Online ed startup Altius sells assets to Datamark after accreditation concerns

Two months after shutting down an online degree program offered with a non-profit college because of accreditation issues, San Francisco-based startup Altius Education has sold its assets to Datamark, a Utah-based higher education marketing company.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed but, in a statement on what was once Altius Education’s homepage, Datamark said it had acquired Altius’s technology assets, including Helix, the startup’s competency-based online learning platform, as well as its enrollment management and student retention platforms.

Launched in 2009, Altius raised just north of $26 million from investors including Maveron and Spark Capital. Its goal was to partner with traditional higher education institutions to create online degree programs that improved access and personalization.

Through a program launched with Tiffin University, a non-profit college in Ohio, Altius offered an online associate’s degree program that reportedly enrolled 2,000 in 2012.  But the initiative, called Ivy Bridge, closed this summer after the program’s regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), ordered them to discontinue classes. Altius has said that in 2010, the accrediting body approved the program through 2020, but after recent changes to its policies, the HLC decided that its business structure did not meet its requirements.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Datamark said it extended offers of employment to 42 of Altius’s employees. Altius’s founder Paul Freedman was not included in the employment offer but will reportedly take a seat on Datamark’s Board of Directors.

As more colleges partner with companies offering paths to online degrees, some have speculated that the demise of Ivy Bridge could have a chilling effect on future online plans. Companies that just give schools a technology platform for offering courses, instead of creating separate online institutions in the way that Altius and Tifflin did with Ivy Bridge, would likely raise fewer questions. But, still, some say schools need more education about what might raise red flags among accreditors.