US-based online university platform Nexford University has raised $8 million in a Series A round co-led by New Markets Venture Partners and Learn Capital, two leading edtech venture capital firms in the US that have invested in Pathstream, Udemy and Coursera. New Markets Venture Partners general partner Jason Palmer and Learn Capital managing partner Greg Mauro will join Nexford’s board.
A technology enabled startup Fadl al Tarji In 2019, bridging the affordability and relevance gaps in education. As the traditional university experience has remained unchanged for years, edtechs like Nexford are pioneering a paradigm shift in higher education that puts learners first, equipping them with the skills to succeed now and in the future.
Nexford University offers learners a fully online US-accredited higher education and allows them to study at their own pace. Once learners apply and enter a degree or course program, they choose how fast or slow the program should be. Nexford’s most important markets are traditionally less English-speaking communities such as Nigeria. The West African country is the only market that has partnered with US-based edtech local firms to provide learning community spaces that help learners overcome infrastructure issues such as internet and transportation. The company plans to partner with others to open such centers in markets such as Kenya and the Philippines. These spaces are not directly owned or operated by Nexford.
Nexford University offers the same programs as last year. Bachelor degrees include courses in business administration, AI and automation, business analytics and product management; Programs for graduate degrees include business administration, advanced AI, e-commerce, hyperconnectivity, sustainability and world business courses. In a recent interview with Technology Flow, CEO Al Tarji said his company plans to add more programs in software engineering, data science, clean energy, business analytics, digital marketing and project management over the next six to twelve months based on demand. Learners.
The chief executive also stated that Nexford intends to launch several pathway programs – six-month programs designed to equip learners with the skills needed to land specific jobs in five vertical areas, including the new courses mentioned above – to complement its degree programmes.
“Pathway programs also feed into our degree programs,” he said. “So what that means is, when you finish the pathway program, if you want to go on and get a master’s or bachelor’s degree, you can do that,” he said. “But if you get a job and want to come back after a few months, you can do that too. So the path gives you the necessary skills and a certain percentage of a formal college degree.
This stackability factor is one of the many ways Nexford differs from traditional firms, says Al Tarji. He also praised the platform’s day-to-day academic support and affordability, given that traditional universities in the US can charge three or four times Nexford’s price for pathway programs. For example, Nexford’s accredited degrees cost between $3,000 to $4,000 (paid in monthly installments), while the average annual tuition for a master’s degree in the US is around $36,000.
Regardless of cost and unique selling proposition, edtech platforms must prioritize results. And in the three years Nexford has existed, the way results are measured has changed. Many traditional and new edtech upstarts measure learning outcomes through placements. For Nexford, it’s just one of three ways to develop a business as an entrepreneur, including getting a promotion and increased salary and real-life application of the courses.
“I think one of the most fundamental developments is that we now have a lot more learner data and outcomes data that gives us greater confidence that our alumni are succeeding post-graduation,” the CEO said. “In our latest survey, we saw that about 92% achieved this.”
Internally, the edtech platform also wants to improve operations by becoming profitable. Al Tarji said that Nexford is maintaining positive margins in 2021 compared to the previous year, with enrollments in 2021 increasing from 70 countries to 90+ this year.
Last June, the three-year-old startup announced a $10.8 million pre-Series A round. It looks down-round; However, Al Tarji disagreed, saying the funding volume was down to a “significantly oversubscribed and extended” pre-Series A.
Investors participating in its Series A round include Learns Emerging Markets Fund anchored by International Finance Corporation.IFC), Bisk Ventures, Global Ventures, Future Africa, UK-based investment firm AMK Investments and the Future of Learning Fund.
Nexford said in a statement that the proceeds will take it into new markets, broaden the company’s academic offerings, including career pathway programs, and improve its technology infrastructure. “We will continue to invest in product and geographic expansion and technology. The latter allows us to operate as efficiently as we do, so we don’t have to increase our tuition fees,” said the CEO. “Last year, we reduced customer retention costs by nearly 50%, and that was directly due to the operational efficiencies enabled by technology. So we continue to invest in technology to increase efficiency and keep learner tuition fees down now.”