Dr. Laura Palmer Noone, MBA; LLB; PhD, is a member of the Higher Education Management Group on LinkedIn.

Laura Palmer Noone is the recently appointed CEO of Nouveau University. The new institution provides online higher education for adult learners in business-related subjects. Prior to her role at Nouveau, Dr. Noone served as the President of the University of Phoenix. She has also held a number of advisory roles including vice chair and member of the US Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, member of the Arizona Board for Private Postsecondary Education and on the Arizona Family College Savings Plan Oversight Committee. Dr. Noone is also active in the community, serving on the Board of Directors of Child Crisis Center and Banner Health Foundation of Arizona as well as working with many exceptional organizations including Fresh Start Women’s Foundation and the American Heart Association.

KH: Your presence as CEO at Nouveau University lends the new institution considerable credibility. What role do you see yourself playing in this new organization? What are your first priorities?

LPN: Keith, thank you for your vote of confidence.  My presence at Nouveau demonstrates my commitment to the mission and vision of the University.  As CEO, I see myself as the strategist, articulating the vision for the future.  We have a talented senior management team in place to run the day to day operations and I intend to work on the University rather than in the University.  Our first priorities are to gain accreditation, build our brand and increase enrollments.

KH: The mix of adult-focused programs and the web-based delivery proved to be ideal.  However, the competition for the online, adult student has intensified in the last few years. What niche does Nouveau University plan to fill in this market?

LPN: Nouveau will compete at some level with other institutions in the space, but we are defining our niche with carefully chosen degree programs and certificates that meet the demands of the marketplace but are not common within other institutions. For example, our degree in construction management delivered in an online format may be the only one of its kind.  There are several others in development, but I am not at liberty to talk about those just yet. We are committed to serving adult learners and helping them to achieve their personal and professional goals through leading edge technology, relevant, current and rigorous academic programs and world class customer service.

KH: You were with the University of Phoenix and the Apollo Group during a period of fantastic growth. What was the most interesting aspect of the rise of the for-profit sector in higher education?

LPN: Undoubtedly, the most interesting aspect of the rise of for-profit education was the change in the attitudes of more traditional not-for-profit institutions.  When I first began doing public speaking, all for-profit education was nothing more than a speck on the scene of higher education and we were barely noticed.  If we were noticed, we were a petty annoyance.  Gradually, as for-profit institutions gained traction in the marketplace, the attitude changed from indifference, to genuine interest to outright concern.  It is hard to argue with success and most of the traditional institutions that had dismissed University of Phoenix and others had to admit that perhaps the for-profit institutions were on to something significant.

Most of traditional higher education had dismissed the adult student, as well as the non-traditional student and had made no accommodations for this ever growing group.  If there were programs offered, they were simply versions of the day course offered at night with the faculty member who drew the short straw.  Now, those same institutions are recognizing that the adult student is not just an older version of the 18-22 year old student they have in their classes during the day.  Adult students are sophisticated consumers and they want customer service as well as value for their academic dollar.

These same more traditional institutions  are now also being forced to embrace technology as a means of learning because the coming tsunami of students expects an online component to all courses, yet most of their faculty are resisting this trend.  It has been interesting to watch some of the machinations these institutions and their administration have gone through in order to meet these needs.  We can thank for-profit higher education for bringing colleges and universities into the information technology era.

For profit higher education also made its mark on the accrediting bodies. I cannot imagine that institutions such as Western Governors could have survived the accreditation process had the for-profit institutions not blazed some trails with accreditors.

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