TL;DR: My name is Jeremy Rossmann. I dropped out of MIT and started Make School. It’s the college I wished existed - a project based bachelors degree in applied computer science. Our students work with companies on real world projects, live in downtown San Francisco, and only pay tuition if they get a job. Best of all, our students come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and their career outcomes are on par with top universities.

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/jXnUcPB

The long story:

In 2011 I was a college sophomore at MIT frustrated with the state of higher education. The tech industry was rapidly evolving and yet college curriculum was frozen in time. My high school CS teacher had been more innovative in offering a project-based education than my MIT professors were. Something felt broken.

I dropped out of MIT, teamed up with a friend from high school, and started teaching computer science the way we wished it had been taught to us. Our first program was literally run out of the living room of a house in Palo Alto, CA.

By 2014 we grew into a full-fledged alternative to college in San Francisco. There were dorms, faculty, clubs, but no degree. We pioneered a new financial model - don’t pay any tuition unless you get a job. Facebook/Google/Apple and co hired our students. The model worked and the media called it the anti college.

The thing is.. thriving without a college degree is much easier if you come from a privileged background. We came to realize a lot of the dropout-worship in the Silicon Valley was blind to the fact that forgoing a college degree was a lot more costly if you were low-income or a student of color. To really disrupt higher education and serve students who were being left behind by the current system, we had to find a way to offer degrees.

The accrediting agency that covers California colleges (Stanford, UC Berkeley, etc) created a new policy designed to facilitate just that. An alternative provider like Make School could partner with an established University and create a new program offering degrees without going through a 3-5 year accreditation process.

Make School was reborn in the Fall of 2018 as a Bachelors of Science in Applied Computer Science Program. We partnered with the Dominican University of California and together set Make School up as a new campus of Dominican University in San Francisco under a new policy called the Incubation Policy. Dominican University also teaches the liberal arts courses on our campus. We've hired some amazing faculty and staff to build the best computer science education, hiring from top tech companies like Google and Apple and top universities like MIT and Stanford. Things have really come full circle for me as our new Director of Student and Academic Affairs was an administrator at MIT while my classmates were graduating!

The long story in podcast format: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiEtVpTE40g

Our full vision for Make School: https://www.makeschool.com/vision

Edit: Thanks everyone for these amazing questions!

Comments: 1263 • Responses: 80  • Date: 

VA_Network_Nerd2420 karma

We've hired some amazing faculty and staff to build the best computer science education, hiring from top tech companies like Google and Apple and top universities like MIT and Stanford.

How are you funded? Where does the money come from?

If you aren't taking tuition up-front how are you funding day-to-day operations?
My concern is if you will be around for students to complete their educations before you go belly-up (which I don't hope happens at all, just a concern).
You built a brand new college in one of the most expensive cities in the US, if not the world and you're doing it with a highly nebulous business model.
Are you structured as a For-Profit institution?

You mention that you have some quantity of scholarships even for international applicants.
There are only a few handfuls of US universities who offer scholarships to internationals, and they tend to be highly well-funded.
How can you afford that? Is your business model to become an H1B processing plant?

It's not my intention to attack your institution, but it feels almost purpose-built to serve as a perfect H1B factory.
No up-front tuition. Accelerated classes. Scholarships. Right smack in the heart of SanFran/SV.
The only thing missing is an Accelerated Masters Degree program.

An alternative provider like Make School could partner with an established University and create a new program offering degrees without going through a 3-5 year accreditation process.

Your language here is unclear and your language on this from your website seems conflicting with your statements.

If I understand, WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) has issued you a temporary/contingent/experimental accreditation so that you can operate NOW as if you were a fully accredited institution, while you work through some kind of an incubation / probationary / period under the guidance and assistance of Dominican University.

You can't issue your own diplomas yet, and graduates are awarded degrees from Dominican until you achieve full Accreditation status.

Achieving full Accreditation is not, I assume, a sure-thing, is it? You have some hoops to jump through and competencies to display mastery of to WSCUC to receive their formal, blessing, right?

Which is why I find this language misleading:

Make School is the first in the country to pursue accreditation under a new policy called the “Incubation Policy”created by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the regional accreditor covering California.

But you aren't really Accredited yet, right? You've been granted an experimental incubation permit to operate as if you were accredited. Right?

I don't think any of this invalidates your ability to deliver an education, I'm just not sure you are stating the facts of the situation clearly. Or, I must admit, it's also possible I misunderstand.

~2 year Bachelor instead of 4 years

Ahh yes. "Accelerated Coursework". University of Phoenix made a big deal of this too.

A 4-year degree in 2 years. There are ONLY two ways to accomplish this:

  1. You work the student HARD. Aggressive course loads, intensive volumes of homework, and an increased risk of poor retention, student stress & drop-out rates, and low consumer satisfaction.
  2. You eliminate content from classes & coursework from the curriculum and simply teach less content, but call it the same degree.

Which approach does your institution associate with?

Please don't say that you've revolutionized education with an exciting and unique approach to the learning process.

Instructors have personal relationships with students: instructors and students get to know each other on an informal basis as mentors instead of just being instructors

You feel this is sufficiently sustainable to promote as a feature of the institution?

Project based: As opposed to strictly focusing on taking tests and theory of computer science, you actually build real projects. You leave the school with 5-6 portfolio projects of software you can show employers. We hear "it's not what you know, it's what you can do." Make School is the embodiment of that Mantra

What you are kind of describing is a trade school or boot camp. Is this a glorified boot camp? or is this a college education?

I understand the degree is an Applied Science degree, so I respect and understand that there will be less depth, and that's not a bad thing.

But what I fear is that one possible interpretation of what you are saying here is that you don;t teach how software works, you just teach how to pound out syntax.

And there are totally a whole lot of jobs in the US for people to pound out syntax. They exist, they are hiring and that pay pretty well.

