Impact Investing Case Study - Cogna

3 min read 3 Aug 22

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Founded in 1966, Cogna is the largest private educational company in Brazil. Generally speaking, affluent children in Brazil attend expensive private schools and progress into public universities, which creates a barrier for less-affluent children. In the past, the Brazilian government would help through  subsidies in the form of student loan programmes (FIES). However, given rising pressure on fiscal budgets, this is no longer the case. As government is no longer able to fill this gap, Cogna has become a more affordable and effective private option.

Cogna began its educational services in 1966, when five friends founded the Pitágoras preparatory course for university admission exams. Within two years, 600 students had enrolled. This initiative grew throughout the next few decades, opening the first Pitágoras school in 1974, creating the Pitágoras network of schools in the 1990s and the first Pitágoras college in the 2000s. In 2014, under Cogna’s former name Kroton, the company merged with Anhanguera Educacional, to make it the largest educational company in the world in terms of market cap and students.

Cogna provides quality and affordable education, providing greater access for students wanting to enter the Brazilian university system. Its core business is operating private post-secondary education programmes. Over the years and through various transformational acquisitions, Cogna has created an Education ecosystem, primarily comprising a leading K12 platform business (Vasta) and hybrid and digital postsecondary and medical education business (Kroton). Cogna operates through 124 post-secondary education campuses, across 96 cities in Brazil.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge for Cogna, which it saw fewer admissions and higher student dropouts, given lockdowns and the subsequent financial strain for students (primarily working students). Therefore, student enrolment shrunk, with growth from distance learning eclipsed by challenges in the on-campus business. Cogna is back to growing student count, with >2 million currently enrolled. Its shift to a more capital-light digital and hybrid education platform business  offers an accessible and flexible option for students, which is especially helpful for distance learning and  part-time working students, wanting to re-skill or improve their education.

In Brief:

  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Primary Goal #4: Quality education
  • Teaches >2 million pupils in Brazil
  • Enables better access to quality education in Brazil
  • Largest private educational organisation in Brazil, with 5,600 partnering schools and 2,517 distance learning centres
  • Better access to education in a country where only 17% of 25-34 years old have university degrees (vs 43% average in the OECD Countries)
  • Reaches 1,900 municipalities

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