Former Laureate Education Inc. CEO Douglas Becker, one of the region’s most well-known entrepreneurs, is trying his luck again with a new startup that aims to connect U.S. universities with its peers overseas.
Cintana Education LLC, based in Tempe, Arizona, will focus on helping nonprofit universities outside of the U.S. grow and develop. U.S. universities will become part of the Cintana Alliance and offer coordinated academic programs that allow students to earn degrees across multiple institutions. The startup’s first client is Arizona State University, which has its flagship campus in Tempe.
Becker, who is the founder and chairman of Cintana, has brought on a team of former Laureate executives to lead the new venture.
It’s the latest in a long line of successful companies started by Becker, a Baltimore native who co-founded Sylvan Learnings Systems Inc. in 1989 and saw it become a large K-12 tutoring company. He also co-founded investment firm Sterling Partners.
Other companies founded by Becker include Prometric, a network of computer-based testing centers, and Laureate, which grew to become the largest network of for-profit universities. Baltimore-based Laureate (NASDAQ: LAUR) went public for the second time in 2017. Becker stepped down as CEO of Laureate at the end of that year.
Many other former Laureate executives followed Becker to Cintana. They include:
- Robert Zentz — The former senior vice president and general counsel for Laureate is now general counsel for Cintana.
- Wadiah Atiyah — Formerly the CEO of the Middle East and North Africa region for Laureate, Atiyah heads up the same region for Cintana.
- Agueda Benito — Benito was most recently the chief academic officer for Laureate. She is now head of academic excellence at Cintana.
- Emiliano Diez — Diez worked for 10 years at Laureate in several operational roles. Most recently he was senior vice president of operations for a partnership with the University of Miami. At Cintana he is the head of product development and client services.
- Chris Hill — Hill is the head of partnerships and institutional growth for Cintana. At Laureate he had several roles including being Becker’s chief of staff for a year. Most recently he was CEO of Laureate’s online partnership business.
- Rob Polston — Polston is a senior adviser for Europe at Cintana. He had various roles at Laureate before leaving the company in December 2017. His positions included CEO of the Laureate’s online partnerships business and CEO of Laureate France.
- Paul Tan — Tan is director of partnerships and strategy for Asia at Cintana. At Laureate he was the senior director of business development and strategic initiatives for the Asia Pacific.
Becker and Arizona State President Michael Crow worked together to start Cintana. They hope Cintana will help grow international universities and get more people around the world enrolled in college. In the poorest countries an estimated 8% of young adults are enrolled in college compared to 74% in the richest countries, according to Cintana.
Just 10% of the world’s students have access to ranked universities, the company said.
“In an era where higher education remains the most powerful global lever for economic mobility, our goal is to empower selected institutions outside of the United States to achieve their ambitious goals for growth in scale and quality,” Becker said in a statement. “To do so, we will combine our experiences with the experience and resources of ASU to enhance academic quality and drive innovation.”
Universities have increasingly focused on attracting international students to the U.S., Crow said. But few have been able to “engage effectively at the local level” to help colleges advance in their home countries.
“This partnership with Cintana allows us to fulfill our charter’s mandate to engage not just in Arizona and nationally — but globally,” Crow said. “Doug brings vast experience in the design and implementation of new models for higher education, and he shares our belief that innovation can unlock unprecedented gains in scale and quality for institutions around the world.”