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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Learn now, pay later

Instead of paying for college, students can learn now, pay later at San Francisco’s Make School, reports Emily DeRuy in the San Jose Mercury News. Last year, after several years of offering short computer-science courses, Make School launched a two-year Product College, which combines project-based classes with internships at Silicon Valley companies.

Students who opt for an income-share agreement pay 25 percent of their pre-tax salary to the school for three and a half years, if they earn more than $60,000 a year, reports DeRuy. “The goal is for graduating students — most of them 18- to 24-years-old — to have created games or other apps they can take to job interviews.”

Make School students pay a percentage of their salary after graduating.

The for-profit “can only make money if the students are doing well,” said co-founder Ashu Desai, 24, who dropped out of UCLA after a year.

“Things have really shifted away from folks focusing on a degree to folks focusing on: What can you build? Can I see your code?,” said Desai.

Twenty percent of the first class decided to pay full tuition of $60,000, writes DeRuy. Sixty percent chose the income-sharing option and the rest paid partial tuition and agreed to a partial income share.

The income-sharing model is controversial, she reports. Some say it “creates an incentive for the school to admit only students it thinks can succeed — which some education officials worry could disadvantage ‘risky’ students who come from low-income backgrounds.”

Yes, admitting only students likely to succeed is not the done thing.

Desai insists he’s giving students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to pursue higher education — including minorities who are underrepresented in the tech industry — a chance. According to Desai, about 10 percent of students in the Product College are black and 25 percent are Latino. About 85 percent of the Product College students are male. But Desai said the school is working to raise the percentage of women through partnerships with organizations like Girls Who Code.

A number of coding boot camps also use income sharing, but these are short-term programs, writes DeRuy.  “Purdue University in Indiana is also experimenting with the model, and more universities are considering offering the agreements to help students avoid being burdened by loans.”

Only about half  of last year’s Product College students returned to finish the program. Desai says that because students “received lucrative offers from tech companies like Facebook and the San Francisco-based shipping company Shyp.”

Aimed at older students, MissionU will offer a fast, free, no-frills path to a data analytics degree. In theory, students will graduate in one year, then pay for their education via income sharing. Employers helped design the mostly online program.

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