2U, a publicly traded company that helps colleges launch and run online programs, is partnering with Guild Education, a platform for major employers to offer their workers education benefits.
The partnership allows companies using Guild to access programs offered through 2U's college network. 2U, meanwhile, will get access to a new pool of potential students.
Analysts say the move will help 2U find new recruits and tap into employers' desire to provide education benefits to their workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
2U will initially work with Guild to provide short-term courses to its corporate partners before adding undergraduate degrees and boot camps. The online program manager will also explore adding graduate and certificate programs in the future.
Nondegree programs will be offered in such topics as sustainability, data analytics, and diversity, equity and inclusion leadership.
Jeff Silber, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, wrote in an email that the partnership is a "sizable positive" for 2U. "[W]e expect more corporations to provide educational benefits to their employees as the economic recovery takes hold," Silber said.
2U did not disclose which colleges in its network are participating in the new arrangement. They will be able to offer their programs through Guild at no cost, however.
Guild takes a portion of its partner institutions' tuition revenue, Inside Higher Ed reported in 2018. 2U has similar revenue-share agreements with the colleges it works with, though officials said in 2019 that the company planned to offer fee-for-service options for smaller programs.
The new partnership comes as more colleges tap 2U and other online program managers for help moving programs online.
2U is not the only OPM dipping into employer partnerships. Last year, Noodle announced it was working with Strategic Education, the parent company of two for-profit universities, to create a tuition benefits platform called Workforce Edge. Companies can use the platform to allow their employees to enroll in the for-profits Capella and Strayer, as well as some of the universities in Noodle's network.
More of these arrangements could be on the horizon, said Trace Urdan, managing director at consulting firm and investment bank Tyton Partners. "It's a natural place for OPMs to go."