But they are mostly filled with contract employees from domestic and foreign sources. Which kind of brings be back to that H1B factory concept again. (sorry)

Community: at 200 students, we create a really tight nit community, rich with peer learning and support. Students are constantly supporting each other and nearly 1/2 of all senior students are peer mentors!

200 students... each earning I dunno 100k per graduate, and each kicking back what, 10-15% of their salaries to repay their education over 5-10 years?

200 students X $15,000 = Thats $3 Million in revenues per graduating class. That doesn't actually feel like a lot of money in SanFran. Even with 5 or 8 graduated classes under your belt.

Are you adequately funded? Where is the money coming from?
Will you exist 10 years from today?
Will my diploma still be relevant 10 years from now?

Seniors are working in teams to build software for actual organizations.

Is that legal? How are the students being compensated? Are they 1099 contact employees to those employers? Who pays the taxes?

Is that a revenue stream for the institution? Providing cheap labor?

Some collaborating companies run by graduates of YC or alumni. We also have industry review our curriculum, working engineers come in and mentor, and we teach students how to reach out to mentors in industry.

These are the same bullet points Full Sail University likes to tout and highlight.

We look for work ethic, professionalism, and passion for making/creating. Our community tends to be quite varied and our latest actually skews more towards little to no prior coding experience at the time they applied.

We don't require SAT/ACT score, but we will take a look at your your transcripts. That being said, unless there's scary stuff in there it's not really what we go by. We’re more interested in the projects you worked on, what you learned, and how you’d be excited to apply those learnings while at Make School.

Concretely speaking, we require a written application, transcripts, then we invite you for a phone interview, and if you don't have much prior experience we ask you to complete an online programming class/challenge called Ramp.

It feels like your admissions criteria is off the hook with fluffiness, abstractness, non-specifics and frankly, things desperate applicants want to hear.
Who are you catering to? What actually is your target audience of students?

University of Phoenix makes a big deal about not needing test scores too.
So does Full Sail.

We don't publish an acceptance rate.

Why not?

Will you collect & provide a Common Data Set so Guidance Counselors & Admissions Consultants can properly compare your institution to your peers & contemporaries?

JRManifold1598 karma

Edit: updated for ease of reading and more depth! I’ve summarized your questions to capture the jist of what you’re asking.

  • How are you funded? Where does the money come from? If you aren’t taking tuition up-front, how are you funding day to day operations.

We are currently funded through a combination of venture capital - we’ve raised $30 million from investors to help build this - and borrowing money against the Income Share Agreements that students sign (which we call ISA debt).Our venture capital funds our growth and expansion. It is largely from education and impact focused investors (eg. one of our lead investors is primarily funded by the World Bank).

Our day to day operations are funded by ISA debt, it’s the key to our long term sustainability. In essence, we borrow money when students enroll in the program equal to a fraction of their eventual tuition payback. When students get jobs and start paying, we then pay back our lender. This is similar to a working capital loan (eg. a company borrows money to manufacture a product and pays it back once it sells the product).

The big contrast to traditional student debt is that we as an institution hold the debt rather than having individual students hold the debt. That means we’re aggregating risk that students carry into a shared pool. So if one student has a bad outcome we are on the hook, not the student. This effectively aligns our incentives with the students incentives and protects students from downside risk. This model is highly sustainable if our outcomes continue to be strong, so we’re laser focused on that as an institution.

  • Are you structured as a For-Profit institution?

The campus is a cooperation between two entities, Dominican University (non-profit) and Make School PBC. PBC stands for Public Benefit Corporation, which is a new class of for-profit company that exists to serve a public benefit - in our case creating upward mobility for students of all backgrounds. The academic program is housed on the non-profit side, so students are enrolled at a non-profit college, not a for-profit.

We’re big believers in the idea of Conscious Capitalism, which aims to redirect enterprises to create social impact as their primary goal. One of our investors Kapor Capital just released an impact report talking more about how companies who are creating sizable positive world impact are outperforming their peers. So we think the future economy will largely be driven by Public Benefit Corporations rather than self serving corporations.

  • You mention that you have some quantity of scholarships even for international applicants. How can you afford that?

We don’t offer scholarships to international students. We offer Income Share Agreements which enable students to pay tuition through a percentage of their earnings once they get a job. International students are eligible for OPT/CPT which gives them a few years of guaranteed work in the US before needing to apply for an H1-B.

  • If I understand, WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) has issued you a temporary/contingent/experimental accreditation so that you can operate NOW as if you were a fully accredited institution, while you work through some kind of an incubation / probationary / period under the guidance and assistance of Dominican University. You can't issue your own diplomas yet, and graduates are awarded degrees from Dominican until you achieve full Accreditation status. Achieving full Accreditation is not, I assume, a sure-thing, is it? You have some hoops to jump through and competencies to display mastery of to WSCUC to receive their formal, blessing, right?

Pretty close. Make School PBC itself has not been accredited. The program itself - the Bachelors of Applied Computer Science offered by Make School at Dominican - is accredited, not provisionally, and with no max duration. We won’t ditch this structure until we’ve become independently accredited, so essentially students will continue to get degrees from Make School at Dominican until Make School itself is independently accredited. If that takes longer, it won’t affect our students’ ability to get a bachelors degree.

  • To offer a 4-year degree in 2-2.5 years, you must work the students hard with aggressive course loads or eliminate content from the curriculum and call it the same degree. Which approach do you take?

We haven’t cut content, students take a full 124 unit course load to earn the degree. We do work students harder than traditional institutions. They’re required to work ~50 hours a week and take classes or a credit granting internship over the summers. This puts students on track to graduate in 2-2.5 years.

This is a similar workload to what they would see in their first job, so we don’t feel it’s working them too hard. We actually feel traditional colleges don’t work students hard enough (with some exceptions, like MIT). Given that time spent in college has a huge impact on the cost and opportunity cost of the education, we feel it’s better to ask a heavier workload in order to provide a cheaper degree.Reducing cost of college and increasing ROI is critical to fix the student debt crisis, time to degree is a big lever here. There’s also a lot of recent research that having summers off and longer degree times makes it less likely for low income students to graduate (it’s more likely that family needs, etc get in the way), so we expect shorter more intense degrees to be a general trend. We’re already seeing this with the federal government offering a year round pell grant to low income students.

