2U (company)

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2U, Inc.
Formerly2Tor Inc. (2008–2012)
TypePublic company
Founded2008; 14 years ago (2008)
HeadquartersLanham, Maryland, U.S.
Area served
Key people
  • Paul A. Maeder
  • (Chairman of the Board)
  • Christopher J. Paucek
  • (CEO)
Serviceseducational technology, online program manager
RevenueIncrease US$774.53 million (2020)[1]
Increase US$16.07 million (2020)[1]
Increase US$-216.48 million (2020)[1]
Total assetsIncrease US$1.544 billion (2020)[1]
Total equityIncrease US$940.99 million (2020)[1]
Number of employees
3,772 (full-time)
2,834 (part-time) (2020)
SubsidiariesTrilogy Education Services, edX

2U, Inc. is an American educational technology company that contracts with non-profit colleges and universities to build, deliver and support online degree and non-degree programs.[2][3] The company is an online program manager, supplying its client institutions with a cloud-based software-as-a-service platform, coursework design, infrastructure support, and capital.


2U was founded in 2008 by John Katzman (co-founder of The Princeton Review), originally naming it 2tor (pronounced "Tutor") after his dog Tor.[4] Katzman recruited colleagues including Chip Paucek (former CEO of Hooked on Phonics), and technology entrepreneur Jeremy Johnson to be co-founders. Katzman became Chairman, and Paucek became the company's CEO.[5] 2U was started, in part, because its founders saw an opportunity due to the fact that few highly-ranked universities offered online instruction. 2U is the third company that Paucek was involved in founding.[6]

Katzman funded 2U in 2009 through the launch of its first online teaching degree with the University of Southern California (USC).[7] In 2010, 2U partnered again with USC to offer an online degree in social work.[6]

In 2011, Georgetown University's School of Nursing and Health partnered with 2U to offer a degree program. The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina started offering an online MBA through 2U the same year.[6]

In 2012, John Katzman left 2U to launch Noodle Partners.[8]

By July 2013, the company had raised $10 million in venture capital.[9]

In February 2014, 2U announced that Sallie Krawcheck, a former executive at Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., and Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were nominated to join the board of 2U.[10] On March 28, 2U went public and raised $119 million by offering 9.2 million shares at $13 per share.[11] By July, other schools such as Syracuse University, Northwestern University, and the University of California, Berkeley signed on with 2U to create online graduate degree programs.[12]

In March 2015, Yale University and 2U announced that they were partnering in order to offer a full-time, online master of medical science degree. By 2015, about 12,300 students were enrolled in 2U partner programs.[13]

Starting in 2017, 2U diversified its strategy and acquired education companies GetSmarter, and later Trilogy Education, firms offering short-term non-credit training programs.[14] Also in 2017, Paucek earned an MBA online from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, through the school's partnership with 2U.[15] In late 2017, former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett joined 2U's board.[16]

In 2018, 2U launched the Harvard Business Analytics Program (HBAP) in conjunction with Harvard University. Students in this program had an average of 17.5 years of work experience, were an average of 42 years old, and paid $50,000 in tuition.[6]

In early 2019, 2U announced that it had entered a partnership with EGADE Business School at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico to offer an online MBA program. 2U also partnered with Tecnológico de Monterrey and the Washington University School of Law to offer an online master of laws program.[17][18] On August 6, 2U announced its first undergraduate program, offering a degree in data science and business analytics, as well as six other degrees, from the University of London (UoL), with its member institution London School of Economics (LSE).[19] UoL, LSE and 2U planned to keep the cost of the three-year degree at $26,000, far lower than most of 2U's other programs.[14] In September, 2U created a "Framework for Transparency", with a commitment to publishing transparent data on topics including university oversight and accountability, access, quality and outcomes.[20]

In 2020, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown called for 2U and four other online program managers to disclose the terms of their contracts with colleges and universities in order to determine whether they were violating laws meant to safeguard consumers from predatory enrollment practices.[21] In June, 2U announced that it would offer $3 million in scholarships in increments of $2,500 to under-represented demographics, and the recipients would have to demonstrate both need and merit. The scholarships could be applied to about 100 different programs with a strong emphasis on technical training.[22] Later that year, 2U announced a partnership with Netflix and Norfolk State University, to offer free online tech bootcamps to current students and alumni. In November, 2U published its first transparency report, which showed it had invested $1.3B in its non-profit partners’ degree programs, and 72% of students graduate from those programs.[23]

2U strongly benefited from the shift to online learning brought on by the response to COVID-19, with a large growth in gross revenue in 2020. The company also reduced its debt. 2U was servicing more than 275,000 students as of late 2020.[24] 2U said that the pandemic also increased interest in its revenue-sharing pricing model from new and existing clients.[25] Also in 2020, the London School of Economics agreed to expand its scope business with 2U to include two additional undergraduate degrees in mathematics and finance.[14] In September, 2U and Columbia University's engineering school announced an expansion of their work together, where 2U would help launch the Columbia Artificial Intelligence Program, an online program targeted at working executives.[26]

