We are proud of our deep heritage, which dates back to the early 1900s. During the last one hundred years, Cengage Group has evolved into one of the largest education technology companies in the world. Today, we provide quality digital products and services to millions of students, equipping them with skills and competencies needed to advance their careers and improve their lives.
Our story has many chapters. Read through our history to understand where we've been, and more importantly, where we're going.
Diversifying Ideas Through the First 100 Years 1903 – 1999
The first chapter for Cengage Group started when we were known by the name International Thomson Publishing. We evolved out of newspaper, textbook and media companies, fully arriving on the scene as a family of academic publishers in the late 1970s/early 80s.
Just as we do today, we promised to change our industry. And just like today, we believed in better—by challenging standard practices and ineffective conventions. Here’s how we did that back then:
The roots of Cengage Group can be traced back more than one hundred years. South-Western Publishing, one of the original companies that contributed to what is now Cengage Group, started in 1903 when a bookkeeping teacher at a local business college decided he could write a better text for his students.
The initial portfolio of companies started to come together in 1979 when Thomson Corporation purchased Wadsworth Publishing from Prentice-Hall, providing Thomson its first entry into college and professional textbooks.
Over the next decade, Thomson acquired South-Western Publishing, Gale, Delmar (adding Milady to our portfolio), Heinle, Brooks/Cole, Course Technology and other companies.
This chapter of the Cengage story closes as the company begins to invest in digital; throughout this time, the various constituent businesses began to adapt to the rise of courseware, internet accessibility, IT systems and the introduction of electronic books and readers.
Crossing the Digital Frontier 2000 - 2007
Our next chapter is about enabling a new generation of learners with a new generation of technology. It’s in this era that we developed our DNA in technology and digital innovation. It’s also a chapter in which we faced existential threats and uncertainty and learned new resilience. Through this period, we brought new urgency in our mission to make education more accessible to everyone. Beginning at the turn of the 21st century, a company restructuring results in the creation of Thomson Learning.
We begin to feel the force of demand for alternate channels of distribution from online retailers and resellers, leading to price resistance from consumers and the rise of customization.
Seeing opportunity for millions of adults to upskill and reskill, Thomson acquires Education to Go (now ed2go), a provider of online adult education courses.
More investment in new technologies and customer solutions leads to the acquisition of Aplia—an education company dedicated to improving learning outcomes by increasing student effort and engagement. Later that year, Apax Partners and OMERS Capital Partners buy Thomson Learning; the company is renamed Cengage Learning.
Amid Challenges, a New Company Emerges 2008 – 2016
The world was changing. Students had begun to question why they had to buy textbooks. The internet had brought not just visibility but transparency—information and empowerment to the consumer. Here’s how we transformed during this era:
Amid the optimism of creating this new company—Cengage Learning—and to push for greater integration of content and technology, we expand our portfolio with the acquisition of Houghton Mifflin’s college publishing division, as well as PAL Publications, Gatlin Education Services and HighBeam Research, and reorganize our Academic, Professional, Gale and International businesses.
At the annual TED conference, we unveil MindTap, a program of digital products and services that engages students through interactivity and offers instructors choice in content, platforms, devices and learning tools. Also that year, we acquire National Geographic Society's school publishing unit, combining it with the global English Language Teaching business and branding it National Geographic Learning.
In the race to transform the company, we accumulate substantial debt. Cengage Learning files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, allowing the company to continue operating and provide an opportunity for a turnaround.
With a new sense of urgency, we emerge from Chapter 11; a new CEO and executive team take the helm. Their first critical piece of work as a new team is developing our Credo—our statement of purpose. Cengage Learning is rebranded as Cengage meaning “Center of Engagement.”
Believing that education delivered digitally is the most powerful way to teach and learn, we acquire three additional student/instructor-focused online companies—Learning Objects, Pathbrite and WebAssign.
We close this difficult era with a recognition that we must think differently and act differently, while never wavering from our longstanding focus on the learner. Through the development of our Ethos, the entire organization is reminded of what drives us. Now, our mission is to use 21st century tools to aggressively address the issues of affordability and access.
Resolute in the belief that education delivered and supported by technology creates an immersive, engaging experience for the student, we accelerate transformation from traditional publisher to digital-first innovator.
A text at 4am led to a game-changer: Cengage Unlimited. The first-of-its-kind subscription for students is announced—cementing our commitment to access and affordability for all.
A year after launch, more than one million Cengage Unlimited subscriptions have been sold. Total student savings are expected to reach $160 million by the end of this academic year.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of instructors and students transitioned to hybrid learning models seemingly overnight. Cengage’s portfolio companies responded quickly with differentiated service and support as well as free access to content, tools, resources and course materials. Without a doubt, the pandemic changed the trajectory of education, forever.
Tech-Forward, Growth Focused 2021
We are focused on the next phase of our journey, helping millions more learners improve their lives and achieve their dreams. Momentum and confidence build as we close fiscal year 2021 in March, with strong results and a clear strategy toward growth, enabled by technology and synergies across our portfolio of businesses.
Explosive demand for shorter, affordable, non-degree pathways combined with the impact of tens of millions of people un- or under-employed, Cengage prioritized Education for Employment, defining a strategy for how we will help individuals gain the needed skills and capabilities to improve their lives.
During our fiscal year end investor update, we report that our US Higher Education business returned to sales growth and increased profitability driven by strong digital performance. Digital sales grew 11%; and we surpassed 4.4 million Cengage Unlimited subscriptions sold since launch.
Supported by our portfolio strategy and aligned with our new reporting segments, Cengage is rebranded as Cengage Group symbolizing the important role each business plays in our go-forward strategy.
Cengage Group is fully committed to our three strategic priorities: continue to grow digital users in our Higher Education businesses; rapidly grow our Workforce Skills business; and, leverage synergies across our technology, content and distribution platforms to scale our business to serve millions more learners, globally.