  • You promote that instructors have personal relationships with students. Is this sufficiently sustainable?

It is sustainable. Unlike traditional institutions, most of your tuition dollars go towards paying instructors since we feel that’s most critical to a quality education. And we’re working to reduce the burden on instructors by streamlining administrative tasks. We also don’t require instructors to do research, so that increases their focus on spending time with students. Teaching colleges used to do this back in the day, before institutions all tried to compete for prestige as research institutions.

  • You emphasize building real world projects and a portfolio, emphasizing “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can do”. This sounds like a trade school or a bootcamp - is it?

Part of what we teach overlaps with trade schools and bootcamps - real world software development. In addition to that, we go pretty in depth into computer science theory, have a full complement of general education courses, and have courses focused on soft skills and life skills.

I think one the challenges with the current rhetoric around higher education is the notion that you can either get a broad based education or get a vocational education. When in reality, people are T shaped. We need the general education to understand the world and act as upstanding citizens, while we need vocational skills to excel in a career. We think you can - and should - learn both in college.

  • I understand this is a degree in Applied Science, so there will be less depth in Computer Science theory. One interpretation of this is that you don’t teach how software works, you just teach how to pound out syntax. Is that the case? Are there enough jobs for the skills you are training?

There’s a bit less depth in CS theory, but we do teach how software, systems, and architecture work. We also have a heavy emphasis on project management, communication, and collaboration - which tend to be the skills that allow people to step into senior engineering or management roles. Our students often compete for jobs with grads from Stanford, UC Berkeley, and other top CS programs. They’ve also shown to have pretty strong early career trajectories - some have started managing teams within a couple years of entering the workforce.

  • It seems as if the revenue you make may not be enough to sustain your operations today. Are you adequately funded? Where is the money coming from? Will you exist 10 years from today?

See question 1 above. As long as we maintain strong outcomes for our students, our model will be sustainable. Arguably more sustainable than many universities today, given that 25% of private colleges are running a budget deficit.

  • Is it legal for students to be working on software for actual organizations? How are they being compensated? Is this a revenue stream for the institution?

Most student projects are open source or for non profit or impact oriented institutions. They aren’t getting paid - neither are we - but they do get academic credit. This is legal since they get credit, and some universities (like Stanford) have similar courses!

This post is too long so answering the remaining questions in a comment!

KawhiTheKing1031 karma

Holy shit. I haven’t read this yet but I’m astounded you replied. These comments are a lot to unpack. Will be back next week once I’m done reading them.

JRManifold826 karma

Their questions are really good questions!

JRManifold327 karma

  • It feels like your admissions criteria is mostly abstract and focused on soft skills rather than hard metrics. Who are you catering to? What actually is your target audience of students?

We’ve made a deliberate decision to avoid the hard metrics that traditional institutions look at. Recent studies on SAT scores have shown no correlation between test scores and college success, so more institutions (University of Chicago being the most prominent) are becoming test optional.

GPA does have a stronger correlation to college success, not because of what students have learned in high school but because it demonstrates they can show up and work hard. But focusing on GPA tends to discount the hidden work low income students often need to do to support their families. So we allow students to demonstrate their work ethic through different means. 

We ask students to demonstrate their work ethic by writing in their application about projects they’ve driven to completion in or outside of school, jobs they’ve held, non-profits they’ve volunteered at, or ways they’ve supported their families and communities. We also ask most students to complete our Ramp program, an online or in person programming class that allows them to demonstrate their commitment and work ethic.

In essence, we want the admissions process to be a stepladder, not a locked gate for students. We’ve had sufficient success getting students with a variety of academic backgrounds great jobs into tech - some of our top outcomes are from students who had poor high school GPAs or transferred from community colleges.That’s not to say Make School is a good fit for everyone - it’s not. But if you’re excited about a career in tech and can show up and work hard, we can get you there!

  • Why don’t you publish an acceptance rate?

We don't publish this because we don't think it's a good metric for colleges to focus on. Bragging about selectivity doesn’t help students, and we want our image to be about inclusivity not exclusivity. 

More concretely, publishing an acceptance rate often dissuades low-income students from applying, even if they would be a good fit. We’d rather encourage more students to apply, especially the ones this could be a life changer for. For students who don’t get in, we give guidance on how they can earn future admission or suggest alternate programs they can apply to now. Admissions should be about building ladders, not locking gates.

  • Will you collect and provide a common data set so guidance counselors and admissions consultants can compare your institution to your peers and contemporaries?

Yes! We’re working on this to make comparisons easier.

Fofire93 karma

Just curious but how are you ensuring that international students pay their debts if they leave the US.

I'm sure that must be a concern as not all students stay in the US.

Also what default rate are you expecting? Or rather what % of students are you expecting to not ever get a job. I mean in today's economy yes it's in your favor but that of 2008 I can imagine it would be harsh for the university.

Do you wait indefinitely for a student to get a job or do you consider the tuition forgiven if they are unable to be employed for example after 5 years.

JRManifold164 karma

Payback will probably be lower on average for international students. This is why we are currently limiting the supply of ISAs available to international students. Need to double check the default rate we’re modeling in the morning (sitting on a plane about to take off..) but we’re fairly conservative to ensure we could survive a downturn.

A student’s obligation beings to be forgiven month by month starting after 3 years of pause.

2muchcaffeine4u6 karma

I just want to point out that your answer to whether or not the school is for-profit reframed the question in a fairly misleading way. But you basically are "for profit". Comparing yourselves to what corporations will do in the future is pointless when you're supposed to be comparing yourself to other colleges, where only the crappy ones are "for-profit".

JRManifold5 karma

Make School PBC is a for profit that helps run the Bachelors of Applied Computer Science Program housed in a non-profit. Students are enrolled in a non-profit college, not at a for-profit college.

cikmatt188 karma

This guy colleges.

