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EdTech News Roundup - Week of 3/29
Bundling and un-bundling
I apologize for being MIA last week and late this week. I was - I kid you not - driving a new-to-me 1972 Volkswagen Type 2 (bus!) from French Creek, West Virginia to the Outer Banks, NC and then back to Philly. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of driving a 36HP bus with no power steering through the hills of WV and the winds of OBX, it is tiring.
Why a bus? Well, ~12 months ago I needed something to do on the internet that wasn’t my job or Netflix, but was at least mildly intellectually stimulating. What started as a whim soon became a whole-hearted endeavor, complete with an online community (thesamba), a few “remember when you thought that was a good idea haha” (from basically everyone I talked to about it), and a pivot from B2C (random people on Craigslist) to B2B.
So, here we are. I own a bus and Coursera is public. I’d like to believe both our journeys were noble. On to the news!
Money!: Most of the EdTech specialist VCs raised new funds in the past 12-24 months, but we haven’t seen a major cash injection to one of the bigger companies outside of the tutoring companies, who are largely focused in a war for market share. I will be monitoring how they use it closely - Jeff already has one successful acquisition under his belt in Rhyme, which is already a $25M+ business in the form of Guided Projects.
Next batter up?: There are a few companies waiting in the wings who have to be excited about Coursera’s reception. Udemy, VIPKid, Byju, and at least a few others. As above, hopefully this bodes well for the growth of the broader ecosystem.
SPACs: Coursera was not a SPAC, but no public-company conversation is complete without some talk of SPACs. You no longer even have to use caps-lock to type SPAC, it just auto-corrects for you.
College athletes have taken the NCAA to the Supreme Court for the right to be paid for the work they put in that makes the NCAA (and their schools) money.
There is so much to un-pack here, including what it even means to “be paid.” Is it a salary? Ability to profit off “name and likeness”? Both/more?
Most people seem to agree that football/basketball players need to be paid somehow. How this ripples out into the broader college sports ecosystem (particularly compliance with Title IX) is under-studied.
Further down the rabbit hole, this has implications on the college “bundle.” No other university system plays as comprehensive a role as the US college system - place of learning, place of research, place of social-emotional development and connection, place of entertainment, place of employment, and many more.
If you take one of those things out, what happens?
There are many people who will make many good arguments in answer to that question. I appreciate them! I do not (yet!) have such conviction to make an argument, but will eagerly read anything on the topic.
Rice University is growing their undergrad student body 20%, while Becker College in Worcester is closing.
We’ve covered this topic before and expect to cover it again. It deserves it’s own long-form article at some point, but, unfortunately, today is not that day! I will pull out a couple nuggets from Friday though:
Rich get richer: Before Rice, GW was the highest profile example of an elite university (don’t quibble with me on what elite is) experimenting with its student body size.1 We’ve also seen applications go up to elite institutions as a result of COVID. I expect more institutions to test out growth over the coming years. I also expect lots of unintended consequences as a result (see above on the NCAA).
Growth, but not “MEGA”: A ~month ago, Brandon Busteed put out an article positing that Harvard should enroll 1M students. The headline is cringe-y, but his arguments (social mobility and false notion of meritocracy, among others) are good. However, I expect to see more Rice examples (4K total —> 6K total) than Georgia Tech’s (11K students in comp sci alone!).
Patterns in closures?: I keep wanting to see a deeper pattern in college closures than “Vermont.” Becker, ~50 miles south of the VT border, provides an important counterpoint! More seriously, there are folks covering college financial health and demographic changes, but I think there is more meat on this bone to be discovered.
Given my day job, I’m still figuring out how to treat fundraising news. Our group had fun talking about these two on Friday and I’d love to cover fundraising at least some of the time moving forward. In the future, I aspire to have the CEOs come on the chat and relay the discussion here!
A student support company whose initial market has been with HBCUs and other MSIs. With a strong cadre of investors in this round, we are curious whether they will expand their offering outside of this market focus or double-down on additional services for these institutions.
A university-to-university marketplace for college courses. If University X has a faculty member who can’t teach Calculus 101 over the summer, they can turn to University Y’s Calc offering rather than cancelling the class in its entirety. It keeps the student on-track academically, allows University X to keep collecting tuition, and provides extra income to University Y for capacity that would have gone unused otherwise.
It also started a discussion around how many other true marketplaces are there in EdTech? Outside of the tutoring companies, there are not many at-scale examples. We are monitoring Career Karma and Learn In as two earlier-stage examples.
You will be forgiven for not remembering whether they are currently trying to grow or shrink, it is hard to keep up