Bain Capital to Buy Penn Foster, a Workforce-Skills Provider That Dates...

Digital Learning

Bain Capital to Buy Penn Foster, a Workforce-Skills Provider That Dates Back to Late 1800s

May 2, 2018

This week an investment group led by Bain Capital announced that it will buy Penn Foster, a for-profit school with a long history as a provider of workforce training, and as a disruptor in the education sector.

Bain, along with a group of other investors, bought the school from Vistria Group, another private-equity firm; terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Penn Foster was founded way back in the late 1800s, and for most of that time it operated under the name International Correspondence Schools.

“They were a distance learning pioneer,” says Sean Gallagher, executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. The school also pioneered new, more aggressive marketing than other education providers. “For those of us old enough to remember the ubiquitous 1980s TV commercials with Sally Struthers pitching courses and certificates in TV/VCR repair, bookkeeping, etc., that was ICS, or what is today Penn Foster,” says Gallagher.

Penn Foster has changed hands many times in the past decade, and former owners include private-equity groups and the Princeton Review. It has even survived a bankruptcy.

Officials from Bain emphasized the growing interest in efforts to address a skills gap in the workforce. "Employers are establishing a more pronounced voice in education and training that is fueling a new marketplace for skills," said Warren Valdmanis, a managing director at Bain Capital Double Impact, in a statement.

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