Two private equity firms are combining three education technology assets into a new company—one that its CEO jestingly likens to a “greatest hits album” of software for higher-ed institutions.
At least the company’s name, Anthology, is fitting for that description, says Jim Milton, who will serve as its chief executive. It will offer 14 administrative software tools to help college officials attract, support and engage with faculty and student communities.
Anthology is an amalgamation of three formerly separate companies—Campus Management, Campus Labs and iModules. All three were formerly owned by Leeds Equity Partners until it sold them to another private equity firm, Veritas Capital, in January 2020. Leeds retained a minority stake in all three companies.
The three companies offered distinct applications with “virtually no overlap” between them, according to Milton. Campus Management provides a student information system, enterprise resource planning tools and customer relationship management services. Campus Labs offers software for students and campus leaders to manage clubs, events and other student-affair activities. And iModules develops alumni engagement software to help colleges fundraise.
The tools work together in complementary ways to help college officials engage with prospective and matriculated students from “birth to bequest,” says Milton. He clarified that “birth” refers to a college’s first outreach to a potential applicant—although he also shared that some customers do send college-branded baby gifts to alumni who have voluntarily shared information with their alma maters about having children.
“Some schools are trying to build a pipeline of students 17 years into the future,” he says.
The three companies, now under one umbrella, serve over 2,100 higher-ed institutions across 34 countries, according to Milton. About 1,900 of them are based in the U.S. Anthology has a staff of more than 1,400 employees who are based across the world, Milton adds. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The sweeping range of services offered by the Boca Raton, Florida-based company also means it has plenty of competitors. Among them are Ellucian, Oracle and Workday, which all develop administrative software and student information systems used by colleges and universities. On the alumni fundraising side, there is Blackbaud. Salesforce has also made a concerted push to sell its customer relationship management tools in the higher education market.
Milton says that one of Anthology’s advantages is that its tools were all developed using Microsoft services and delivered through its Azure cloud service. Sharing that common technology stack should facilitate the technical integration of the different pieces, he adds.
The merger has been in the works for about a year, according to Milton. But its consummation comes as higher-ed institutions are scrambling to prepare for a new academic year with different reopening plans. With the COVID-19 infection rates continuing to rise, online remote instruction will likely remain part of the plan for most, if not all, colleges. Where in-person instruction resumes, class sizes and frequency will be limited.
Analysis from the likes of consulting firm McKinsey anticipate as much as a 20 percent decline in enrollment. Parents and students increasingly say they are unwilling to pay full tuition for online-only instruction; more than 180 lawsuits have already been filed asking for refunds.
All this could negatively impact Anthology’s business. “We are going to see ebbs and flows in certain product lines,” Milton acknowledges. But as “colleges are moving to a hybrid delivery model,” he adds, they’ll need ways to recruit and retain students perhaps now more than ever.