JRManifold192 karma

No kidding.

JRManifold6 karma

Awesome questions! I'm going to get to these in an hour or so... got a red-eye tonight, need to pack and head to the airport first and then I'll answer from there.

neverdontgo614 karma

How is Make school similar to a traditional college and how is it different?

dfmorse23644 karma

(Written from a 4+ year Make School instructor)

SIMILAR:

  • Residential: students come in to our building (555 Post st, San Francisco) and are typically taking classes, with time for breaks, between 9:30am-5:30pm. The majority of students live in a dorm that is a walking distance from our main campus building.

  • Student clubs: any student can start a club. Current clubs involve startup club, writing club, "Get Fit" club, hardware club and more.

  • Degree granting: students get a Bachelor in Applied Computer Science

  • Class sessions: students take classes, though ours are very hands-on activity-based then lecture-based.

DIFFERENT:

  • ~2 year Bachelor instead of 4 years

  • Income Share Agreement: Instead of paying tuition upfront or taking out a loan, you repay a portion of your salary back after graduating. This ensures that all incentives are aligned. The school doesn't get paid unless the student finds success. The ISA only kicks in after students make more than $60k

  • Instructors have personal relationships with students: instructors and students get to know each other on an informal basis as mentors instead of just being instructors

  • Project based: As opposed to strictly focusing on taking tests and theory of computer science, you actually build real projects. You leave the school with 5-6 portfolio projects of software you can show employers. We hear "it's not what you know, it's what you can do." Make School is the embodiment of that Mantra

  • Community: at 200 students, we create a really tight knit community, rich with peer learning and support. Students are constantly supporting each other and nearly 1/2 of all senior students are peer mentors!

  • Industry integration: Seniors are working in teams to build software for actual organizations. Organizations span non-profits related to immigration, global health, disability accessibility, refugee communities all the way to companies in areas of insurance, media, professional development. Some collaborating companies are run by graduates of YC or alumni. We also have industry review our curriculum, working engineers come in and mentor, and we teach students how to reach out to mentors in industry.

  • In the heart of San Francisco: our location puts you right in the center of tech central (Reddit and Twitch headquarters are just a few blocks away). This proximity provides ample opportunities to attend Meetups, conferences, and mingling with industry.

  • Character Development: we move beyond coding skill to help students build empathy, willower, compassion. These lessons are layered into team projects, group presentations, user interviewing, productivity hacks and more.

  • Small class size: classes are typically 20-30 students.

JRManifold440 karma

I'll add that our faculty come from industry backgrounds and teach full time (vs doing research) and that we'll probably have more like 300-400 students total by next fall though, but will be scaling up faculty to ensure we maintain the small class sizes and tight community.

Naughty_Alpaca117 karma

Is the “Income Sharing” cost eligible for the American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning tax credits like typical tuition would be?

JRManifold121 karma

It is not.

CarrotIronfounderson64 karma

Do you take all ages or only recent high school grads?

I am very close to someone who feels they missed so many opportunities due to their upbringing and recently fixed immigration status which kept them out of higher education for decades, who has professed a desire to work in a field like this.

JRManifold115 karma

No age limits, we definitely have students coming back to get a degree after a long hiatus.

kippree160 karma

Make School's curriculum covers the majority of CS related jobs such as web, mobile and data. However it lacks other fundamental topics such as compilers, operating systems, databases, functional programming, etc that are also vital to a variety of computer science roles (many of these will also require more mathematics courses). My concern about this is worsened by the fact that these courses are typically harder to self-study.

Does Make School plan on incorporating these topics in the future? What resources are available to students to pursue these topics?

JRManifold119 karma

Great points! We actually do cover databases, functional programming, higher level CS theory, and weave in math to our upper division project based CS courses. We indeed don't have compilers and operating systems courses at the moment.

We are currently focused on software engineering jobs that are often on product-focused teams at startups or large tech companies - think the Messenger team at FB. There's huge huge demand there and companies are really happy with our students so far! Compilers and operating systems aren't as necessary for those jobs, but certainly wouldn't hurt.

Over time I suspect we will incorporate those courses, and in the meantime it wouldn't be hard to get a group of students together to create an independent study in those topics - we definitely have faculty that can support and in your senior year if you're interesting in going beyond our curriculum that would be the move!

kippree18 karma

Would the intensives be a good time to go through these topics?

JRManifold56 karma

It wouldn't - our intensives (where classes stop for 1-2 weeks) are designed for you to take a project and really polish it for the upcoming open house or demo night. Independent study during the term is a better move IMO.

bloatedsac99 karma

so you take 20% of a students salary..for how long do you get the 20%? one year? more?

JRManifold70 karma

5 years.

Internet-Gangster75 karma

I have two questions:

1) I've seen that you guys require students to purchase a Mac. Is it possible to substitute this requirement with a Windows 10 computer using the new integrated linux subsystem? I'm asking because if it's possible to make it work out somehow, I think that would really help in terms of on-boarding costs for students.

2) For a student who's been out of high school for 4 years and have completed some college or university, do they need to show their transcripts before being given a phone interview?

JRManifold93 karma

  1. Working on it. Won't hide the fact there is a faction of rebel students who use Linux and refuse to buy a Mac even though we say you must buy a Mac.
  2. No, but we'll need them before you can be fully admitted.

hydrochlorick68 karma

I’m making $50k working as a technician for a robotics company on the other side of the country from you folks. It’s a decent occupation that I’m grateful to have—considering my degree is in psychology—but it can be very menial at times. And it certainly doesn’t promise a lot of career growth.

However, it’s helped me discover something that I might actually passionate about. I think I might love coding. The most enjoyment I’ve gotten from this job (or any, for that matter) has been the process of automating aspects of it to make life easier for myself and my team. I’ve been able to take what I learned in computational linguistics to write some scripts in bash and Python, and I’ve felt the incredible satisfaction that can come from solving complex problems and like this. I’ve felt the pride of knowing I created something that is helpful to others, and I can’t imagine how I’ve gotten by doing anything else.

