National University Announces Merger with Northcentral University

Through merger with Northcentral University, National University will grow to serve more than 45,000 learners; significantly expand masters and doctoral programs

SAN DIEGO (JULY 18, 2022) — National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit university that serves approximately 30,000 working adult learners, online students, educators, and members of the military community, today announced plans to merge with Northcentral University, a unique, adult-serving institution offering doctoral degrees in an exclusively online format. Following a rigorous review process and a vote of approval from the WASC Senior College and University Commission, the two universities now have approval to continue their accreditation status under a merged academic structure.

“As our country continues to grapple with rapidly changing workforce needs and a new round of economic uncertainty, colleges and universities face a new imperative to deliver educational offerings that are affordable, accessible and tightly aligned with the needs of the labor market,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, interim president of National University and chancellor of the National University System, a network of nonprofit education institutions and educational programs spanning pre-K through doctorate level. “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.”

The merger will bring together the complementary strengths of the two institutions. National University brings experience in providing career-relevant degrees and credentials for adult learners at the undergraduate level, and its growing focus on graduate will be enhanced by Northcentral’s diverse and well-established master’s and doctoral offerings.

Under this new structure, National University will grow to become a fully-online university serving approximately 45,000 students, with a comprehensive suite of academic programs from the pre-college to doctoral level and a unique focus on microcredentials and workforce training programs designed with input from top employers.

“The values that have made NU and NCU successful—flexibility, academic quality, workforce relevance, and inclusive and student-centric programming—have never been more timely or relevant than they are today,” Eugene Wilkerson, Ph.D., co-president of Northcentral University. “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.”

In the coming months, academic leadership and administrators from the two institutions will consolidate into a unified academic structure organized around nine colleges and academic programs. Northcentral University serves approximately 10,000 students through a unique “one-to-one” online learning model, offers 24, fully online doctoral programs and became part of the National University System as an independent member institution in 2018.

A Veteran-founded university that has for more than 50 years specialized in adult education, National University’s highly diverse population of students reflect the shifting demographics of students in higher education today. Approximately 70 percent of National University students take the majority of their classes online. More than 25 percent identify as Hispanic, and 10 percent identify as Black. More than 80 percent of undergraduates are transfer students. The average age is 33. And about one in four students are active-duty service members or Veterans.

 “Three years ago, the Board of Trustees approved an ambitious five-year plan, challenging National University’s leadership to expand access to workforce-relevant credentials and skills at a lower price. This merger—which now has approval from our accrediting agency to move forward—is a significant step toward achieving that vision,” said Dr. Ruthann Heinrich, chair of the National University System Board of Trustees. “It will equip National University to develop educational offerings and student services that are even more comprehensive—and responsive to the complex needs and aspirations of today’s learners.”

The System’s other mission-aligned university—City University of Seattle—shares a similar focus serving adult and lifelong learners and is also piloting projects to reduce the cost of a degree through advanced technologies and other approaches consistent with the organization’s non-profit mission.


About National University: National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable, achievable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 75 online and on-campus programs and flexible four-week classes designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to over 30,000 students and 190,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice..

About the National University System: The National University System (NUS) is a network of accredited nonprofit education institutions serving a diverse population of students including pre-K-12 students and working professionals. NUS higher-education institutions serve more than 45,000 students through National University, Northcentral University, and City University of Seattle. NUS education-focused initiatives include Workforce Education Solutions, Harmony SEL, Inspire Teaching & Learning, and Fundraising Academy Cause Selling Education.

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