The For-Profit Education Hall of Fame

For-profit schools for higher education often get a bad rap for over-charging students and, of all things, for making a profit in on-campus and online ventures. But, you might find some interesting entrepreneurs within the for-profit education sector. In this list of individuals slated for first “Hall of Fame,” you’ll find a former U.S. president, a liqueur heir, a coffee magnate, a radio personality and an aviator. This list represents just a few people within the growing educational entrepreneur community.

This list is ordered alphabetically by surname.

  1. Andrew ClarkAndrew S. Clark is CEO and founder of Bridgepoint Education, deemed one of the fastest-growing private education companies in the U.S., as well as the fastest-growing private company in San Diego by Inc. Magazine. Formed in 1999, Bridgepoint purchased The Franciscan University of the Prairies in 2005 and changed the name to Ashford University. In 2007, Bridgepoint acquired the Colorado School of Professional Psychology, now known as University of the Rockies. Count on more acquisitions in the future.
  2. Dr. CliffordDr. Michael K. Clifford, a founding partner of Grand Canyon University, is an education entrepreneur. Inspired by Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Dr. Clifford bases his higher education philosophy on “Four Gospels of Higher Education,” including full and equal access to education, affordability, timely and relevant education and purposeful and ethical motivations for students. Grand Canyon Education Inc., which operates Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, went public in November 2008.
  3. Bill ClintonBill Clinton is founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the U.S., but he also is an Honorary Chancellor of Laureate International Universities — a network of institutions of higher education in 24 countries. Luareate Education, Inc. and Laureate Education Asia, Ltd. own and operate the for-profit campus-based and online universities throughout the LIU network. The organization began in 1998 as Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc.
  4. Andre CointreauAndré J. Cointreau is not Madame Elisabeth Brassart, but he accomplished what Brassart did not — which was to expand the l’Ecole de Cuisine et de Pâtisserie Le Cordon Bleu, better known as Le Cordon Bleu, from one school in Paris into a multinational concern with nearly 30 schools in 15 countries. Cointreau, a descendant of the founding family of the Cointreau liqueur and Rémy Martin Cognac, purchased the school from Brassart — an old family friend — in 1984, and now serves as the president of Le Cordon Bleu International.
  5. James EtterMajor James P. Etter formed the American Military University (AMU) in 1991, which began operation in 1993 with 18 students enrolled in graduate-level studies. Two years later, the school was accredited and, in 1996, AMU introduced its first undergraduate programs. In 2002, AMU expanded into the American Public University System (APUS), also accredited. Today Etter serves as CEO, helping students find flexible education options.
  6. Specs HowardSpecs Howard, born Jerry Liebman, spent three decades entertaining audiences in Cleveland and Detroit via radio before he created the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Southfield, Michigan in 1970. In late 2009 the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts became the Specs Howard School of Media Arts and Specs opened a new film school in Farmington Hills, Michigan that same year. Specs has been honored with many awards for his achievements.
  7. Stanley KaplanStanley Kaplan (1919-2009) was a scholastic test preparation pioneer who founded Kaplan, Inc. in 1938. In 1984, Stanley Kaplan sold his company to The Washington Post Company for $45 million. The Washington Post Company subdivided the acquisition into Kaplan Higher Education, Kaplan Professional Schools and Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions and Kaptest Europe. In 1986, Mr. Kaplan and his wife established the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation which supports education, health, the arts, social action and Jewish causes.
  8. Ted MitchellTed Mitchell is the president and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund and also serves as President of the California State Board of Education. Since its founding, NewSchools Venture Fund has made portfolio-level investments in 35 nonprofit and for-profit organizations, including nonprofit charter management organizations (CMOs), school support organizations, accountability and performance tools, and human capital providers. Their continued commitment to education has helped develop the field and support organizations with similar goals.
  9. Steve ShankStephen G. Shank, JD founded the corporate entity that would become Capella Education Company, the parent company of Capella University, which went public in 2006. A former CEO of Tonka Corporation, Shank joined forces with Dr. Harold Abel in 1993 to found The Graduate School of America, which became Capella University. Shank retired in 2009, but his vision to expand access to high quality education continues through the Shank Institute for Innovative Learning, a nonprofit organization that supports advancements in higher education.
  10. Howard SchultzHoward Shultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks Coffee Company, also has quietly invested in for-profit education through venture capital company, Maveron, which he also co-founded. Maveron was an early investor in Capella Education (see Stephen Shank above) and recently invested in other higher education businesses that focus on providing educational content, such as Latimer Education and the online-curricula-building entity, Altius Education, Inc.
  11. Dr. SperlingDr. John G. Sperling is credited with leading the U.S. for-profit education movement. His fortune is based upon founding the University of Phoenix, which is now part of his publicly-traded Apollo Group. Today, Apollo Group, Inc., through its subsidiaries, University of Phoenix, Apollo Global, Institute for Professional Development, College for Financial Planning and Meritus University, has established itself as a leading provider of higher education programs for working adults by focusing on servicing the needs of the working adult.
  12. Yife TienYife Tien‘s father, Paul Tien, started the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) medical school in 1978. He lent $30 million to his son, Yife, to open the Rocky Vista University, which caters to osteopathic physicians for primary care. Yife zeroed in on Colorado as a good site because there are 5 million residents and only one medical school. Currently, the college has been granted provisional accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.
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