Although there has been no public announcement made, Quad Partners, a New York private equity firm devoted to the for-profit college industry, recently gained a controlling stake in the education trade publication Inside Higher Ed (IHE). The publication routinely reports on for-profit colleges and surrounding policy disputes, and the publication is now listed among investments on the Quad Partners website.
In an article for Republic Report, David Halperin reports that Quad Partners acquired the controlling stake in November, placing Quad Partner James Tieng on the IHE board. Quad reportedly also owns college admissions management company Noel-Levitz in addition to other education technology companies that work with colleges and universities. IHE is known to cover that sector as well.
While the company's for-profit college investments are typically in small college chains, Quad Partners founder Lincoln Frank was found to be one of the two co-chairmen of the Coalition for Educational Success. The main goal of the group is to hinder the efforts of the Obama administration and their gainful employment rule, as well as oversight of for-profit college abuses.
The group includes some of the largest publicly-traded college companies, including ITT Tech and EDMC. An offshoot was launched by the group, referred to as the Foundation for Educational Success, which was since accused of the creation of a voluntary conduct code for the industry in place of government regulations.
While both the foundation and the code of conduct were praised in a press release and a Politico op-ed by former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, both of which are on the foundation's board of advisors, no mention was made concerning the funding of the foundation by for-profit colleges or that Kean is one of the Quad Partners. The code of conduct has since vanished after the board of advisors and the entire Coalition for Educational Success faded out of existence.
The work of the Coalition was covered by Inside Higher Ed.
The for-profit company has also been known to purchase ties to the news media, despite the troubled precedence for a single company to own both for-profit colleges and media outlets. The former Washington Post Company, which owned The Washington Post until 2013, also owned the Kaplan college chain and a major stake in Corinthian.
However, Doug Lederman, one of IHE's two top editors, said the current situation is different because IHE and the for-profit colleges would only have "a dotted line connection through the investor."
"I would expect people to be watching us" in light of this purchase, says Lederman. "Our credibility is hugely important to us, and ultimately it will rise or fall on the nature and tenor of our coverage." He says IHE will go on as before: "The proof will be in what we publish." If there are significant references in IHE to specific Quad-owned companies, the publication will disclose the relationship.