Over the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing needs of today’s students have necessitated an unprecedented shift towards online learning. Institutions of higher education were able to meet this demand partially due to online program management entities, or OPMs. OPMs are service providers which work through contracts with universities to bring academic programs online. OPMs provide a whole host of services including student recruitment, transfer of courses to online environments, management of online courses, and student support. It’s estimated that in 2020 there were 300 new OPM partnerships, a 79 percent increase from 2019.
OPMs have also been subject to scrutiny due to the unique place they occupy in the higher learning environment. Some have raised questions about what it means for institutions, especially non-profit institutions, to turn over essential functions to nonaccredited, and often for-profit, entities. As a separate entity which seems to provide education without being an institution itself, it can be unclear as to what rules apply to OPMs and which do not.