Michael Cunningham
National University System Chancellor Michael Cunningham announces the merger and new logo. Photo by Chris Jennewein

National University announced Monday it will merge academic operations with its local affiliate, the online education pioneer Northcentral University, and expand teaching nationwide.

The merger will create a combined university with 42,000 students and add 24 doctoral degree programs while offering 90% of teaching online.

Cunningham said the merger will enable the San Diego-based nonprofit university to offer a comprehensive suite of academic programs from the pre-college to doctoral level with a focus on “micro-credentials” and workforce training programs designed with input from top employers.

“The union of these two institutions will make it possible for us to offer workforce-relevant, in-demand programs — almost entirely in an asynchronously online format — to adult learners in all fifty states,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, chancellor of the National University System

The merger has been approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting entity for both public and private institutions in the West, and Cunningham also introduced a new logo for the combined National University.

National University’s strength has been in providing career-relevant degrees and credentials for adult learners at the undergraduate level, while Northcentral has well-established master’s and doctoral offerings. Northcentral, which has 12,000 students, became part of the National University System in 2018.

“Bringing together the talent, expertise and commitment to service of these two diverse academic communities will enable us to deliver against our shared mission with significantly greater impact and reach,” said Dr. Eugene Wilkerson, co-president of Northcentral.

In comments after the announcement, Cunningham said the merger will increase efficiency and help National University remain extremely affordable, with tuition toward a degree in the range of $12,000 a year.

“This is not a merger for attrition. This is a merger for quality,” he said, with no staff to lose jobs.

He said a key goal in the merger is greater access and affordability, and noted that online learning suits busy adult students because it can take place “anytime, anywhere.”

National University was founded in 1971 and has grown to become San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university with 190,000 alumni.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.