Before the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, Boston, Massachusetts-based Simmons University announced that it would be delivering hundreds of courses online in order to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. The expanded agreement with Simmons also provided for the creation of additional degree programs aimed at non-traditional students, with lower tuition than in-person programs. Simmons received services from 2U on a revenue-share basis.[25]

In June 2021, 2U announced a strategic agreement with education assistance benefits manager Guild Education.[27] The same year, 2U purchased massive open online course (MOOC) provider edX for $800 million cash.[28] Also in June, Netflix and 2U announced an expansion of their boot camps for Talladega College, St. Edward’s University, Marymount University, and Edward Waters College.[29] In October 2021, Valerie Jarrett resigned from the 2U Board.[30]In November, a Wall Street Journal expose found that 2U often used aggressive means to recruit students for the University of Southern California masters in social work and that "USC social-work graduates who took out federal loans borrowed a median $112,000. Half of them were earning $52,000 or less annually two years later."[31]


2U's revenues in the quarter ending September 30, 2021 grew 16 percent year over year and the company experienced a net loss of $60 million. The company spent $346 million on marketing and advertising in the last 9 months.[32]2U last made a quarterly profit in December 2018. [33] In 2021, 2U's largest outside shareholder is ARK Invest.[34]

Business model[edit]

OPM Market Landscape Summer 2021

2U operates as an online program manager. It does not confer degrees.[35] Rather, it provides its clients with technology and other resources to create online classes and degree programs taught by the client institution's instructors with live video and recorded classes with multimedia presentations. The programs set-up by 2U and its clients generally have small class sizes and career services.[36] Students meet in a live video chat room with the professor and the other students.[37][12] This approach has led to a student retention rate of 84 percent.[38]

2U's has about 70 clients, mostly highly regarded universities, including Harvard University, Yale University, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Georgia Tech, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Texas. [39]

2U signs long-term contracts, typically 10 years in length, with its client institutions. Students pay standard tuition. 2U gets paid through revenue sharing.[40]



In early 2017, as its first acquisition, 2U acquired GetSmarter for $103 million and a $20 million earn-out. GetSmarter was founded in 2008 in South Africa by Robert Paddock. It offers short-term online courses in partnership with major universities. In 2016, GetSmarter had $17 million in revenue and roughly 400 employees. At the time of its acquisition, GetSmarter continued to operate as an independent firm.[41]

Trilogy Education Services[edit]

Trilogy Education Services is a New York City-based 2U subsidiary that offers non-credit professional training programs, colloquially known as coding bootcamps, through affiliate universities.[42] In-person courses are held on the affiliate university campus.[42] Revenue from the tuition is shared with the affiliate university. Graduates receive a professional certificate from the partner school and career counseling. The partner schools do not regard program graduates as university alumni.[42][43]

Trilogy Education Services was founded in 2015.[43] In June 2017, the company received $30 million in a Series A funding round, followed by $50 million in Series B funding round in May 2018. It was bought by 2U in April 2019 for $750 million in cash and stock.[44]


In 2021, 2U announced it would purchase edX, a MOOC provider created by MIT and Harvard in 2012.[45] MOOCS like edX have typically had low completion rates. In the journal Science, Justin Reich and José Ruipérez-Valiente state that "MOOCs 'will not transform higher education and probably will not disappear entirely either.” Instead, they predict that the field will coalesce 'around a different, much older business model: helping universities outsource their online masters degrees for professionals.'"[46]

Recognition in the media[edit]

In May 2012, Forbes named 2U as one of the ten "Start-Ups Changing the World".[47]

In 2014, Inc. Magazine named 2U one of ten "Tech Companies Helping Humanity".[12]

