A top editor of Inside Higher Ed said Friday that, in hindsight, he wished there had been more transparency about the sale of the publication's controlling interest to a private equity firm that has invested heavily in for-profit education.
“We were founded without any support, then we had one set of investors and we had never said anything about them," Scott Jaschik, an Inside Higher Ed founder and editor, told Education Dive. "In hindsight, I wish we had, because clearly this is of interest to people."
A controlling interest of the trade publication was acquired in November by Quad Partners, a New York private equity firm with investments in a number of for-profit higher education enterprises. However, the sale wasn't publicly disclosed until the Huffington Post reported on it Wednesday.
Given Inside Higher Ed's frequent reporting on for-profit higher ed and related policies, the deal inevitably raises concerns about conflicts of interest.
"Obviously with any potential purchase, we talked to Quad and we talked to others about these issues. We stressed editorial independence 100%, and they were comfortable with that," said Jaschik. "Never once has there been anything that challenges that."
Aside from Quad Partners' investments in the sector, Lincoln Frank, a managing partner in the firm, was co-chair of the Coalition for Educational Success, a group formed to lobby against the U.S. Department of Education’s gainful employment rule and other for-profit regulatory measures. Among its for-profit higher ed investments are Beckfield College, Blue Cliff College, Dorsey Schools, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and Marinello Schools of Beauty.
A call to Frank had not been returned at the time of publication.
Jaschik points out that Quad Partners is a broad education investor, with interests in both for-profit and nonprofit higher ed and K-12, emphasizing that the deal came with an explicit agreement that there be no editorial influence.
The Huffington Post article attempted to raise parallels between the sale and the occasionally troubled relationship between the Washington Post Co. and Kaplan Inc. over the years, but Jaschik noted that situation isn't quite the same, as Inside Higher Ed is not part of any of Quad Partners' other businesses.
As for any efforts to influence content: “It’s not something I would be able to accept. It’s not what I would do," said Jaschik.
"We are a publication that covers all sectors of higher ed — sometimes critically, sometimes less critically. It depends on the issue. It depends on what the facts of the story are. We’re going to go on doing that.”
“I guess I would just say to anyone who has questions, read us and read our coverage and call me if you think we’re doing anything that we shouldn’t," he said.