Michael K. Clifford

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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.

Early life[edit]

Michael Kevin Clifford was born at Saint Mary's Catholic Hospital in Reno, Nevada in 1954 to parents William Henry Clifford Jr. and Ruth Grace Roth. William was the house band leader at a local Reno hotel, the Riverside. Clifford was reared in Phoenix, Arizona where his father owned a local radio station, KUPD. From an early age, Clifford showed an attraction to music. He would spend many of his formative years playing in various types of musical venues from symphonies to rock bands, to jazz to Broadway shows to state fairs, simply anywhere he could play his trumpet. Along with Clifford's father, Clifford's high school band teacher, J.D. Marsh, encouraged him to pursue his love of music.

Formative relationships[edit]

In 1981, Clifford became a Born Again Christian. With a Mother of Jewish heritage and Father of Catholic roots, 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 serve 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, universities, media, and global nonprofit 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 Steubenville University, William C. Turner, and Author Jamie Buckingham.

Clifford's relationship with Bill Bright sparked his interest in for-profit educ

Career roles[edit]

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 was the CEO of Significant Federation, LLC, a holding company for several for-profit educational institutions, including the founding of the Jack Welch Management Institute, Ken Blanchard College of Business, and Forbes Business School. He has been behind the scenes on many transactions.

Clifford recently launched his new companies, Significant Systems which is dedicated to helping Christian universities and colleges increase their top line revenues via online operations; and Significant Technology which provides innovative technologies in a cloud-based system to schools to provide degrees with textbooks online on mobile devices. For “secular” regionally accredited institutions, Clifford has launched Significant Federation. His partnerships have approximately $400 million to deploy into these partnerships.

Clifford is launching a Subscription TV service featuring Family-friendly Sermons, TV Shows, and Films called Ministry.com. Clifford is the co-founder of Godfruits.com a rapidly growing content media online company.

Clifford has been active in numerous charities, including Campus Crusade for Christ International, Boat Angel, Just Jesus, The LA Dream Center, Coastline Church, Ministry.com, Horizon Christian Fellowship, Lead Like Jesus, and Vision 360.

Business philosophy[edit]

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 closed Significant Federation, LLC because of his belief that the US government decided that for profit education should not exist. This was his umbrella organization for SignificantPartners LLC, a group of private, silent partners with Clifford deploying $100MM+ for the acquisition of education properties, gaining better than anticipated returns for investors.[1]

Bridgepoint Education predecessor was formed by Michael K. Clifford with Louis A. Falcigno adding Dr. Wayne Clugston, 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 (BPI).

In November 2003, Clifford became the catalyst as Chairman 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 (LOPE).

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.

Clifford recently launched a blog, www.mclifford.com, dedicated to helping people live better lives.

Though Clifford never attended college, he is the recipient of several honorary doctorates. “My goal is to graduate to Heaven as a full time Philanthropist,” stated Clifford. Clifford is married with four children. He lives in Rancho Santa Fe, California.


  1. ^ significantfederation



News articles[edit]

<"College, Inc. (2010)">. <Frontline>. By <David Fanning>. Perf. <Auron Math, Martin Smith>. <PBS>. <WGBH>. <4 May 2010>. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]