Coursera narrowly beats Wall Street estimates for Q3 as education companies struggle with enrollment downturn

The company reported a revenue of $109.9 million for Q3 and a non-GAAP loss per share of 6 cents.

Online education technology company Coursera narrowly beat Wall Street estimates for Q3 on Tuesday as multiple online education companies reported financial difficulties that they attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company reported a revenue of $109.9 million for Q3 alongside a non-GAAP gross profit of $68.2 million and a non-GAAP loss per share of 6 cents. The figures beat Wall Street estimates of a -$0.09 EPS and a revenue estimate of $108.4 million. 

Consumer revenue for Coursera in Q3 was $66.5 million as the company added 5.5 million new registered learners during the quarter for a total of 92 million. Enterprise revenue for the third quarter was $31.8 million, up 75% from a year ago.

The company has increased the total number of paid enterprise customers to 711, a 124% bump year over year. Revenue from degrees reached $11.6 million, up 59% year-over-year. 

"Our third-quarter revenue grew 33% year-over-year, demonstrating the progress we've made in creating a differentiated, skills-based learning experience for our institutional customers," said Ken Hahn, Coursera's CFO. "Our 2021 revenue outlook anticipates 40% year-over-year growth for the full year, a reflection of the durable and long-term demand we continue to see for online learning."

For Q4, the company expects to bring in revenue in the range of $109 million to $113 million. For the full fiscal 2021 year, Coursera said it expects somewhere between $409 million and $413 million in revenue. 

"Our third-quarter performance reflects the continued urgency with which companies, campuses, and governments around the world are investing in digital skills," said Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda. "Our recently launched SkillSets and Academies, together with our growing portfolio of Professional Certificates, are well-positioned to fulfill the rising demand for role-based learning among individuals and institutions."

The company began its first day of trading in March, and shares of the company opened at $39 apiece, climbing around 18% and pushing Coursera's market cap above $5 billion. Its initial public offering was priced for an aggregate of 15.7 million shares at $33.00 per share, which would've allowed the company to raise about $484 million.

Coursera's IPO prospectus disclosed 2020 revenue of $293 million, an increase of 59% year over year, with net losses of $66.8 million. The company said its total registered users grew 65% year over year in 2020 to more than 77 million. Coursera said over 2,000 organizations, 4,000 academic institutions, and 300 government entities had used its platform to upskill and reskill their employees and students.

Coursera's earnings report landed a day after Chegg reported disappointing results that derailed the stock. Chegg shares fell 45% after the company reported third-quarter revenue of $171.9 million, well below their forecast of between $194 million to $196 million.

The company said its subscriber figures dropped from 4.86 million to 4.4 million. 

Chegg chief executive Dan Rosensweig attributed the decline to lower enrollment across higher education institutions, writing that in late September, it became clear that the education industry is experiencing a slowdown that they believe is both temporary and a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"A combination of variants increased employment opportunities, and compensation, along with fatigue, have all led to significantly fewer enrollments than expected this semester. And those students who have enrolled are taking fewer and less rigorous classes and are receiving less graded assignments. We believe this is a post-pandemic impact that will affect this school year but is not sustainable for higher education long term," Rosensweig said.

"This is a post-COVID hangover of mental exhaustion, an opportunity to earn more money, a reassessing of their lives, not unlike what you hear going on in the corporate workplace. It just all came together at one time. We didn't see it happening and it happened."

After being questioned by analysts, Rosensweig said "millions of students just didn't go back" to school, noting that the company has only seen the slowdown over the last 30 days. 

"We're 30 days into seeing this and it's not that it's 30 days, to 60 days or 90 days. It's just this semester. It could be limited to this semester. We could see a whole bunch of people come back in January that just took all the money that they could for the Christmas holidays because Starbucks is tripling their salaries," he added. 

Some analysts pressed Rosensweig about why he thought the downturn would only be short-lived considering how many parents are questioning the high costs associated with sending their children to college and potential decreases in the amount of funding given to colleges from the federal government.