Accredited online university rents facilities on campus

Ahnalese Rushmann

Last month, University students, faculty and staff may have noticed a flux of campus visitors that weren’t part of any first-year orientation tour group.

These visitors were part of Walden University’s summer program. Approximately 1,200 adults from all over the world came to the University campus over the course of the three-week summer program, which began July 5.

The University and Walden University agreed to a facilities and services agreement for most of July. The deal meant Walden University, an accredited online university headquartered in Minneapolis, paid nearly $500,000 for the use of several University buildings and services.

Nearly half that amount went to Housing and Residential Life for lodging. A little over $140,000 paid for the use of facilities such as Northrop Auditorium, Coffman Memorial Union and the Law School. The rest of the total amount, approximately $93,400, went to University Dining Services.

Terra Carey, a University graduate student, said she was curious why a school would hold events on another school’s campus.

“It’s like promoting Pepsi at a Coke plant,” she said.

According to the request on the facility use agreement, Walden University held summer seminars and workshops at Indiana University for the past 16 years but had outgrown those facilities.

Ana Sanchez, director of public relations for Walden University, said the Minnesota campus had an appropriate layout for Walden’s summer program needs, which included sites for their summer commencement and Conference on Social Change.

“Our academic headquarters are in Minneapolis, so working with the University of Minnesota was a natural choice,” she said.

University spokesman Dan Wolter said there is no affiliation between Walden University and the University of Minnesota.

“Essentially, our relationship is like a landlord-tenant relationship,” he said.

Wolter said although the University often rents out campus space to other groups and organizations such as sports camps and the Special Olympics, this was the first time a deal of this scale with a higher education institution had been made.

Because it involved a larger amount of money, the actions were approved by the Board of Regents, Wolter said.

The money received through the agreement helps maintain state-of-the-art campus facilities and manage tuition increases, he said.

Ultimately, these agreements provide good exposure for the University, Wolter said.

“There’s never going to be a time when the Walden University events interfere with the academic programs at the University,” he said.

Wolter pointed out that Walden University wasn’t allowed to use University of Minnesota logos or images in its marketing of the program.

Sharon Reich Paulsen, assistant vice president and chief of staff to the provost, echoed Wolter’s statement.

“The University did impose lease restrictions that were intended to prevent the possibility of any kind of implied endorsement by or association with the University of Minnesota,” she said.

Elyse Wentzel, a University of Wisconsin-Madison senior considering the University for graduate school, said although she doesn’t go to the University, she thought the facilities use agreement would provide good exposure of a large campus to the Walden students.

“Plus, if the University is receiving money, maybe tuition and other school fees won’t go up as much,” she said.

Ben Segal, a first-year University student, said the deal seemed harmless.

“I don’t see what great harm it does to have something with a different name in the building,” he said.

Although the lease arrangement ended in late July, Wolter and Paulsen both said it will be evaluated.

University officials will meet to assess the effectiveness of the lease restrictions, costs and benefits associated with the Walden deal, Paulsen said.