Laureate Education lures Clinton as ‘honorary chancellor’

Laureate Education Inc., a Baltimore-based for-profit higher education company, said Monday that it scored former President Bill Clinton as its "honorary chancellor" – a high-profile position that's expected to raise the company's profile abroad.

The company, which owns a global network of more than 50 campus-based and online institutions in 21 countries, tapped Clinton as an internal adviser. He will also be featured in campus visits and in the company's marketing material to students.

"This is huge" for Laureate, said Amna Kirmani, marketing professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. "It'll put this company on the map. People will notice it. Other companies will notice them. It will bring a huge amount of credibility to the company."

The company's global network — called Laureate International Universities — will likely benefit from the prominence that Clinton still enjoys throughout most of the world, Kirmani said.

Laureate evolved out of Sylvan Learning Systems, a publicly traded company until three years ago. Sylvan's founder, Douglas L. Becker, took Laureate private in 2007 in a $3.82 billion buyout and has spent the past three years steering the company's education business abroad.

Becker said Clinton had expressed interest in learning more about Laureate's efforts during his world travels in recent years. Last year, Becker said, he traveled with Clinton to Haiti to work on higher education challenges on that island.

Also last year, Becker said, Clinton stopped to speak to students at Laureate universities in Peru, Brazil and Spain.

"As he understood better the quality of the universities we created, it seemed to build his confidence and interest in supporting and advising us," Becker said.

The "honorary chancellor" role that Clinton will fill means the former president will advise Laureate's executives and help foster youth leadership on its campuses, Becker said.

"His image outside of the United States is really remarkable," Becker said.

Becker declined to say how much Clinton would be compensated for his position at Laureate.

A message left with Clinton's foundation office was not returned.

Laureate operates campus-based and online schools in the United States, Central and South America, Europe and Asia.

The company says it has more than 550,000 students. Its schools offer certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a variety of fields, from architecture and art to law and medicine.

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