Capstone Headwaters Reports: Pandemic and Election Slow Deal Activity in Post-Secondary Education

October 22, 2020

Boston, MA – Capstone Headwaters released its Post-Secondary Education October Update today, reporting that COVID-19 headwinds and the approaching presidential election have created some deal hesitancy for post-secondary institutions, as they monitor the pandemic and wait to see how a potential administration change could impact funding and the regulatory environment.  While the year has stalled immediate growth strategies, enrollment in colleges and universities has historically climbed during times of high unemployment and market uncertainty, positioning the industry for near-term growth.     

Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity has declined 37% year-over-year through September with 27 announced or closed transactions compared to 43 over the same period in 2019.  Following a period of languishing activity during economic upcycles, deal activity saw an uptick starting in June as investors began looking for companies that experience a marked uptick in performance during recessionary periods. Schools that offered programs in computer sciences, nursing, trade schools or certificate programs that allow students to upskill quickly were favored by buyers seeking to diversify their course offerings or capitalize on high-growth fields.  Transactions were also spurred by schools seeking defensive synergies to stabilize finances amid COVID-19 impacts.   

Jacob Voorhees, Head of Global M&A as well as the head of the Education & Training practice at Capstone commented, “Post-secondary institutions that performed admirably during Obama-era regulatory restrictions have seen a resurgence in interest from the private equity and strategic communities as concerns around 90/10, gainful employment and military funding are not major issues and now they have the tailwinds driven by countercyclical industry dynamics and renewed lender interest. We believe post-election that there will be an influx of interest in the space as the United States struggles to recover from the episodic recession primarily driven by COVID-19.” 

Capstone Headwaters is one of the largest and most active independent investment banking firms in the United States.  The firm has a rich 15+ year history of achieving extraordinary results for middle market entrepreneurs, business owners, investors, and creditors.  Capstone offers a fully integrated suite of corporate finance services, including merger & acquisition, debt & equity placement, corporate restructuring, valuation & fairness opinion, financial advisory, and ESOP advisory services.  Headquartered in Boston, the firm has 150+ professionals across 16 offices in the U.S., with and an international presence including over 450 professionals in 40 countries. With 16 dedicated industry groups, the firm delivers sector-specific expertise through large, cross-functional teams on a global basis.  Capstone has been named “U.S. Middle Market Investment Bank of the Year” for the past 9 consecutive years and is consistently recognized as one of the top investment banking firms to work for. For more information, visit

For More Information Contact the Key Report Contributors:

Jacob Voorhees 
Managing Director, Head of Education & Training Practice                                                                                                           

Shawn Keenan 
Director, Education & Training Practice