Laureate Education raises $490 million in first IPO for a public benefit corp

Laureate Education has grown to become the world’s largest for-profit college by targeting middle class students in emerging markets, particularly in Latin America.

Its debut on Nasdaq last week marked a first for a public benefit corporation, a new legal status in many states that commits a firm to a social mission.

The Baltimore company is backed by Henry Kravis, George Soros, Steve Cohen and Paul Allen as well as private equity firm KKR and the World Bank’s International Financial Corp. Bill Clinton’s role as honorary chancellor made headlines for his high salary.

Laureate is also a “B-Corp.,” a third party designation from B Lab, which certifies companies for their social performance.

Results so far are mixed: Two IFC-backed studies in Mexico and Peru and one commissioned by Laureate indicate positive effects on upward mobility and employment. Two U.S. studies, however, show students at its largest U.S. school, Walden University, struggling to pay debts.

More than a million students (95 percent outside of the U.S.) attend Laureate’s 80 institutions in 28 countries.

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