enstitute dinner

With the cost of college education on the rise and unemployment still high, many students might be questioning the value of a traditional college education. Enstitute, a New York City-based non-profit, is attempting a new spin on higher-ed with two-year apprenticeship programs in some of the city’s most prominent companies.

The goal: instead of just reading about or being lectured on specific industries, students can actually get their hands dirty with some real-world experience, while also being mentored by notable thinkers and entrepreneurs.

Today, Enstitute is announcing that it’s partnering with The Huffington Post, General Assembly, and Buzzfeed as it expands the focus of its apprenticeships beyond tech startups. Now Enstitute is also offering apprenticeships in digital media and advertising as well as non-profit and social good organizations. You can check out a full list of participating NYC companies here.

I had dinner with Enstitute’s current class of fellows a few months ago (above), and I was struck by how excited they all were to be involved with the program. If they were terrified about straying from the traditional college route, they certainly didn’t show it. The program’s fellows can still go off to attend college once they graduate, but at least then they’ll have far more real work experience than typical college students.

More partners will be announced leading up to the February 3 application deadline for Enstitute’s 2013 program. Anyone over 18 with a high school diploma can apply to Enstitute’s program.

Jasmine Gao, an Enstitute fellow working at Bit.ly under its data scientist rockstar Hilary Mason, had no regrets about leaving college to pursue the program. In a statement today, Gao said, “The current state of higher education has you waiting 4 years to apply the abstract concepts you learn in class with no guarantee of any measurable impact on your career or the world you’re trying to change — in Enstitute, there is no buffer time, and you learn very quickly whether or not something works or brings any value to what you’re trying to do.”

Other Enstitute entrepreneur mentors include LocalResponse CEO Nihal Mehta, Tracks CEO Vic Singh (both of whom are partners at Eniac Ventures), and Ben Lerer, CEO of Thrillist.

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