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Like you, I’m trying to make sense of 2U’s acquisition of GetSmarter.

You are trying to make sense of this acquisition, right? 

We will have to wait until Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein tell us what this all means.

The part that caught my eye in the 2U press release was a single number.  $1.9 trillion.  That is the size that 2U assigns to the global higher education market.

Not only are we - and by we I mean we in higher ed - are worth about $2 trillion. We are expected to increase in value by 8% in 2017.  

Wow. Who knew?

What does being worth $1.9 trillion actually mean?

Is 2U saying that $1.9 trillion dollars somehow, someway, flow to colleges and universities throughout the world? Is this $1.9 trillion in global tuition and government transfer payments?

Or does this mean that we higher ed people are buying $1.9 trillion of stuff?  

When 2U says $1.9 trillion, do they mean how money is coming in or going out?

Maybe the $1.9 trillion is the amount of money that colleges and universities have?  Are they adding up all the endowments, the building and grounds?

Perhaps that $1.9 trillion is all the money that higher ed is spending on all those administrators - you know, the one’s taking all the faculty jobs.

Being curious, I did the only thing that I know to do when I don’t know something.  I Googled.  Typing in "$1.9 trillion higher education” into Google returned 230,000 results (in 0.44 seconds).  

I got one result from 2U’s 2016 annual report:  

Here, 2U helpfully gives us some comparison numbers:

"Higher education is a $1.9 trillion industry. For comparison, this is how the higher education market compares with other large global markets. Healthcare - $1.7 trillion. Information technology - $3.4 trillion. Transportation - $4.7 trillion.”

A link to the Laureate Education 2015 IPO seems to give the source of the $1.9 trillion number - tracing the figure back to a 2015 estimate from GSV Advisors.  

We know GSV - the venture capital firm that with ASU puts on the ASU + GSV Summit.

I couldn’t find the original source of how GSV came up with $1.9 trillion. And I’m curious.  

Can any of you - or anyone at either GSV or 2U - share how the $1.9 trillion figure was derived?

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