In 2016, 2U was listed as a "Most Innovative Company" by Fast Company.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "2U Form 10-K" (PDF). Q4CDN. February 25, 2021. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  2. ^ "2tor gets $10M credit line - Washington Business Journal". Bizjournals.com. April 18, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  3. ^ Alyson Shontell, provided by (April 18, 2012). "There Are A Million Education Startups And No One To Acquire Them". Sfgate.com. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  4. ^ "Education Technology Companies Play the Name Game". The NY Times. August 3, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  5. ^ Johnson, Stevan (August 1, 2019). "As Competition Mounts, 2U Signals Big Changes for Online Education". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved August 2, 2019. It’s becoming obvious that all schools are going online. We believe this represents a new reality in the marketplace, and requires us and others to adjust to it.”– Chip Paucek, CEO
  6. ^ a b c d GRUSHKA-COCKAYNE, YAEL; LAKHANI, KARIM R (January 21, 2019). "2U: Higher Education Rewired". Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School.(subscription required)
  7. ^ "USC ed dean: 2U made growing our program possible". Higher Ed Dive. August 29, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  8. ^ "Noodle Slashes Editorial, Marketing Divisions Amid Slow Growth". EdSurge. March 19, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  9. ^ "The Future of Online Education Is on Campus". Inc. July 30, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  10. ^ "Krawcheck Nominated to Board of 2U Ahead of Education Firm's IPO". Bloomberg. February 24, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  11. ^ Flook, Bill. "2U goes public, rings opening bell on NASDAQ". Baltimore Business Journal.
  12. ^ a b c Kerpen, Dave (July 24, 2014). "10 Tech Companies Helping Humanity". Inc.com.
  13. ^ Monir, Malak (March 12, 2015). "Yale to offer full-time master's program online". USA Today. Gannett Co. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c Lederman, Doug (August 6, 2019). "2U Goes Undergrad". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  15. ^ "Christopher "Chip" Paucek". Nasdaq. The Motley Fool. March 31, 2017. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  16. ^ "Valerie Jarrett to Join 2U Board of Directors". Fortune. December 7, 2017. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  17. ^ Staff (February 11, 2019). "2U's Busy 2019 So Far Includes Partnerships, Global Expansion and a Minority Acquisition". EdSurge. EdSurge, Inc. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  18. ^ "Mexican Business School to Start Online MBA with 2U". Inside Higher Ed. February 14, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  19. ^ Schwartz, Natalie. "2U plans 6 more bachelor's degrees with London School of Economics". Higher Ed Dive. Higher Ed Dive. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  20. ^ "2U Calls for Transparency in Online Program Management". Campus Technology. September 12, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  21. ^ Schwartz, Natalie. "Democratic congressional inquiry targets OPMs". educationdive.com.
  22. ^ Kidwai, Aman (June 23, 2020). "2U commits $3M for underrepresented students to pursue technical training". HR Dive. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  23. ^ "New 'Transparency' Report from 2U". Campus Technology. November 19, 2020. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  24. ^ Guzman, Zack (October 29, 2020). "'We're removing the stigma of online education long term': 2U CEO". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  25. ^ a b Schwartz, Natalie (October 20, 2020). "Colleges look to OPMs as pandemic intensifies shift online". Higher Ed Dive. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  26. ^ Kelly, Rhea (1 September 2020). "Columbia Partners with 2U on Artificial Intelligence Program". Campus Technology. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  27. ^ McKenzie, Lindsay. "2U, Guild Tap Deeper Into Adult Education Market". www.insidehighered.com. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  28. ^ Lederman, Doug. "2U, edX to Combine to Create Online Learning Giant". www.insidehighered.com. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  29. ^ "Talladega College is one of four schools to benefit from Netflix academic program". Anniston Star. June 25, 2021. Retrieved November 10, 2021.(subscription required)
  30. ^ "2U 8K". www.sec.gov. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  31. ^ Bannon, Lisa; Fuller, Andrea (November 9, 2021). "USC Pushed a $115,000 Online Degree. Graduates Got Low Salaries, Huge Debts". Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  32. ^ "2U, 10Q". www.sec.gov. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  33. ^ "TWOU - 2U, Inc". seekingalpha.com. Seeking Alpha. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  34. ^ "TWOU Institutional Ownership - 2U Inc". intel.io. Fintel. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  35. ^ "What's Ahead for 2U?". fool.com. Motley Fool. April 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  36. ^ Greenberg, Molly. "2U Releases Mobile Apps, Making it Easier For Students to Access Online Course Content". Inthecapital.com. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  37. ^ Burke, Adrienne. "$97,500 for an Online Degree? 2U Is Worth It, Say Students". Forbes.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  38. ^ Lapowsky, Issie. "The Future of Online Education Is on Campus". Inc.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  39. ^ "Transparency Report" (PDF). 2U. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  40. ^ Hall, Stephanie; Dudley, Taela. "Dear Colleges: Take Control of Your Online Courses". tcf.org. The Century Foundation. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  41. ^ Howard, Caroline (May 2, 2017). "EdTech Giant 2U Acquires GetSmarter For $103 Million". Forbes. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  42. ^ a b c "Trilogy Education's Unique Approach To Coding Boot Camps Helps It Raise $50 Million". forbes.com. May 31, 2018. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  43. ^ a b "Trilogy Education Services Raises $30 million to provide skill-based training". venturebeat.com. June 6, 2017. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  44. ^ "Online Enabler Aims for Lifelong Learning". www.insidehighered.com. April 9, 2019. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  45. ^ Whitford, Emma. "2U and edX Merger Benefits Both". www.insidehighered.com. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved August 5, 2021.
  46. ^ Shaw, Jonathan. "Can MOOCs Predict the Future of Online Education?". /www.harvardmagazine.com. Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  47. ^ Pozin, Ilya. "10 Startups Changing the World And What We Can Learn From Them". Forbes.com.
  48. ^ "2U: Most Innovative Company". Fast Company. Retrieved October 2, 2019.


External links[edit]