Make School, a unique pay-for-performance college that only requires students to make tuition payments if their income exceeds $60,000 after graduation, today announced that it has raised $15 million in series B funding led by Venrock, with participation from Learn Capital and Kapor Capital. It follows on the heels of a roughly $10 million round in October 2017 and brings the San Francisco startup’s total raised to $30 million, and will fuel its expansion into New York in the coming years.
“We’re rethinking what it means to be an elite institution — rooted in the progressive value system that inspires the diverse community of learners and makers we serve,” cofounder Ashu Desai said in a statement. “To realize that vision, we’ve designed an inclusive admissions process eschewing SAT scores and traditional metrics, we’ve ensured every student can afford to attend, and we’ve built an education that has enabled our students to outcompete their peers at schools like Stanford and Berkeley for careers at top tech companies.”
Make School, which launched a coding bootcamp for university and high school students in 2012, began offering a two-year bachelor’s degree in computer science last year in partnership with Dominican University. Through an incubation policy offered by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the accrediting body that oversees institutions in Northern California, Make School instructors teach courses for Dominican students toward the goal of helping the university launch a new computer science minor, and in return, Make School students enroll in Dominican’s liberal arts courses.
Students have the option of paying for tuition up-front, which costs $70,000, or paying back 20 percent of their salary for 60 months after completing the degree program. Within the next three to five years, Make School plans to spin off as its own accredited college and introduce new degree programs, including several in computational biology.
“Make School is tackling the three big issues in higher education: cost, relevance, and equity,” said Venrock partner Tom Willerer. “It’s obliterating the historic distinction between in-demand technical skills and the value of a degree. By de-risking a student’s investment in a rigorous, computer science education, they’re also expanding access in ways that have profound potential to close equity gaps for tech employers.”
Willerer makes a good point: There’s a tangible talent gap in STEM fields. According to a recent Deloitte report, more than 20 percent of respondents said they’re seeing a shortage in AI software developers, data scientists, user-experience designers, change-management experts, project managers, business leaders, and subject-matter experts. Meanwhile, about 54 percent of survey respondents told Gartner researchers that they considered the skills gap the biggest challenge facing their organization.
For its part, Make School claims that about 202 students have enrolled since 2014, and that alumni — some of whom have landed jobs at Google, Apple, and Tesla — earn a $95,000 starting salary on average.