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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

University of Idaho extends its deadline for deal to finalize Phoenix purchase

University of Idaho president C. Scott Green addresses lawmakers. The Idaho Senate earlier this year voted down a bill that would have restructured Idaho’s proposed purchase of the private University of Phoenix.  (Idaho Statesman)
By Becca Savransky Idaho Statesman

The University of Idaho will have until next spring to negotiate its purchase agreement with the University of Phoenix.

The Idaho State Board of Education approved an amendment to the purchase asset agreement with the University of Phoenix and Apollo Global Management, its hedge fund owner, that would extend the closing time until June 10, 2025.

The extension gives the University of Idaho more time to work with lawmakers after they left the deal in limbo during this year’s legislative session. Lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have created more legislative oversight and aimed to address concerns about taxpayer liability in the purchase.

The agreement between the University of Idaho and Phoenix initially had a deadline of May 31 to finalize the sale, but negotiators had agreed not to end the agreement through June, according to previous Idaho Statesman reporting. An amended transaction must be approved by the State Board, which serves as the university’s Board of Regents, and the agreement includes no commitment to closing, according to documents from the State Board.

“The merits of this affiliation have never been stronger,” University of Idaho President C. Scott Green said in a news release. “The value to Idaho’s educational system, adult learners and Idaho’s industries is transformational. The affiliation also diversifies revenue streams and strengthens our financial future.”

Under the agreement, the University of Idaho would drop the exclusivity terms, so the University of Phoenix could consider other offers during that time. In exchange, Phoenix would pay Idaho $5 million when the agreement is signed by all parties. If the University of Phoenix sells to another entity, the University of Idaho would receive more money.

During the meeting, board member Kurt Liebich pointed to four key factors that he said made the Phoenix purchase important. Over the past decade, there have been upticks in online learning and adult learning. The state also expects to see a drop in traditional aged college students in the coming years and has seen a decline in the interest to invest in higher education.

“I think I said it when we approved it a year ago – I said I think it’s the most transformational thing that could happen to the state of Idaho and our education system,” Liebech said. “I said that then. I believe that more strongly now.”

Earlier this year, Attorney General Raúl Labrador sued the State Board of Education, alleging it violated open meeting laws in the sale agreement. An Ada County judge ruled in favor of the board, but Labrador appealed the ruling to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Liebech said given what’s happened over the past year with legal challenges and concerns over the deal, he believes the only path forward is to work with the Legislature to make the transaction happen. Lawmakers have said they wanted to be partners in the process to develop a solution that protects Idaho taxpayers, he said.

“Will a deal happen? That will be up to the legislature at the end of the day,” he said in a news release. “This gives us time to work with legislators and try to come up with a potential solution.”

Last session, lawmakers tried to pass a bill that attempted to restructure the U I’s $550 million purchase of the University of Phoenix, but it failed to get through the process.

“We think we had a bill that was pretty close to what people wanted,” Green told the Statesman last month. “The sellers are still very interested, as are we.”

Ian Max Stevenson contributed to this report.