school year-round. It’s not a leisurely task. They are really pushing to get this done. I love the intensity of their commitment. It’s very impressive.”
One of the perks for the students at Purdue Global, Davis said, is they have their own life experiences, so they are able not only to learn from what he shares but teach one another what they have learned over the course of their lives.
“It’s a very broad range of students that we have, and they generally have substantial life experience. They’re coming in with a lot of knowledge, not just the academic, but the context in life,” he said. “I try to make the courses a bit experiential with the students digging into themselves and into their experiences.”
Purdue Global excels at diversity, which is extremely important in health care where workers come across clients from all walks of life.
“It makes things more real, and they get to interact with people from very different backgrounds, different parts of the country,” he said. “In health care, the field is really into diversity and understanding the differences that are out there.”
Davis said the life stage of students who already are in the workforce and have families or other priorities is a challenge that is met well by Purdue Global. As a result, most are more serious about the time and commitment, which also helps them get through the coursework more quickly and efficiently, he said.
“Nobody is taking care of them,” he said. “They take very seriously the investment of their times, and dreams and money.”
Though Purdue Global benefits from its host school’s name and reputation, it’s not been without its controversies.
When Purdue University made the purchase of Kaplan University in March, some faculty objected to the merger of a land grant university with what they believed to be a troubled online institution. Some also are troubled that as Kaplan was rebranded as Purdue Global, it was exempted from the public record laws that typically cover a public university like Purdue.
In August, Purdue Global’s officials sought to require faculty to sign a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of employment. In September, the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of University Professors and its Indiana affiliate announced the online university would immediately end the use of the agreements.
“It not only removes a threat to the academic freedom of those currently employed by Purdue Global, but may serve as a bulwark against the use of these agreements by other academic institutions,” AAUP officials said in a prepared statement. “The victory demonstrates that when faculty join together they have a powerful voice to protect academic freedom, shared governance, and higher education for the common good.”
However, the statement said, Purdue Global’s agreement to end the NDAs did not make clear whether the measure would be retroactive. AAUP called on Purdue Global to rescind all NDAs.