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INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Department of Education consented Tuesday to Purdue University's plan to acquire the primarily online Kaplan University and make it part of the Purdue system.

Federal approval follows the unanimous Aug. 10 decision by the State Commission for Higher Education authorizing the tentatively dubbed Purdue NewU to operate as an Indiana public institution.

The last remaining step for the combined entity is to win approval by the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accrediting body that previously has assessed Purdue and Kaplan individually and certified the rigor of their programs.

According to university officials, a key focus for Purdue NewU will be offering coursework that appeals to the 35 million American adults who started, but have not yet completed, a college degree.

It's expected to operate without receiving state appropriations, though Indiana residents will pay a discounted tuition rate, and Purdue University employees no tuition, for credits earned through NewU classes.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.