Mitch Daniels went from running the state of Indiana, as its two-term Republican governor, to running its top flight public university, Purdue University, based in West Lafayette.
Since Daniels began his tenure in 2013, Purdue has made plenty of headlines. First, the school partnered with Gallup on an ambitious project touted as “the largest representative study of college graduates in U.S. history.” The goal? To find out what graduates really value about their educations. The takeaway: Fancy degrees don’t mean much for people’s well-being.
Earlier this year, Daniels also dropped a bombshell when he announced Purdue’s acquisition of Kaplan University. It was an unprecedented move for a public university to take over a for-profit, online college, especially given the for-profit sector’s recent regulatory troubles. Negotiations were conducted in secret, which Daniels said was necessary under federal investment rules.
Why Kaplan? It’s part of Purdue’s broader innovation agenda to offer students a more affordable, accessible, world-class education, says Daniels, though the deal’s critics saw things differently.
NPR sat down with Daniels to talk about how he sees his responsibility toward Indiana’s students today and in the future. The conversation has been edited and condensed.