It’s terrifying to address, but I’d rather accept that I want to pursue a different path, now, than regret never having done it, later.

I’d do just about anything for an opportunity like this, but I’m obviously not your typical target audience. I’m 27 years old. I have a car that I’d probably have to sell, and I have student loans that would have to go back into forbearance. But beyond that, I don’t have any roots down quite yet. I’ve never stopped enjoying learning, and I still feel like I have a lot more growing to do.

My questions are simple (if not obvious): do you think your school is something I could seriously consider, financially? And if so, how can I compete for admission with those who might have actual coding experience?

JRManifold127 karma

You don't have to pay us a dime in tuition until you graduate and get a job + we have a living assistance program where you can trade extra post-grad payback for up to $1650/mo in funding to cover rent in our dorms and food. The real financial question is how much per month need to go to those loans after you graduate and they no longer go into forbearance. If our 20% of your salary payback + your loan payments are manageable, this is doable!

That being said, given you already have a degree you should consider a bootcamp as a faster path to what you're looking for. It's sometimes hard to jump back into school for a couple years to earn a second degree. It would also mean you're paying your ISA to us and your student loans well into your 30s, which could push back the timeline for other life decisions even if the combined payback is manageable.

A coding bootcamp won't have as much depth in computer science theory, but it can get you up to speed with the core concepts and technologies used in industry. The shorter program will carry less cost, and some can be taken in the evenings and weekends while you work.

You'd absolutely be able to compete from an admissions perspective. We don't select based on prior coding experience though it doesn't hurt - our application process is about work ethic and drive to make.

If you are keen on a full degree, our admissions team can advise you on your finances with a more thorough analysis. Shoot us an email at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected])!

hydrochlorick51 karma

I very much appreciate the honesty in your response. Really, though, I don’t know that I would be satisfied with a program that is not as far in depth.

Perhaps I fell for a bit of marketing, but the way your videos have described your teaching strategy stuck out to me. My studies in psychology taught me to reshape the way I view how humans learn and the plasticity of our minds.

I’m not looking to fast-forward to a better paying job. I’m looking for what I should have sought when I was just too young to know better. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more enthused to really learn something and explore new ideas and challenges. A late start on the right path looks more appealing than yet another rush down a conventional one.

I think I’ll reach out to your admissions team. See what they have to say.

JRManifold43 karma

Looking forward to talking about it further! Definitely want to make sure it's the right move and if we think other programs are a better fit we can recommend a couple we trust.

dew8956 karma

What do students who drop out owe?

JRManifold77 karma

A pro-rated amount based on what fraction they already completed. The # of months is reduced, not the %.

meeyow42 karma

How did you afford not only a campus but college dorms in SF considering that academy of arts practically dominates educational buildings and dorms in downtown and SOMA? Thats amazing. Do you guys plan to expand along the peninsula? I've passed by your place but always assumed it was a subsidoary of Make Magazine. Hope you guys stick around for awhile. :)

JRManifold37 karma

The campus is significant, but not the most significant contribution to our expenses - staff generally is. I won’t pretend finding dorm space is easy, but buildings are out there and we’ve done our best to secure inventory for our students.

No plans for a peninsula expansion for the time being. Our current building will fit 500 when fully renovated, it’ll be 3/4 open by later this fall so we hope to fill it over the next couple of years and then see what’s next from an expansion perspective.

Luckyy00741 karma

Have you heard about the german "dual studies"? You basicly visit a university of applied sciences for 12 weeks then you work a job with a partner company for 2-4 months. Repeat that 6 times and get a bachelor's degree.

The company stays the same throughout the 3 years and the students get a salary.

https://www.dhbw.de/english/home.html would be the biggest institution offering such a model. Although other, smaller institutions exist.

JRManifold39 karma

Yes! Love that model. U Waterloo in Canada is similar with their co-op model though it isn't the same company necessarily each time.

ShadowCyph36 karma

Do you believe that education is an inherently independent quest or that an institution will always be present in guiding students?

JRManifold56 karma

It varies tons student per student. I'm addicted to learning facts independently but have lots of trouble learning skills independently for example. I always needed a good support structure to learn how to do anything new and interesting (math, coding, etc..)

hermeticlock34 karma

What's the range in salaries that students achieve upon leaving make school?

JRManifold62 karma

The range is between $70k-140k, with the average over $100k/yr.

We share our full outcomes data on our website (we'll refresh this with the latest data in October): https://www.makeschool.com/computer-science-degree/outcomes/data

The_Wisest_of_Fools27 karma

According to the data listed 0 students from the first two cohorts are unemployed or not in some other education. Is that correct? Those are great outcomes!

JRManifold59 karma

Yes! But those were also pretty small sample sizes :).

We did have a few students in the second cohort drop out, but the ones who stayed motivated all succeeded. That trend has continued to today, with few exceptions students who show up and put in the work will get a job in tech. It turns out showing up is not just half the battle, it's ~90% of the battle.

nova900132 karma

Came in here rather skeptical that some drop out can make a college but found your idea to be sound and sustainable. The "only pay tuition if you get a job" is very fair to both students and the college. It makes it a must for your college to keep up with the industry otherwise your students have no jobs and your college has no income.

Too many schools churning out degree holders who have no skills and end up saddled with debt and unemployed.

Kudos to what you are doing, I have very limited knowledge on computer science.

What I would like to ask is:

  1. How many students do you have and what is the intake growth y/y?
  2. What is the ratio of students getting jobs based on your model?
  3. How do you market your idea to companies and convince them to take a risk?

JRManifold36 karma

  1. 200 students now, looking to intake a couple hundred more next year
  2. 10-15% drop out, ~80-90% are getting jobs when they leave Make School depending on cohort.
  3. No need to convince them to take a risk.. just have them look at our student portfolios. They speak for themselves. That was the trick even when nobody had heard of us! We also hired a guy who used to do career services for Stanford CS and he has helped a lot with company relationships.

breathe39328 karma

I went to an ivy league engineering school and there was a lot of competition because of curves and stuff. How does make school handle things like grades and how are students interacting with each other when it comes to the classroom?

