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Digging Into the 2U Transparency Report

Some highlights.

November 18, 2020
 
 

I’ve written about the need for independent academic research in the online program management (OPM) space. While the newly released 2U 2019 Transparency Report (and direct PDF download) is not independent or academic, its publication might be a (welcome) piece of the puzzle in helping us make sense of OPMs.

Let’s dig in. Reading through the report, here are the highlights that I pulled out:

  • HolonIQ research is cited indicating that 770 universities are now working with 200 edtech companies on online program delivery. So a big market.
  • 2U is partnering with 70 non-profit universities. Not sure what the breakdown of degree and non-degree partnerships are, maybe we will learn later in the report.
  • 2U reports that the company has invested ~$1.3 billion in their partner universities' online programs over the past 12 years. Will hopefully dig into this number later in the report.
  • The number of degree and non-degree programs that 2U is working on with their partner schools is 400+.
  • 150K+ students have graduated or completed 2U’s degree and non-degree programs, while 215K all-time students have or are enrolled.
  • From the chart on page 4, we learn that this cumulative number of enrollments breaks down to ~50K in degree programs, ~125K in short courses, and ~30K in boot camps.
  • The areas of university oversight and accountability among 2U partners include: admissions processing, setting tuition, administration of financial aid, accreditation, curriculum, and faculty.
  • 2U’s marketing and sales expenses are ~22 percent of the total tuition generated across their partner programs.  As I understand this, what this means on average is that about one-in-five tuition dollars goes into “customer acquisition”.  This is an average, so it is higher in some programs and lower in others - and we don’t know how this distributes across program subject or type (degree or non-degree).  Spending this much on marketing and sales for online programs as a percentage of revenues is way above what I’ve seen non-profit schools invest in programs that they do internally.
  • The services for degree programs that 2U lists (the 2UOS) includes: program management, marketing, recruitment, application systems, student success, career services, faculty recruitment support, learning technology, placement, faculty success, compliance, accessibility, and learning design & development.  All of these add up to the all-time $1.3 billion in spending.
  • In 2019, the student demographic makeup in the degree programs that 2U partners with non-profit universities is as follows: 34% African American or Hispanic, 70% 25-44 years of age, and 66% female.
  • Breaking the race/ethnicity student demographics down for 2U-powered degree programs: 49.5% Caucasian, 20% Black or African American, 14% Hispanic, 11% Asian.
  • 8 percent of students in degree programs are military-affiliated.
  • In 2U’s university partnered boot camps, 23% of students are African American, 19% are over 40, and 30% do not have bachelor’s degrees.
  • Boot camp students are also 69% male and 31% female, almost the opposite gender distribution of degree programs.
  • Almost a quarter (23%) of boot camp participants have only a high school diploma or GED, and 7.5% have an associate's degree.
  • An interesting stat that 2U shares is that 18% of students enrolled in its degree programs did not have an equivalent degree program within 50 miles of where they live.
  • 2U reaches students in all 50 states, DC, and over 175 countries.
  • $19.5 million in scholarships and fellowship was made available for students in degree programs. I think this is from 2U directly, and not from partner schools, but not sure.
  • 2U reports that 80% of the degree programs that they partner on are priced at or below the cost of their on-campus counterpart. Does this mean that 20 percent are more expensive?
  • The price range for a master’s degree ranges from $851 to $2,592 per credit and $1,326 to $1,926 for a doctoral degree.
  • Short courses cost $688 to $3,871 per course. The student cost for boot camps ranges from $6,378 to $16,694.
  • For degree programs, courses require an average of 100 minutes per week on asynchronous coursework and 100 minutes per week on asynchronous content.  So six hours and 20 minutes.  These are direct contact hours, and do not necessarily include student tasks such as readings, assignments, projects, or group work.
  • Boot camps are 12 to 24 weeks and require about 30 to 40 hours a week of student time (in and out of the classroom) per week.  That sounds very intense.
  • Short courses are 6 to 10 weeks, and students spend 8 to 10 hours per week.
  • The average class size in degree programs is 15 students. Would be great to know the standard deviation.   
  • 2U-powered degrees have a 72% graduate rate and an 86% retention rate between term 1 and term 2.

There are, of course, lots of numbers and stats in the report that I did not highlight. The report is definitely worth your time to peruse and think about.

I’ll share some thoughts about this 2U 2019 Transparency report in my next blog post.

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