Fortune Gets An Ivy League Partner For Online Business Education

For would-be students who might think the Cornell name alone isn't enough, the school is now offering a certificate program in partnership with the business magazine.

For business-minded men and women looking for a qualification from an institution a bit more prestigious than a mere Ivy League university, help is on the way. Cornell University is adding some gravitas to its offerings by teaming up with Fortune magazine to offer an online business certificate program.

The Fortune-Cornell tie-up is the latest in a steady stream of media companies getting their piece of the online education industry. Last year, Wired launched its own degree program with the University of Southern California, a master's in Integrated Business, Design and Technology. And there's the Forbes School of Business, a partnership between the business publisher and Ashford University, a sprawling online for-profit college, launched in April.

Even the New York Times is in the process of creating NYT EDUcation, a series of courses and certificate programs with the CIG Education Group, an investment firm. And which teen-minded learner could look past the "online fashion certificate" being offered by a partnership of Teen Vogue and the Parsons School of Design?

In the case of Fortune and Cornell, the partnership will offer an 18-week class, which costs $3,600 and promises to blend lessons from Cornell professors with interviews and cases studies from the magazine's writers and editors.

The Fortune partnership, like those with Wired and TeenVogue, is backed by Qubed Education, a startup that hopes to make a business out of partnering big-name brands with educational institutions. CIG Education, in addition to the NYT venture, used the brand of the art auction house Sotheby's to create the Sotheby's Institute of Art, which offers master's degrees in three cities.

For media companies struggling to find new sources of revenue as print businesses die out, online education offers a chance to capitalize on their brands and the authority and trust they carry with consumers.

Fortune is owned by Time Inc., which spun off from the much-more-profitable Time Warner last year. In the wake of the spinoff, "we've really been looking to capitalize on our brands," said Jim Jacovides, Time Inc's senior vice president of international licensing and development.

"You're looking for a place where our brand resonates, and education is a space where it did. Cornell is a great school, so it was a good match," Jacovides told BuzzFeed News.

The Cornell certificate partnership is Time Inc.'s first foray into online education, and, it hopes, a testing ground for future programs. "This is, we hope, the beginning of many courses," said Jacovides. "The possibilities are endless for a lot of our other brands."

But for even the most recognized media brands, using online education to turn a high-name brand into a revenue stream is not easy. The New York Times has previously struggled to gain footing in the higher education. Its first such venture, a "Knowledge Network" that included courses taught by Times staffers and certificates offered in partnership with the University of Southern California, was killed in July of 2012.

For Cornell, USC, and Parsons, the media partnerships offer a chance to set their programs apart from similar offerings at other schools, said Rob Kingyens, the president and CEO of Qubed. "Cornell is a great school, but it's not the only one offering a business certificate," Kingyens said. "The value-add of a brand like Fortune is huge for students."

And for schools with little brand-recognition of their own, the proposition can be even more lucrative. Ashford University, for its part, paid $45 million to attach the Forbes brand to its business school.