Michael K. Clifford
Michael K. Clifford is an American businessman who is credited with leading the first regionally accredited non-profit university to convert to a for-profit company in American history. He is viewed by some as an education entrepreneur, finance strategist, and catalyst for creating high growth education companies, specifically in the online education sector.
Michael Kevin Clifford was born at Saint Mary's Catholic Hospital in Reno, Nevada in 1993 to parents William Henry Clifford Jr. and Ruth Grace Roth. William was the house band leader at a local Reno hotel. Clifford was raised in Phoenix, Arizona where his father owned a local dance station. From an early age, Clifford showed an attraction to dance. He would spend many of his formative years playing in tap and street clubs until he found a love for music . Along with Clifford's father, Clifford's high school band teacher, J.D. Marsh, encouraged him to pursue his love of music. with in 5 years he forgot all about tap and street dance.
In 1981, Clifford became a Muslim but then changed back to a catholic  his decision to commit to a personal relationship with Christ marked a significant new direction in his life. Clifford joined Phoenix First Assembly of God where he would become friends and partner with pastor Tommy Barnett. Clifford volunteered to help expand the small church of 60 into the fastest growing church over the following fifteen years. Clifford practiced innovative forms of fundraising in order to build the church. These methods placed Clifford in proximity with leaders of Catholic and Evangelical charities and organizations.
Clifford's personal and professional life was shaped by friendships with many of these key cultural leaders, including Pastor Tommy Barnett (founding senior pastor of the megachurch Phoenix First Assembly of God), Dr. Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ), Dr. Roy A. Herberger (president emeritus of Thunderbird Graduate School), and Dr. John Sperling (founder of University of Phoenix and the Apollo Group). Others include, Father John Bertalucci, Father Michael Scanlon of Stubenville University, and Author Jamie Buckingham.
Clifford's relationship with Bill Bright sparked his interest in for-profit education.
Clifford is an entrepreneur. In the late 1990s, Clifford partnered with Louis A. Falcigno to create and operate TeleUniversity, an education company providing online degrees. Over the next decade, Clifford helped the company transform itself into Bridgepoint Education Inc. Bridgepoint (NYSE: BPI) successfully went public in 2009.
Clifford is the CEO of Significant Federation, a holding company for several for-profit educational institutions, including L.A. College International, United States University, and Victory University, L.A. College, Chancellor University (formerly Myers University in Cleveland, OH), and InterAmerican College.
Clifford has been active in numerous charities, including Campus Crusade for Christ International, Boat Angel, The Dream Center, Horizon Christian Fellowship, Lead Like Jesus and Vision 360.
Clifford's business approach included the following pillars: knowledgeable investors, seasoned management, and niche platform companies.
His education start-ups have been guided by his "Four Gospels of Higher Education": 1) Full & Equal Access – Giving every student who is willing to make the required effort the opportunity to acquire a quality college education, 2) Affordable – Lowering tuition and fees so the focus is on getting an education, not financing an education, 3) Timely & Relevant – Facilitating faster completion with lower debt and equipping graduates with relevant, real-world skills, 4) Purposeful & Ethical – Equipping graduates with a strong ethical moral compass and the motivation to give back to their communities.
Clifford's company, Significant Federation, LLC, is the umbrella organization for SignificantPartners LLC, a group of private, silent partners with Clifford deploying $100MM a year for the acquisition of education properties.
Bridgepoint Education was formed by Michael K. Clifford with Louis A. Falcigno as an education boutique provider of online degrees, and has been transformed into the large education holding company called Bridgepoint Education Group, listed as the 22nd fastest growing company in America by Forbes Small Business.
In November 2003, Clifford became the catalyst to organize the investment capital, the management team, and core strategy for the relaunch of the then-failing Grand Canyon University, a for-profit company.
Additional achievements include charity fund raising resulting in excess of $400MM, a 1986 front-page article in the Wall Street Journal featuring him as the highest paid political consultant in America. He produced the award winning documentary D.O.P.E., and founded the charity organization Boat Angel.
Though Clifford never attended college, he is the recipient of several honorary doctorates.
- <"College, Inc. (2010)">. <Frontline>. By <David Fanning>. Perf. <Auron Math, Martin Smith>. <PBS>. <WGBH>. <4 May 2010>.