JRManifold44 karma

We grade pass/fail based on rubrics that track mastery of core concepts and competencies. There is no curving and no reason to compete. I've heard many students stay it's the most collaborative environment they've been in :)

suspiciousdoodle23 karma

Hey, I'm one of the Hack Club kids who you met this summer as part of Flagship. Thank you endlessly for your generosity in running the event! I had a great time and it encouraged me to keep pursuing something I love.

I would love to apply to Make School, but my parents are very set in the idea that I'm going to a regular university. Do you have any students who were in the same situation? How did they deal with it? (and do you take transfer credits from other universities?)

JRManifold45 karma

That event was soooo much fun!!

I'm usually the go-to contact for skeptical parents. It's very common. We emphasize the ways in which the benefits they want from a traditional college (accredited degree, liberal arts, student life opportunities) are present at Make School + discuss how we outperform most colleges in certain ways. For example our average salary on first job is on the same level as a Stanford or MIT.

You're totally welcome to email me and copy your parents if they want to talk and I'll schedule a time with them. At the end of the day, it should be your decision (and with our ISA program they don't necessarily have to pitch in) but we always want to get parent buy-in if at all possible :)

successjul_failure23 karma

Hey guys,

So I will be applying this year for the fall of 2020. What do you look for in an applicant?

JRManifold47 karma

Awesome you'll be applying! PM me your name so I can flag you for our admissions team :)

We look for work ethic, professionalism, and passion for making/creating. Our community tends to be quite varied and our latest actually skews more towards little to no prior coding experience at the time they applied.

We don't require SAT/ACT score, but we will take a look at your your transcripts. That being said, unless there's scary stuff in there it's not really what we go by. We’re more interested in the projects you worked on, what you learned, and how you’d be excited to apply those learnings while at Make School.

Concretely speaking, we require a written application, transcripts, then we invite you for a phone interview, and if you don't have much prior experience we ask you to complete an online programming class/challenge called Ramp.

elementaldwarf31 karma

[deleted]

JRManifold20 karma

My brother just crossposted it it looks like :) You should give it an upvote!

successjul_failure12 karma

Oh ok great! I have 2 more questions. First- what do you mean " scary stuff in there"? Second- Do we arrange a phone interview or do we only get on once we are admitted?

JRManifold14 karma

Generally tons of failed classes of a common type (like you failed all your English classes) or GPA below 2.5.

We invite you to a phone interview after you apply. It's a requirement to be admitted.

successjul_failure11 karma

Oh ok, awesome! Can't wait to apply! Also, I will be coming to the hackathon you guys are hosting on Oct 12 and I hope to talk more about this school then!

JRManifold8 karma

See you there :)

awsmith198922 karma

How can I connect with you about bringing some of my students to your facilities? I’m a college counselor at a High School in SF and would love to learn more!

JRManifold18 karma

PMing you now!

isthataprogenjii21 karma

If you look at Linked In data for tech jobs. Each position has over a thousand applicants and >80% of them are Masters and above. How are students supposed to get a job after this?

JRManifold13 karma

That data doeasn’t tell the full story then! Our students typically apply for new-grad/junior roles similar to what CS grads from other colleges apply for. The volume of jobs there is strong, growing, and well compensated.

sickmission14 karma

Does the ISA cap out at $70k, or does that option carry the risk of paying more?

JRManifold24 karma

The ISA caps out at 2.5X the tuition it replaces. So if you take ISA to replace $70k of tuition, payback caps out at $175k.

SrirachaPeass14 karma

How do people just drop out and start a high cost businesses? Where does the money come from ?

JeremyJammDDS8 karma

Family money?

JRManifold10 karma

Initial seed funding came from Y Combinator and then from a mix of education and impact investors. Won't lie that having a family safety net made this possible at the beginning though on a personal level.

sephstorm11 karma

Why San Francisco?

JRManifold17 karma

It's the epicenter of the tech industry. Employment opportunities are concentrated here. People disagree about whether it's the best place to live long-term, but I feel strongly it's the best place to launch a tech career.

msalumnusthrowaway10 karma

Two thumbs up 👍👍 for hiring more community people and for moving to facilitate in-house mental health rehabilitation.

How much time do you spend talking to students now? How is that different from years prior?

What do you believe is the general alumnus viewpoint of their experience at Make School? What do you think current students feel about their experience at Make School?

Did you have to look at data or does that come from discussions with students?

JRManifold9 karma

Thanks for the kudos! We definitely agree this is super important.

As an organization, we spend a lot of time talking to students and provide a greater number of avenues for feedback than before - satisfaction surveys, student support staff, coaching relationships, and anonymous feedback boxes.

Current students report substantially increased satisfaction from prior years based on aggregate data from the satisfaction surveys. We're thrilled that we've been able to continue to make the program better over time. That said, there are plenty of things we still need to improve.

Based on casual conversations, Alumni have expressed general excitement by the new changes we've been making. Particularly, the program is more structured, has a higher diversity of courses, and the accreditation has provided increased legitimacy of the program and employer facing brand. We do have some alumni who preferred the program when it was more alternative and less structured, so not everyone is a fan of the changes.

It sounds like you're also asking about my personal time spent with students. As founders, we spend less time talking to students than we did before. Most of my relationships with students are in a casual context (eg. Friday evening D&D games and the likes) rather than a formal context, while my cofounder mostly sits in on town halls and reviews student feedback. We also give student advice on projects and startups if they reach out to us!

We've shifted to spending less formal time with students because we've been fortunate to have hired a really strong team who are much better at supporting students than we are, whether that's through teaching, counseling, coaching, or other forms of student support. We're big believers in the idea of a distributed ownership culture within the organization, so we've focused our time on helping coach our team members to serve students well and act in alignment with the principles we believe in. Ultimately, Make School is not about any one person, it's about a community built around a set of principles, the goal is to support students far more despite spending less time with me or Ashu directly.

monkeyman20429 karma

Thank you for the AmA, I have a few questions -

On average, how much does a graduate owe once they get a job (w/ 60k+ salary)?

