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Risks of OPM Model

Schools that partner with an OPM pay a very high price. The fundamental promise made by the OPM is that it will assume all of the risk by making up-front expenditures on the university’s behalf.

During the sales process, the OPM will refer to the university as its partner, celebrating their shared goal of expanding access to education. It sounds appealing; who doesn’t love a no-risk/all-reward deal? But there is an obvious cost — the onerous revenue share demanded by the OPM — and a more subtle one, which springs from the profound lack of alignment between the goals of the school and those of the OPM.

Allocating Marketing Dollars

The traditional model encourages OPMs to spend their marketing dollars on the programs that generate the most profit. We’ve heard companies argue, in fact, that they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to do so.

The programs that generate the best return, of course, are the ones with the highest tuition and the loosest admissions standards. Should your OPM sign a deal with another university that promises more revenue, your institution will become a lower priority overnight. Schools trusting an OPM to market them faithfully are risking everything on a company with very different incentives.

Noodle Partners isn’t that kind of OPM. We spend your money in accordance with YOUR goals, following your directions. Want to raise admissions standards? Fine with us. Market in new areas, geographically or demographically, despite the higher costs involved? We’ll help you. Noodle Partners operates with total transparency, and with you calling the shots.

Choosing Technology

The typical OPM has invested heavily in proprietary technology. That’s a sunk cost, which the OPM needs to amortize by keeping its clients tied to its proprietary system for as long as possible. Generally, proprietary technology means that the university must adapt to the OPM, not the other way around.

At the same time, the school has less and less reason to continue using the OPM’s system. The billions invested in new educational technology every year mean there are better solutions available all the time, and they’re readily available. Your OPM would rather you not know that.

By contrast, Noodle Partners spends a great deal of time evaluating technology available from companies that are lining up to work with us (and you). We choose the best of those providers, generally picking technologies that will not only support your online programs, but your on-campus offerings as well. The goal is to make sure that, to the extent you’re ready to merge online and on-campus operations (part of the agile future we envision), we’re ready to help.

No Exit

So what happens if you find that your OPM is not marketing your school effectively, and that its proprietary technology is no better, and possibly worse, than systems you have or could obtain independently?

Should you wish to disengage from the OPM — and an increasing number of universities are trying to do just that — you will face several challenges:

  • OPMs hire good lawyers, and breaking an OPM contract is tough.
  • Contracts often stipulate that information on prospective students belongs to the OPM. Should the university sever the contract, it will have zero prospects in the pipeline.
  • Some OPMs may claim ownership of the intellectual property used to create the online courses even though they’re taught by university employees.
  • Digital assets such as web pages, landing pages and microsites are owned by the OPM. If the deal ends, so do these most public-facing aspects of the program.

Noodle Partners Is Less Risky

Noodle Partners is not tied to a proprietary system. It is not encumbered by a single model or calcified with sunk costs and outdated assumptions. Noodle Partners is not hawking a black-box solution.

Every Noodle Partners program is designed around the client’s needs. Just as there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all education, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for building online higher education. Noodle Partners works with both technology and education experts to craft custom solutions for each of its clients.

But that’s not the only reason working with us is low-risk. Our contracts are short-term (generally three years) and easy for you to get out of if you need to. Unlike a traditional OPM, we do what you need us to do. And if we aren’t doing it to your satisfaction, we’ll change tacks, or bow out. Our interests are aligned with yours.