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A leader in education for over 85 years: Kaplan is expanding educational access and transforming learning through novel technologies

 Kaplan is expanding educational

“Our reach expands to 26 countries around the world, and to date, our core mission remains the same: helping people pass a test, get a credential, or earn a degree as a means to advance and achieve their dreams.”

Kaplan is an international educational services company that provides education and training services to colleges, universities, businesses, and individuals around the world. Founded in 1938 by Stanley Kaplan, the company offers higher and professional education, test preparation, language training, corporate and leadership training, student recruitment, online enablement, and other university support services.

Melissa Mack, Chief Communications and HR Officer of Kaplan, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review about how her company is helping students at all stages of their lives and careers realize their dreams and build their futures.

Interview Highlights

What circumstances or events led to the creation of Kaplan? Please brief us about the history so far.

Stanley Kaplan was the son of immigrants and a star student at City College in New York City. After his dreams of medical school were shattered because of anti-Jewish admissions quotas, Stanley turned a part-time gig tutoring neighborhood kids into a full-time business. In 1938, Stanley hung out a shingle at his parents’ Brooklyn home, and the business we know today as Kaplan was born.

Stanley’s setback in getting rejected from medical school fueled a new life’s mission: opening access to college education—and thus “the American Dream"—to students of all backgrounds by helping them ace the SAT. He recognized that scoring well on the test created an opportunity for fellow working-class or immigrant students to prove themselves and level the playing field.

Eighty-five years later, Kaplan’s reach expands to 26 countries around the world, but its core mission remains the same: helping people pass a test, get a credential, or earn a degree as a means to advance and achieve their dreams.

Q. How has Kaplan changed in its mission over the years, and what has it learned as one of the longest-standing businesses in the education world?

Long known for preparing students for high-stakes admissions tests, Kaplan has built upon its roots of educational access and advancement to become an important partner to universities and employers as well, focused on developing talent for the future workforce.

While Kaplan’s mission of helping individuals succeed and advance hasn’t changed, it has significantly expanded the ways in which it does so. This includes delivering career-focused higher education programs for working adults, pioneering online learning options in the 1990s, creating pathways to higher education for international students, innovating the higher education paradigm, and advancing work-integrated learning models. Today, Kaplan is a global education leader that not only helps students advance their education and careers but also helps universities attract and support students and businesses maximize employee recruitment, development, and advancement.

Q. How does Kaplan help underserved students pursue their dream of attending college, expand their educational access, and transform their learning?

From the beginning, Kaplan has been committed to leveling the playing field for all students, regardless of their backgrounds. Following are just a few of the ways Kaplan has expanded on its mission of access:

  • Kaplan partners with ACT, which administers the ACT college admissions test, to offer free test prep to low-income students.
  • Kaplan partners with several colleges and universities, including eight historically black colleges and universities, to deliver "All-Access" programs that enable these colleges and universities to provide free graduate school and professional licensure exam prep for all of their students. Half of all students taking advantage of All-Access are underrepresented minorities and/or first-generation students.
  • Through a partnership with Amazon, Kaplan coaches help Amazon’s 750,000+ eligible front-line workers articulate their long-term career goals and use Amazon’s free tuition benefits to earn the degree or credential that puts them on the path to education and career advancement.
  • Kaplan partners with meal-kit provider HelloFresh to provide free GED prep to their workers to help them advance in their careers.

Q. How are your company’s innovations leading the education industry forward?

Skyrocketing college costs, a growing disconnect between education and employment, and the proliferation of less expensive and faster alternatives to higher education such as boot camps and credentialing programs has been prompting many to question the value of higher education.

Against this backdrop, many of Kaplan’s recent innovations are designed to help universities adapt to the changing landscape and become more relevant to the audiences they are serving. Our Prelum ("pre-alumni") programs are helping universities engage students in career exploration at a younger age, enabling them to make more informed choices about their college decisions, develop affinity for industries and schools, and create potential recruiting pipelines. Our Credegree ("credential + degree") programs enable universities to pair their degree programs with credentialing and licensing options that better prepare their students to have the skills and experience needed for the workforce, making them more marketable and competitive.

Kaplan has long demonstrated a record of innovation. For example, we launched the first fully-online law school (Concord Law School) in 1998, built one of the world’s first online universities, and, in 2018, pioneered a new higher education paradigm by selling Kaplan University to Purdue University in a groundbreaking deal that signaled critical changes in higher education. Innovations like these have encouraged many others to consider ways they could serve students online, years before the COVID pandemic forced everyone to move to virtual options.

Tell us what’s next for Kaplan.

Higher education is facing significant challenges, including declining enrollments, problems with access, quality, and cost, and employer complaints that graduates aren’t work-ready. But paradoxically, the pandemic served to jolt higher education into action in ways that reveal a much more promising future for the sector, showing us the enormous opportunities enabled by digital education, including greater promise for serving a broader and more diverse population of students with high-quality instruction. That includes educating larger numbers of disadvantaged and nontraditional learners, expanding hybrid models that are particularly useful for combining work and learning, and mixing online and in-person models to create unprecedented approaches to global study. These are areas in which Kaplan shines.

As many universities face a demographic cliff, Kaplan’s experience creating innovative and flexible programs that serve changing workforce needs is becoming increasingly relevant. And it’s not just universities. In addition to our thousands of university partners, Kaplan will continue to work directly with students as well as with thousands of corporate and business partners.

About | Melissa Mack

Melissa Mack is the Chief Communications and HR Officer at Kaplan. Mack also serves as Chairman of the Kaplan Educational Foundation, a public charity that she helped create and has overseen since its inception.

Mack holds a B.A. degree with honors from Brown University.

“Since our inception, we have been committed to leveling the playing field for all students, regardless of their backgrounds.”