Bill Groves shaking hands with John Comerford

Antioch University and Otterbein University Announce Intention to Form First-of-Kind National University System

July 14, 2022 (COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Today Otterbein University and Antioch University announced their intention to affiliate with each other to create a unique, national, non-profit, university system focused on educating students both for careers and to prepare students to advance social justice, democracy, and the common good. These two venerable universities have strong reputations for advancing social, racial and environmental justice and it’s intended that the system would grow to include other colleges and universities with similar histories and missions.

The new system of affiliated universities is built around the concept of shared graduate and adult-learner programs, while members keep their distinctive undergraduate programs and brand identities. This innovative system allows the universities to expand degree offerings, to offer programs in more locations nationwide, to provide innovative learning modalities including online, low-residency, and hybrid settings, to create new opportunities for student engagement across institutions, to enhance capacities and contain costs through shared services and improved technologies, while, at the same time, preparing students to become engaged citizens advancing democracy and social justice.

“The system will additionally offer tailored workforce education programs with badges, certificates and other credentials to learners and business partners nationwide,” stated John Comerford, Ph.D., president of Otterbein University. “These workforce education programs not only help to keep and generate jobs in our local communities, they are important on-ramps for adult learners to pursue higher education and advanced credentials. Moreover, because the programs will be tailored to meet the specific needs of the employer, those businesses will ordinarily share in the cost of that education, improving access and affordability of higher education.”

“This is the first system to be created in which the affiliate institutions are bound by a common mission of educating for social justice and a commitment to building and preserving democracy. This mission-driven system could not come at a more important inflection point in our nation’s history,” stated William R. Groves, J.D., chancellor of Antioch University. “Higher education owes this nation more than career preparation. Our pluralistic American democracy requires that educational institutions prepare students to be effective and engaged citizens, critical thinkers, seekers of facts and truth, deeply respectful of science and research, and advocates for civil rights, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Both Horace Mann and The Reverend Lewis Davis well understood this when they founded these two historic institutions.”

“The independent university system model is being developed to allow universities to move from being competitors to collaborators to better serve students and our communities while preserving their own institutional identities and cultures,” stated Comerford. “Moreover, as a national system we will be both nimble and scalable and better positioned to address the needs of industry in our states and nation providing accessible and affordable workplace education. We are hopeful to expand opportunities to include other colleges and universities that have justice-focused institutional alignment with Otterbein and Antioch and are looking to share in this unique positioning in the higher education market.”

“The histories of our institutions are deeply rooted in providing equal access to all learners,” stated Groves. “Otterbein and Antioch were among the first colleges in pre-Civil War America to enroll Black students and women to learn side-by-side with white, male students and today Antioch and Otterbein are approaching our affiliation with that same focus of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging.”

The announcement comes after months of due diligence by the institutions to confirm alignment of their missions and academic offerings and to outline the ways in which learners, their campus communities, and their greater communities will benefit from the new system.

Comerford and Groves are confident the system will provide increased opportunities for student jobs and internships, opportunities for Otterbein students to study at one of Antioch’s campuses for a semester to broaden their experiences and academic repertoires, expand opportunities for degree completion, and allows for new programmatic options including stackable certificates, badges and other credits, as well as accelerated degree programs, five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s programs, and six-year combined bachelor’s and professional degree programs, and pathways to doctoral programs.

“I am convinced incoming undergraduate students will value the idea of applying once for admission as a first-year student at Otterbein knowing they are already accepted to and on track for a graduate or professional degree from Antioch,” stated Comerford. “We are thinking innovatively about what we offer to whom, and packaging our academic offerings nationally to provide a seamless learner-centered approach that private higher education says is necessary for future success but doesn’t yet offer.”

The agreement allows for formal planning for the strategic alliance by both institutions as a first step in creating the independent university system, with conversations with additional mission-aligned alliance partners already underway. The parties are now engaged in finalizing their due diligence and will shortly start the process to obtain all necessary regulatory approvals. Final system approval from accreditors and federal and state regulators is expected to take about a year. New programs are expected to be offered through the affiliation as early as the fall of 2023.

For media inquiries please contact Karen Hamilton, Director of Content and Communications, [email protected] or 310.804.3795

About Antioch University
Antioch University was founded and incorporated in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Its first President was Horace Mann, the father of public education in the United States. Antioch’s mission is to provide learner-centered education to empower students with the knowledge and skills to lead meaningful lives and to advance social, economic, and environmental justice. Antioch University is a national university that includes campuses in Yellow Springs, OH, Keene, NH; Los Angeles; Santa Barbara; and Seattle as well as low residency or remote programs such as the Graduate School of Leadership and Change and Antioch University Online. It enrolls approximately 3800 post-traditional age students in a wide variety of graduate programs and an undergraduate degree completion program. A bold and enduring source of innovation in higher education, Antioch University is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) institution and has been continuously accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1927. Academic departments include Undergraduate Studies; Psychology, Counseling and Therapy; Education; Environmental Studies and Sustainability; Leadership and Management; and Creative Writing. Note: Antioch University and Antioch College separated in 2009 and now operate independently. The College was separately incorporated in 2009 and licenses the name “Antioch College” from the University. Antioch College is not affected in any way by this affiliation. For more information about Antioch University, visit

About Otterbein University
Otterbein University was founded in 1847 in Westerville, Ohio. It is a private university nationally recognized for its intentional blending of liberal arts and professional studies through its renowned Integrative Studies curriculum and its commitments to experiential learning and community engagement and is celebrating 175 years of operation in 2022. Otterbein is recognized by Colleges of Distinction, with additional Field of Study recognition in business, education, engineering, nursing and career development. It is ranked 12th in its category in U.S. News & World Report’s guide to “America’s Best Colleges.” It also is recognized in national rankings by Washington Monthly, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. Otterbein has 2,400 undergraduate and 500 graduate students enrolled in its more than 70 undergraduate majors; seven master’s programs; and a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP). Its picturesque campus is perfectly situated in Westerville, Ohio, just minutes from Columbus. To learn more about Otterbein, visit