According to the Wall Street Journal, the 67-year old Thunderbird School of Global Management will soon announce a landmark decision to avert its continued financial decline. The school’s campus will be sold to Laureate Education Inc., a for-profit college operator, thereby establishing a partnership that stands to generate more than $100M in operating surplus. Without a parent institution, Thunderbird is particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in the business school market. As MBA applications have declined and top-ranked schools have expanded their global focus, Thunderbird’s unique brand of international training has been flagging, with the student body shrinking 8% between 2007 and 2012.
While supporters insist drastic measures are needed, the decision has stirred controversy in the Thunderbird community, causing two board members to resign. Others have called the sale of a student- and alumni-funded campus to a private company “unconscionable,” with many worrying that the deal will “cheapen the value of the [Thunderbird] degree.”