Iowa Football

Boiler Up? In Iowa? Yes, to a degree

Purdue University Global has five Iowa locations

Cedar Rapids campus of Purdue University Global
Cedar Rapids campus of Purdue University Global

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sure, you don’t have to go too far here to see something on a car or a house identifying the owner as an Iowa Hawkeyes fan.

You can’t walk through a C.R. supermarket or eat in a C.R. restaurant without seeing someone wearing Hawkeyes garb.

But this also is a Purdue town. It has been since this spring.

On the southwest side of the city — 3165 Edgewood Parkway SW, to be precise — is the Cedar Rapids campus of Purdue University Global. Right in your midst, dear Hawkeye fans, are people associated with the Boilermakers. Who, by the way, will try to douse your team’s Big Ten West football title hopes Saturday in West Lafayette, where brick-and-mortar Purdue University is located.

“Purdue Global serves around 1,400 students in Iowa online and on the ground,” Tim Doty, director of public information and issues management at Purdue, said via email.

“Purdue Global was created to enhance Purdue’s land-grant mission by expanding access to higher education for the tens of millions of working adults who started and did not complete a college degree and for others unable to attend a traditional college campus. It serves approximately 27,000 students, most of whom earn their degree online.”

Other Purdue Global campuses are in Cedar Falls, Davenport, Mason City and Urbandale. How did this happen right under our noses?

Well, Purdue University acquired for-profit Kaplan University last year to turn it into a public, nonprofit university in the Purdue system.

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“None of us knows how fast or in what direction online higher education will evolve, but we know its role will grow, and we intend that Purdue be positioned to be a leader as that happens,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said in a statement when the acquisition was announced.

“A careful analysis made it clear that we are very ill-equipped to build the necessary capabilities ourselves, and that the smart course would be to acquire them if we could. We were able to find exactly what we were looking for.”

Purdue acquired all of Kaplan’s campuses, and now also has presences in Maine, Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Though Purdue Global is primarily for online education, the Cedar Rapids campus has a 30,000-square foot building. Nursing students attend classes there Wednesdays through Fridays.

On a classes day, the parking lot has cars of students from several Eastern Iowa counties. But on the day I perused the lot this week, none featured support of Purdue.

One license plate frame touted the Hawkeyes. Another represented the Oklahoma Sooners, which is totally irrelevant to this story, so let’s forget it was mentioned.

In the lobby of the Purdue Global-Cedar Rapids building, you see a pennant for the school. “Boiler Up,” it says. Employees were given them this year from their new employer.

Chandra Jordan is a good, loyal employee at the school, an administrative assistant in the nursing department. She was Kaplan before she was Purdue, and she was a Hawkeye before she was a Boilermaker.

“My dad raised us Hawkeyes since back in the Great Depression,” Jordan said.

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No, not the one in the 1930s. Rather, she said, the one that was caused “when Lute Olson left.”

“My first crush was Bobby Hansen,” she said, referring to one of Olson’s basketball players at Iowa.

“When I told my dad we were switching to Purdue here, he asked if I had to root for the Boilermakers. I told him I’d always be a Hawkeye.”

It isn’t as if Iowa is ceding anything to Purdue around here. The University of Iowa has had a Tippie College of Business center in downtown Cedar Rapids for many years.

This is a Big Ten city. But the black-and-gold of Iowa still has a whopping advantage here over Purdue’s black-and-old gold. Just who will have the edge in West Lafayette Saturday, however, is anyone’s guess.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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