Bridgepoint Education founder and chief executive officer Andrew Clark, was interviewed by reporter Jill Blackford about Bridgepoint’s mission, and growth trajectory. An excerpt of the article is below:
By Jill Blackford
San Diego Daily Transcript
April 11, 2008
Andrew Clark is passionate about education. And as CEO of Bridgepoint Education, he translates that passion into a goal to connect higher education to students of all types.
Bridgepoint Education is an independent company that acquires and operates organizations involved with higher education, including colleges and universities that fit within its portfolio. Its mission is to provide learning that is affordable -- without compromising academic standards or more practical considerations like credit transferability.
It currently owns University of the Rockies and Ashford University in Iowa. When asked how his company can help these kinds of academic institutions, Clark notes Bridgepoint Education's goal to keep the spirit of the institution it acquires intact.
"I think these institutions get an organization that is uniquely focused on helping them achieve their missions," Clark said. "In the cases I am familiar with, they are struggling to achieve their missions primarily because of lack of financial resources.
"Bridgepoint brings to the table two things. We really honor the mission of the institution, and we bring financial capital to help the institution achieve that. “Ashford University's approval ratings seem to indicate that Bridgepoint Education's own mission has been accomplished: Polls show that 98 percent of students would refer the college to someone they know.
Because, as Clark states, tuition increases have been outpacing inflation -- up to 20 percent year-over-year -- keeping more affordable institutions around is essential for ensuring that those who want a college degree have access to one. With smaller regional colleges starting to shut their doors due not only to funding constraints, but also to the rise of online degree programs, it adds to the challenge for some to pursue a degree.
"From a nationwide perspective, there are 4,500 institutions in the United States -- and a lot of them have less than 500 students," Clark said. "They, quite candidly, are finding it more and more difficult to compete with larger private universities with large endowments as well as public institutions that are state-funded."
Clark expects that over the next decade or so, the increased disparity in funding between smaller versus larger institutions will cause the smaller colleges to do one of three things.
"Either they will be purchased by an organization like Bridgepoint Education, merge with a larger university, or, in kind of the worst case, the university will cease to exist and go away," he said.
Clark has a long tenure in the higher education arena, having worked for two large, publicly held companies, including Apollo Group. He joined Bridgepoint Education in 2003 with the goal of getting it back on track. Five years later, it's grown more than 4,000 percent. When he relocated the office to San Diego from Phoenix, there were fewer than a dozen employees; now there are more than 600.
As for this rapid and continued growth, Clark attributes it in part to his strong management team. Many have a lot of experience in higher education, but Clark has also brought in team members with other industry experience that relates to what Bridgepoint is trying to accomplish. Clark also points to Bridgepoint's business model as a key contributor to the company's success. Bridgepoint Education hones in on its goal to provide quality education at the undergraduate, graduate or doctoral levels, while promoting the strengths and differentiators of the institutions it acquires.
Future growth is expected to stem in part from an expansion to the United Kingdom, which Clark talks about taking place in the next couple of years.
"Higher education in the U.K. is changing," said Clark. "It's undergoing a significant change right now and will continue to change over the next three, four or even five years. So from the Bridgepoint Education standpoint, it's an emerging market opportunity and an underserved market. You have lot of people in the U.K. that would like to get an undergraduate or graduate degree that for a variety of reasons haven't had that opportunity," said Clark.
In the United States, the typical student often isn't the stereotype. Bridgepoint Education wants to make sure it helps nurture opportunities for the growing adult-age group, including those that may have other responsibilities that require going to school part-time.
"I think higher education has changed significantly in the past 30 years," Clark said. "Not many people realize that more than 50 percent of students are above the age of 24. Everyone thinks of 18- to 21-year-olds, and they don't realize that the majority of the college population in the U.S. is above age 24."
He's seen more and more institutions address the needs of that portion of the student body, and mentions institutions like San Diego State University and National University as among those.
On a personal level, Clark's commitment to education means continued learning from his peers.
"For myself personally, I don't do learning in the formal sense that our students do," he said. "But I do quite a bit of reading and trying to keep up with the various changes occurring within higher education. I also think that from a business standpoint, it's important to have relationships with people who've been CEOs and have held leadership positions. I have relationships with people outside organization who've worked with private equity and learned quite a bit from those individuals."
About Bridgepoint Education
Based in San Diego, Bridgepoint Education was founded on the principle that anyone who is academically prepared deserves access to higher education without sacrificing quality, transferability of credits, accessibility, academic standards, or credentials. As an independent, private higher education company, Bridgepoint is committed to serving the millions of adults seeking an affordable alternative to high priced higher education. Bridgepoint Education subsidiaries provide both traditional and online education offerings, in addition to recruiting and admissions services. Our comprehensive education services have helped thousands of students improve their lives and careers through higher education. Bridgepoint Education was named by Inc. magazine as the fastest growing private education company in the United States. For more information, please visit us at www.bridgepointeducation.com or contact: Jessica Caris, Director of Public Relations, at 800.798.0584 Ext 2515