For-profit merger highlights sector’s growing interest in healthcare

by Joseph K. Clark

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Although Post is absorbing American Sentinel, the latter will continue to offer the same programs and retain its faculty members and accreditation, according to the announcement.

Post, which enrolled around 10,000 students in 2019, will benefit from adding fully online nursing and health care programs, the release noted. In return, American Sentinel, which had about 2,700 students in 2019, will gain access to “enhanced support, expertise, and resources,” the release said.

The for-profit sector appears on the rise after years of tumbling enrollment. Enrollment climbed 5.3% year over year at four-year, for-profit colleges in the fall. Even though all other institution types saw declines or remained flat, data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows.

Early in the pandemic, for-profit colleges targeted advertising to laid-off workers and grew their recruiting teams, The Associated Press reported in April. Many of them specifically promoted their healthcare programs.

For-profit college operators have been looking to expand their healthcare offerings. Adtalem Global Education announced that it plans to buy Walden University from Laureate Education for $1.5 billion in cash. According to a recent SEC filing, more than three-quarters of Walden’s students are in health sciences programs, a spokesperson said this fall, and healthcare-focused programs account for around three-quarters of its revenue.

Although activist investors are urging Adtalem to back out of the deal, the company recently issued a statement reaffirming that the acquisition could help meet the growing demand for healthcare workers.

According to an open letter from the investors, Strategic Education, the parent company of two for-profit colleges, also bid on Walden. During the pandemic, the company expanded its healthcare offerings, launching a competency-based version of a nursing program at one of its universities in September.

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