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Looking into a small corner of the $68 billion education industry

Just to get an idea of how much money flows through the education industry, a report by the investment banking firm Berkery Noyes calculates that in the first half of 2011, mergers and acquisitions alone accounted for over $2 billion in education services like software and textbooks.

The summary points out total transaction value dipped by a billion dollars compared to the last six months of last year, though the number of transactions concerning K-12 schools jumped nearly two-fold in that same time span.

Big players in the M&A education space, according to the Berkery Noyes publication, include Pearson — the textbook giant [PDF of financial disclosures here] that owns Penguin Group, the book publisher, and the Financial Times — and SuccessFactors, a company that boasts it increases “the execution of every company we work with by 50%.”

As an investment firm, it would make sense for Berkery Noyes to focus on education; its website states the industry’s revenue in 2010 was $68.5 billion, with money flowing in from instructional materials, education and administrative software, and to public and private schools and institutions.

The firm also explains why this industry has so much monetizing potential:

  • Education is the second largest U.S. economic sector after only healthcare.
  • Most Americans see the value of education and are willing to pay what it takes for their children to get a “good education” because they view it as competitive advantage.
  • Legislation such as No Child Left Behind is driving an accountability trend that appears to be spreading to other regulated professional designations, such as CPA, CFA, Allied Health and Building Trades.

Not included in the first year transactional survey is the purchase of online education management service Blackboard, which was picked up in July for $1.64 billion by Providence Equity Partners, a private-equity firm that says it juggles $23 billion in capital; its portfolio includes for-profit colleges. Blackboard is used by universities and K-12 schools for grade and assignment postings.

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