What is the average GPA of a student admitted to this program? Adding to this, could projects compensate for a lowish GPA?

Is this for-profit?

JRManifold12 karma

If they take our full tuition ISA, they'll owe 20% of salary for 5 years. Since students are making $100k+ on average, they'll have to pay back $100-$130k on average we estimate.

We don't track average GPA of admits (that's how little we value GPA as a metric) so I truly don't know. How lowish are we talking?

We're a unique partnership between Make School PBC which is a public benefit corporation (a type of for-profit that is allowed to pursue impact over profits) and Dominican University, a non-profit. Students will officially be enrolled as students of "Make School at Dominican" which is a non-profit campus.

olgnolgnall8 karma

I have a question, is you school currently accept international student for ISA program?

JRManifold8 karma

We have a limited number of full tuition ISAs available for international applicants and are in financial need.

olgnolgnall3 karma

I understand that keeping track of international student is much harder than US’s student. The thing is I'm men, and that doesn't apply on me, I'm planning to work in the US for 3 years as I try to find H1b visa as the same time. My ultimate goal is the future and Makeschool seems to be a right and unique way to achieve it, but paying the whole tuition upfront is still a bit risky to me since I still need the support from the school. I don't know if partial tuition upfront and partial ISA would work in my case?

JRManifold6 karma

There will be partial ISAs for internationals available as well. More than full ISAs. You should definitely still apply and we can explore $$ options. Definitely want to find a way for all talented admits to come!

Arzoz1018 karma

I am currently a freshman majoring in Economics ( Fyi I am also in the Schreyer Honors College), and taking Computer Science courses along side. I just started learning Computer Science this year for the first time, so can I still be accepted in the Make School?

JRManifold11 karma

We accept applicants with little to no prior programming experience at the time of application. For those applicants, the last step of the application process is to complete an online course/coding challenge called Ramp. Current students TA the class and we really want you to succeed - it's a way for you to validate you enjoy coding in the way we teach it and for us to validate your commitment, time management skills, and speed of learning.

Preston13542 karma

What is the acceptance rate? and what would an ideal candidate be? Good high school grades/ High SAT? Or just an interest or drive for coding?

JRManifold14 karma

We don't publish an acceptance rate*. Strong written and oral communication skills (measured through your essay and phone interview) + strong drive to create, make, and solve real problems. Grades and high SAT are a bonus but wouldn't get you in on their own.

*We don't publish this because we don't think it's a good metric for colleges to focus on. We don't want to keep people out of a quality education by being selective, we'd rather coach people to get in. Publishing an acceptance rate often dissuades students from applying, even if they would be a good fit. And for students who don't get in, we try to give them guidance on things they can do to earn admission in the future.

moflugger7 karma

Do you accept people who dropped out of high school but received GED's?

JRManifold8 karma

Yes

mikeyla857 karma

Who is the most interesting student you've come across at Make School?

JRManifold21 karma

We had a awesome student go from homeless before the program to making 6 figures :) But that's just off the top of my head, honestly we get some students with really fascinating non-traditional backgrounds (given that we're a non traditional school after all)

Pockycrunch6 karma

If Make School wasn’t focused on coding, what other skills education do you think Make School could/should offer?

JRManifold13 karma

That’s a great question! I’m not sure if you know this already, but we actually offer four tracks at Make School: front-end web, back-end, mobile and data science. All those incorporate a lot of product development, both the design side and entrepreneurial side. We also offer general education courses (philosophy, ethics, sciences) and non-technical classes that help students learn communication skills, nutrition, science, and how to really show up in a start-up setting. These are the sorts of things I was missing at MIT and what we’re thrilled to be providing at Make School.

In terms of other majors, I've been thinking a lot about climate related studies these days...

TonkawaTex3 karma

What do you think of https://openclimatefix.github.io? Would that be a reasonable way to rally your students to tackle climate issues?

JRManifold6 karma

Super interesting. Lemme look into it :)

nicklesx25 karma

So... you have kids pay to be slave labor in the hopes that your unaccredited “college” gives them real world experience for jobs that they need 10+ years experience to attain a job where they would outperform “qualified” applicants?

JRManifold7 karma

Nope, they don't pay unless they get a job, get an accredited bachelor's degree, and there's no hoping about it - they get jobs and are as qualified or more qualified than graduates from other schools.

Sergio3153154 karma

What will be asked of us during the phone interview? Is there any way to prepare ahead of time?

JRManifold12 karma

One question I love to ask is "What exists in this world because you created it?". Could be an art project, a club, an event you organized, or of course a software project.

I'd say the most important thing is to be organized about scheduling it promptly and showing up on time. You have no idea how many students aren't on top of their email and calendar and either forget to schedule or forget to show up for their scheduled interview...

Sergio3153153 karma

What are some incentives that can help convince our parents to turn to this school besides any other college/university? Do you run on a semester system or quarter system? Also, the alumnus who makes 60k+ is it only in the Silicon Valley, California, or inclusive of states around the US?

JRManifold6 karma

  • Average salaries over $100k for first job out of Make School
  • ISA model and strong industry partnerships
  • Liberal arts + project based computer science

Technical courses last 7 weeks and you do two sets per 14 week semester. Liberal arts courses last 14 weeks - so a traditional semester. Does that make sense?

The $60k payback threshold is across the world! If you aren't making more than $60k/yr for any reason you don't pay if you're under ISA.

Sergio3153155 karma

Thank you so much, I'm planning on applying to Make School but the only reason with my parents is that they want me to go to a community college. The reason being I don't get much from financial aid. I really don't' want to go to a community even though it isn't bad but I love the bay area. Another question I had was how do scholarships work with your school? Does that help reduce the amount you need to pay back once you get a job over 60k? Moreover, what is the general timeline of when you must commit to the school? Is it the same as the national signing day? Also, I'm from Mcleod's class in Dominguez High School in Compton, the one who constantly asked questions lol.

