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About the Author:
Corey Greendale
Corey Greendale
Managing Director
Corey Greendale is a managing director (office of the president) specializing in research and investment in software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses, particularly in the future of work and learning technology sectors. He is a thought leader in his sectors, having authored several widely read white papers. He uses his industry knowledge and expansive network to uncover promising investment opportunities and help companies navigate their strategic paths and accelerate growth. His work has been cited for excellence in the Wall Street Journal's "Best on the Street" survey, in Forbes, and in the Financial Times. Prior to joining First Analysis in 2000, he was a development analyst at Systema Corp., where he designed training programs for several large pharmaceutical companies. He earned an MBA with high honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a bachelor's degree from Stanford University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
First Analysis Future of Work Team
Corey Greendale
Managing Director
James Macdonald
Managing Director
Richard Conklin
Managing Director
Matthew Nicklin
Managing Director
First Analysis Quarterly Insights
Future of work
Lower-cost, employment-focused learning will take center stage in the post-COVID-19 world
September 18, 2020
  • Stagnant enrollment is just one of several long-term trends that had many traditional colleges struggling long prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Between these trends and the seismic shock of COVID-19, the outlook for many traditional colleges will likely remain cloudy.
  • While there appears to be some level of bipartisan political support for more employment-relevant training, proposals for government-driven efforts to promote such options may or may not come to fruition, and workers are not waiting: Participation in shorter, career-relevant, mostly online learning programs has been increasing for some time and skyrocketed when the pandemic hit.
  • The shortfall of workforce digital skills relative to employer needs is also increasing employer demand for employees with specific skills certifications, and employers are investing in programs that promote such low-cost, employment-focused learning paths.


Includes discussion of CHGG, MSFT, PS, TWOU and six private companies

Many traditional colleges are and will remain under pressure

Individuals investing in education, with a shift toward shorter, career-relevant content

Employers may de-emphasize college but will invest in career-relevant learning to close digital gap

Future of work sector continues post COVID-19 rally

M&A activity sees strong rebound in Q3

Remote learning continues to define private investment in Q3

Many traditional colleges are and will remain under pressure

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions peaked in 2010 at 18.1 million students and declined to 16.6 million by 2018. Enrollment is expected to recover only slightly, to 17.0 million, by 2029, though COVID-19 is causing a dislocation in the trajectory. The trend and outlook in part reflect the decline in the number of people of traditional college age in the U.S. population, and this is just one of several secular factors placing pressure on many traditional colleges long prior to the pandemic. Other factors included the formerly strong job market increasing the opportunity cost of foregoing earning years to attend college full-time, pressure on funding for many public institutions, and challenges in differentiating and attracting students at residential colleges dependent on continually increasing tuition levels. A recent study by education news organization The Hechinger Report found that more than 500 of the colleges and universities in an analysis of nearly 2,700 schools showed two or more warning signs (among up to four scoring categories) in its Financial Fitness Tracker.

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