- Zovio hasn't been formally courting university partners for its ed tech services business, but that could change if it spins off Ashford University as it plans to do this year, its CEO, Andrew Clark, told analysts on a call Thursday.
- Executives have said they hope to separate the for-profit institution by June 1. Ashford also is seeking recognition as a nonprofit from the U.S. Department of Education.
- The financial report caps off a busy year for Zovio, which included restructuring and layoffs as well as a name change from Bridgepoint Education.
Zovio expects to become an ed tech services provider to Ashford after the change of control is complete, and it intends to play a similar role for other institutions. On Thursday's call to discuss the company's fourth-quarter earnings, Clark offered more details about those plans on the heels of what he called a "transitional year."
Clark expects Zovio will take "a more diligent approach" to business development in the second half of 2020 by formally reaching out to potential clients.
Of particular interest, he said, are schools with strong regional brands that enroll between 7,000 and 12,000 students and are looking to add more online adult learners.
Zovio is not the only for-profit college operator on the hunt for institutional partners as it shifts to become an ed tech services provider. Executives at Grand Canyon Education offered more details about their approach during a call with analysts on Wednesday, saying they are seeking schools that are willing to significantly expand their online presence.
Clark expects the institutional partners of two companies Zovio acquired in 2019 — tutoring platform TutorMe and boot camp provider Fullstack Academy — to help secure new clients.
"There's an ecosystem there where we're able to utilize relationships that TutorMe or Fullstack has to make introductions for Zovio on the degree online offering side and vice-versa," he said. "As we're making inroads, we can share those opportunities with those other subsidiaries."
Such partnerships are a growing part of Zovio's business. Enrollment in the company's education partnerships comprised 32% of total enrollments at the end of 2019, compared to 22% a year earlier.
Fullstack added partners in 2019, including the University of San Diego's continuing studies division, the University of North Florida and Louisiana State University. The latter is offering cybersecurity and web development certificates through its continuing education program.
TutorMe added two new institutions in the fourth quarter of 2019, Oregon State University and St. Mary's College of California, for a total of more than 70 university partners.
Zovio has also recorded more than 2,000 individual subscriptions in its consumer-oriented skills training platform Learn@Forbes since the option became available in August.
Meanwhile, Zovio is taking steps to separate Ashford. In early January, it offered some details about the expected transaction, including the nature of the services agreement.
The Education Department is asking Zovio to post a $103 million letter of credit — equivalent to 25% of its Title IV funding in 2018 — to finance the transaction.
The university notched a win earlier this week when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved it to continue receiving GI Bill benefits, wrapping up a four-year-long battle to maintain its status.