We are proud of our deep heritage, which started in the early 1900s as Thomson Publishing. Since then, we have 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.
Through the First 100 Years
1903 – 1999
Our first chapter as Cengage started when we were known by the name Thomson—Thomson Corporation and then Thomson Learning. We evolved out of a newspaper and media company, fully arriving on the scene as a family of academic publishers just after World War II.
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:
Cengage's origins date to 1903, when a bookkeeping teacher at a local business college decided he could write a better text for his students.
Focused on becoming a singular provider of higher ed content, Thomson ventures into college and professional textbooks, acquiring Wadsworth Publishing, Gale, South-Western, Delmar, Heinle, Brooks/Cole, Course Technology and other companies.
Thomson begins to invest in digital; a company restructuring results in the creation of Thomson Learning.
This chapter of the Cengage story closes as the company begins adapting to the rise of courseware, internet accessibility, IT systems and the introduction of electronic books and readers.
Crossing the Digital
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, here’s what we accomplished, starting as 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
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.
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. Cengage Learning rebranded as Cengage.
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. We remind ourselves of what drives us, and the entire organization develops our ethos. Now, our mission is to aggressively address the issue of affordability and opportunistically use 21st century tools to do that.
2017 – 2021
Resolute in the belief that education delivered and supported by technology creates an immersive, engaging experience for the student, Cengage accelerates transformation from traditional publisher to digital-first innovator.
A text call at 4am led to a Cengage 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.
Evolving to a SaaS-like business model, US Higher Ed business tops 80+% in digital net sales. Nearly 3 million US college students have subscribed to Cengage Unlimited, resulting in more than $270 million in savings on course materials.
Education for Employment
With tens of millions of people un- or under-employed, Cengage is prioritizing Education for Employment, helping individuals gain the needed skills and capabilities to improve their lives. Our commitment is evidenced by the restructuring of our business segments around four large markets serving individuals who seek a high-quality education and the skills and capabilities most needed in today’s workforce.
Whether gaining mastery in a specific subject area through our Higher Education business, earning a certification in a high-demand field through our Workforce Skills business, learning how to be college and career ready through our Secondary Education business or learning the language of global business though our English Language Teaching business, Cengage is committed to supporting the aspirations of all learners—no matter their age, experience, abilities or environment.
Meet the leaders of Cengage who are leading the charge to reinvent education.