EdTech News Roundup - Week of 6/7

Your 1600 doesn't matter anymore

Hello!

Taking a short summer break after this note - I’ll be back the week after the 4th. My guess is this will be a slow time for news, but I may not be able to help myself if something interesting happens…

I’m also kicking around a few ideas for more specific posts, I’d love to hear if either sound particularly interesting:

  • Getting up to speed in EdTech: what and how I read to follow EdTech

  • The Great Resignation: I’ve read at least 4 or 5 articles about COVID-induced job-leaving/switching and the impact it might have. I’d attempt to pull these threads together into one opinion piece

Anyways, on to the news!

Fundraising/M&A

CourseHero acquires LitCharts: Founded by the same team that built Spark Notes, LitCharts “provides notes, definitions and translations on over 2,000 literary texts.”1 Terms weren’t disclosed, so it’s a little hard to evaluate the impact of this acquisition, but it sounds like a fairly natural fit for Coursehero. No word from arch-nemesis Coursevillain (an actual real thing) on whether there is any counter-M&A in the offing.

Softbank invests $220M in EightfoldAI: EightfoldAI is a platform for “hiring, retaining, and growing a diverse global workforce.” There are a lot of platforms out there attempting similar feats, but it sounds like they have built a substantial business. I will also highlight that this investment continues a hot streak in EdTech/Future of Work for Lightspeed Venture Partners (Byju, Clever, Flockjay, Orbis, and Outschool).


Stories

I usually don’t have a theme across these sections, but it worked out nicely this week. While each of these stories represents a different trend in Higher Ed, they are absolutely intertwined.

Higher Ed Enrollments drop by 600,000 students; 80% of the loss came from community colleges

We already know that there is a demographic cliff coming in 2025 that will make maintaining enrollments challenging - a COVID-induced drawdown before then sounds like trouble.

There are a lot of ways to slice the data highlighting the pain this represents, which Phill Hill does here. One positive-for-the-industry-painful-for-some-institutions trend that stuck out to me is what Phil has coined the “flight to online”. Enrollments at institutions with 90%+ online student populations are up almost across the board:

I would love to see how this trend correlates against the growth on non-traditional paths like bootcamps and/or apprenticeships. My sense is that most of the students in question here are exiting education directly for the workforce, but I will be watching the shorter term credential market curiously!

Schools continuing to drop SAT/ACT requirements

In 2019, there was only one college in the US that was “test free”, not requiring an SAT/ACT score for consideration - Hampshire College. There are now at least 70 and the trend line is pointing up.

I have struggled with this debate for a while. I thought that having a meritocratic test at least gave everyone, no matter their background, a chance. However, the data is growing incontrovertible that these tests just hurt non-wealthy students. For a deep dive, I highly recommend Jon Boeckenstedt’s piece.

What’s more, outside of the small subset of elite schools, does this even matter? Akil Bello put this nicely:

“Especially at institutions with higher admit rates, you have to ask if the test is really an academic indicator or just a random hoop to jump through”

He’s right! If we know that High School GPA is equally or more predictive of college success AND we’re admitting the vast majority of applicants anyways, why are we asking students to take this extra test?

As for the selective schools, I’m OK with them having to work a little harder to fill out their classes. Schools like Amherst have shown that it is both possible to admit diverse populations to selective institutions and not enough to count on SAT/ACT scores to do the legwork for them.

University Innovation Alliance graduates 73K students in 6 years

In 2014, 11 universities - headlined by Arizona State, Georgia State, Purdue, THE Ohio State University, and UT Austin - made a pact to graduate 68,000 more students than their at-the-time graduation rates expected they would over the course of 10 years.2 They’ve now doubled their goal to 136,000 grads by their original date, 2023.

It didn’t surprise me that the positive delta in graduation rate is attributed to better student support mechanisms - better analytics, advising, and career services. We know these things make a difference and that the answer to “should we do more of this?” is “Yes”.

What I appreciate is that 11 big universities got together in a room and said “let’s make a difference”. And they did it! In light of everything that is going on in Higher Ed right now (see above two stories), this is important.


Other Tabs…

Thing(s) I’m thinking about

At SEI, we mostly focus on opportunities to invest inside the US. I’ve been working to understand more of the international scene and find UpGrad and Classplus’ fundraising strategy to be case studies in the difference between US and International companies.

What strikes me is how forward the fundraising process is. UpGrad leaked key details of their business at least | three | times in the run up to Temasek’s $120M investment in May. It looks like Classplus may be following a similar strategy with Tiger Global.

This is quite different from the US, where we typically wait to announce a fundraise until after it has closed (often months after).

I don’t want to declare this a good or bad thing for the companies involved - it’s just different. As a bystander, it’s kind of fun getting to see it all play out over the presswire!

1

Yes, they do sound remarkably similar to Spark Notes. Also remarkable, Spark Notes was founded over 2 decades ago! Not to go too deep down the rabbit hole, but Spark Notes was started by Harvard undergrads and sold for a cool $3.5M less than two years after being founded. Painting houses in college was not nearly as profitable…

2

Yes, that is a mouthful. Oddly, I can’t find what this translates to in percentage terms or at the individual school level. Let me know if you’ve seen this data!

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