Southern New Hampshire buys Kenzie Academy to grow alternative credentials

by Emma

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Dive Brief:

  • Southern New Hampshire University announced Tuesday that it has acquired boot camp provider Kenzie Academy to grow its alternative credential offerings. SNHU did not disclose the transaction price.
  • The university, which enrolls around 150,000 students mostly online, will get Kenzie’s programs and students. Kenzie, a for-profit company, will become a division of SNHU led by Kenzie CEO Chok Ooi. 
  • The deal comes as more colleges work with boot camp providers in an effort to diversify their programming, particularly with more short-format options.

Dive Insight:

The pandemic accelerated partnerships between colleges and boot camps, which give institutions access to companies that can quickly launch and deliver programs — often in fast-changing technical fields. These were on pace to more than double in count worldwide from 2019 to 2020, according to market research firm HolonIQ. 

Such pairings are often between institutions and online program managers, which have been buying boot camps to differentiate their offerings as enrollment swells in the short-term programs. But SNHU’s scale has enabled it to take a different approach.

“We’ve come full circle here” with an accredited university “cutting out the middleman” and buying a boot camp itself, said Ryan Craig, managing director at ed tech investment firm Achieve Partners. Craig expects there are only a handful of institutions positioned to follow a similar path.

To Rich Flynn, managing director at investment bank and consulting firm Tyton Partners, it’s another acknowledgment that colleges are looking to add shorter-form, nondegree pathways that align with a future career.

This isn’t SNHU’s first time working with a boot camp, said Liz Eggleston, co-founder and editor of Course Report, a coding boot camp review site. In 2015, it announced a partnership with Flatiron School in which participants could study at SNHU for three years, followed by six months with the coding boot camp and then an internship or apprenticeship. 

Other universities have since integrated boot camps more fully, Eggleston said, pointing to Dominican University of California’s partnership with Make School. Through that arrangement, the boot camp could offer a bachelor’s degree accredited through Dominican; the university added a computer science minor.

Kenzie, based in Indianapolis, was founded in 2017. It offers certificates in software engineering and user experience design that students can complete synchronously online or, pre-pandemic, in-person at the school’s Indianapolis campus. 

Picking up Kenzie will enable SNHU to expand its alternative credentials offerings, focusing on microcredentials targeting people who want to retrain for in-demand jobs. Alternative credentials account for a “small part” of the university’s portfolio, and they “are usually tied to specific initiatives or partnerships,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email Tuesday.

SNHU will take on Kenzie’s programs, including its employer partnerships, accounting for some 600 students. Additionally, “nearly all” Kenzie faculty and administrators have been offered positions at SNHU, the spokesperson wrote, also noting that no programs will be eliminated at this time.

The university plans to continue a partnership Kenzie had with Western Governors University in which credits earned through Kenzie can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at the online institution. Conversations with all other Kenzie partners “are ongoing,” according to the spokesperson. (Kenzie’s partnership with Colorado State University ended more than a year ago, the spokesperson wrote.)

Ooi, who will lead SNHU’s alternative credentials programming, said in an email Tuesday that Kenzie was introduced to the university when meeting with investors for another fundraising round. The Kenzie team “was excited about the opportunity to leverage the vast resources of SNHU to accelerate Kenzie’s mission,” Ooi wrote, “and also collaborate with SNHU to offer multiple student financing options.”

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