Monday, 21 January 2013

"Churn" in the for-profit education industry

The digital age and changing corporate strategies have produced some handoffs among the three corporations that have dominated education publishing:  McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Apollo Global Management has bought the education publishing side of McGraw-Hill for $2.5 billion.  McGraw-Hill had dropped 11% of revenues between 2008 and 2011, according to Education Week (December 12, 2012).  The head of Apollo's version of the company says they want to put together digital content and services into a package, rather than separate development.
The other two of the big publishers revenues also dropped in that period:  Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt lost 13% and Pearson's publishing revenue dropped 3%.

Edweek says the situation is a result of several trends:  moves from print to digital, austerity in school district budgets and states deciding not to purchase new textbooks until the new US Common Curriculum is in place and textbooks reflect new content.
While McGraw-Hill sold off its education side, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt came out of bankruptcy protection after restructuring $3.1 billion in debt because of previous acquisitions of other education publishing companies.   They had expanded into a declining market.

Pearson is “acquiring technology to create platforms for its content,” according to the Edweek report. It has bought Harcourt Assessment, “America’s Choice” school improvement company, Schoolnet software, and Connections Education, a virtual school operator.  They bought Connections Education from Apollo Global management that, in turn, just bought McGraw-Hill.
For Pearson, this is a continuation of a corporate strategy of buying up other companies to develop an integrated company that offers one-stop shopping for every stage of the education process.  This was described in another digicritic post.

Apollo, the company that bought McGraw-Hill, owns Phoenix University.  Apollo is closing down more than 100 Phoenix University campuses in the US and putting the savings into expanding its already large online programs.  A US Senate committee has reported on an investigation of Phoenix University practices:
“The report outlines widespread problems in the sector, including overpriced tuition, predatory recruiting practices, high dropout rates and aggressive marketing campaigns. It calls for enhanced transparency, stronger oversight and meaningful protections. The report suggested that the education department create an online student complaint clearinghouse and require all higher education institutions to provide a link on their websites.”  [From the Phoenix, Arizona, Business Journal.]



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