Innovating in higher education

For years, I’ve complained that deans and professors have nothing to lose by encouraging you to enroll in college, remain in school, continue to pay tuition, etc. – “An investment in human capital is always worthwhile!” “The degree will pay off in the end!”  Except, of course, if they are wrong, they get your tuition money and you get a huge, lifelong problem.

That’s why it’s nice to see App Academy put its money where its mouth is, so to speak: if its graduates don’t get jobs, they don’t pay tuition.  In fact, no one pays tuition up front; they pay it out of their paychecks once they graduate. explains it all:

Here’s how the tuition scheme works: Students study free-of-charge during the course’s duration. Upon gaining employment after graduation, alumni forward 15 percent of their annual base salary to App Academy, but not all at once. Instead, that sum — typically around $12,000 for the average graduate — is deducted incrementally from an employed graduate’s bi-weekly pay check for six months.

If a student isn’t hired within one year of completing App Academy, that student won’t be charged tuition. But that hasn’t been a problem for App Academy: Ninety-three percent of its graduates have received offers or are working in tech jobs.

According to Patel, the average App Academy graduate earns $83,000 a year – not bad for someone making a career change or who was previously unemployed. But the course is anything but easy. App Academy’s acceptance rate is less than 10 percent, and once admitted, students put in 80 to 90 hours a week in the lab.

I would love to see law schools do something similar (albeit with a longer repayment period).  The non-financial advantage to this scheme is that the school is implicitly backing up its graduates: employers know that the school thought these people were good enough software programmers for the school to invest in, train, and graduate.  Students aren’t screened for what will make App look good in U.S. News or with fellow deans at schmoozy parties; the students are selected and trained for the value they can add to a company. This gives companies a bit of faith in App graduates: they know that another for-profit company has already done the hard work of evaluating these people, at the expense of said for-profit company.


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Filed under Academia, Economics

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