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UCSD's Fox to join Bridgepoint's board

The chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Marye Anne Fox has been appointed to the board of directors for Bridgepoint Education Inc., the company that owns Ashford University.

Bridgepoint's approach to education has been alternately praised for offering opportunities to students disenfranchised by the traditional college experience, and chided for using significant amounts of public funding for a for-profit institution. Bridgepoint (NYSE: BPI) purchased Ashford University and College of the Rockies, two small brick and mortar schools, and offered their classes online.

In a written statement, Fox praised Bridgepoint for “re-engineering the modern student experience,” said Fox.

“I am honored to join Bridgepoint Education’s board of directors and look forward to being involved with this exciting organization," she said.

Bridgepoint employs "recruiters," who work in rooms of phone banks similar to telemarketers, calling prospective students and encouraging them to take out government loans for school. Those loans make up about 88 percent of the publically traded company's revenue.

The use of government funds at Bridgepoint and similar education companies became the focus of government hearings conducted by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin earlier this year.

Bridgepoint, however, points out that their online classes and encouragement of financial aid allows people who would otherwise not be able to attend college or graduate school to get a degree.

A chemist and National Medal of Science recipient, Fox brings an extensive background in higher education to the board. She currently serves on the board of trustees for Dartmouth College and has previously been on the board of trustees for the University of Notre Dame. She is also on the board of directors for Red Hat Inc., a software company, and W.R. Grace & Co., a specialty chemical company.

For the past seven years, she has been chancellor and a distinguished professor at UCSD. Previously, she held the same positions at North Carolina State University, where she became the University’s first female chief executive. Fox was also the vice president of research and the regents chair of chemistry at University of Texas.

Fox has already announced her plans to step down from UCSD in June of 2012.

Fox did not return a phone call requesting comment on the controversy surrounding Bridgepoint.

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