JRManifold5 karma

Yo! Good to hear from you :) Community college is a great option! That being said, can't argue with wanting to go to Make School. We don't have scholarships unfortunately. Everyone who takes the tuition deferral option pays the same % afterwards. But you can also get funding from us to cover your living expenses - up to $1650/mo - but it's not free, you have to pay an extra 5-7% for 5-12 years afterwards depending on how much you take.

We will accept commitments after college decision day unless we are full.

SynbiosVyse3 karma

The 7 week term and focus on projects sounds similar to WPI. There are probably many other schools that aren't too different from this concept.

JRManifold4 karma

Just read their course catalog... looks pretty great tbh, probably would have been more my thing than MIT honestly! I think we're still farther along the project based spectrum and way more Silicon Valley oriented both from a faculty background perspective as well as curriculum development and company partnerships.

Calicoh4 karma

As an SF Native and ex cyber security major, sounds like something I’d be interested in. Currently attending ccsf, what would the tuition be after getting a job in the field?

JRManifold5 karma

If you take the income share option, 20% of your salary for 5 years after graduation.

mandogy4 karma

As a senior in high school, do you look more towards test scores like ACT and SAT, which don't deal with computer science except some math, or towards our class schedule (like I've taken ap comp principles and in ap comp a, only two my school offers)?

JRManifold9 karma

We don't require SAT/ACT and don't care that much about transcripts though those courses will help! It's about what you're created and the strongest evidence of your strong work ethic, whether that's your classes or something from outside of class (clubs, community, jobs, family obligations to name a few)

BigHeadGeorge3 karma

Applying for Fall 2020, just wondering what's the difference between applied computer science and traditional computer science?

JRManifold5 karma

Our courses are entirely project based - we are all about solving real problems by building real projects. We have concentrations in mobile development, frontend/backend web development, and data science/machine learning. Our curriculum was built in-house, so it's very different from anything you'd see at an other school.

We have a much stronger focus on software product development than a traditional CS major as a result, but require fewer high level theory courses and offer fewer low-level programming courses (compilers, operating systems) than a traditional CS major.

the_great_Dr_K3 karma

Do you offer any international programs?

JRManifold3 karma

We do not. We are friendly with many startups abroad though, so if a student wanted to do an internship abroad we could definitely connect them to companies.

i-forgot-my-pw2 karma

Any plans on running something like a bootcamp with a similar setup?

A more project-based system that's not just a thinly veiled money grab sounds more interesting than the "cram all this knowledge in in x months/weeks, which you'll quickly forget" as most bootcamps seem to be doing.

JRManifold2 karma

No plans on opening a bootcamp.

saml9062 karma

Hi! I’m a senior in high school applying to college this year so I’m trying to look at all of my options. I really like the idea of Make School and will most likely be applying. Although I am not able to find that many pictures of the actual campus (and would love to see a few if you have a link), would you said there is a strong sense of community at Make School?

JRManifold2 karma

All classes are at 555 Post St. It has 4 stories and a mezzanine + a patio area we're about to open, so it's like a campus in a building. Our dorms are down the st on Nob Hill... the cable car goes right by, the views are gorgeous. Our dorms are new and renovations are just finishing in our main building - there will be updated photos on the website soon :)

Check out this video which was taken in our main hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE1z4eYZDiI. You can also follow us on insta - @make_school. Lots of photos and videos make their way there :)

Student consistently report community as being one of the top things they like about Make School. It's super tight nit and there's a huge focus on collaboration and peer mentorship.

Dynastig2 karma

Fun fact - Did you know, Make files were invented at the Make School for applied computer science?

Not many people do!

JRManifold2 karma

#alternativefacts

MacDeMarc-ho2 karma

What's the typical response time for applications once they're submitted?

JRManifold2 karma

If you apply before November you'll hear back by December, if you apply by early January you should hear back early March at the latest. We try to go faster than that especially to get your phone interview scheduled - initial response can be as little as 2 weeks.

Synitrix2 karma

This is amazing, I am interested in applying, as I see it would be a great investment. How competitive is the application process? How many spots do you have, what is the acceptance rate? I’m someone who realized that I should have stayed with computer science in college since I enjoy it so much. I’d love to know the stats!

JRManifold3 karma

We're going to admit 300-400 students this year. We don't publish our acceptance rate. It's very rare that you'd be mysteriously rejected - we don't look at SAT/ACT, your GPA needs to be 'not scary', you need to be prompt about scheduling and showing up for your phone interview when we ask you to, and if we assign you our programming course/project (it's called Ramp) you need to budget your time to complete it.

CollegeManWithAPlan2 karma

I am super interested in what this has to offer but honestly I messed up when I was younger and my GPA is at 3.4 is there any chance of a good scholarship opportunity for me? And do I even have a chance of being accepted, also do you have some sort of music program?

JRManifold4 karma

  • Your GPA is not an issue
  • We don't have a scholarship program b/c you don't have to pay tuition up front at all, you have the option to pay 20% of your salary for 5 years after you graduate only if you're making more than $60k/yr.
  • We don't have a music program, but we do have a music club!

anonymau52 karma

How is the public feces problem? Can you commute without stepping in human excrement?

JRManifold2 karma

Our neighborhood esp the area between campus and dorms is fairly clean and very safe. Not an issue I’ve run into.

Camacazy1 karma

How are employers reacting to this new style of learning?

JRManifold3 karma

They love it! It's so much easier for them to look at our student portfolios as a demonstration of skill and knowledge. Facebook, Google, Tesla, tons of other name brand companies and and many awesome small-mid sized startups have hired our students. The average salaries our students are getting are higher than practically any other college.

Camacazy1 karma

Thats awesome to hear. I know companies are starting to become more focused on experience in the actual field outside of the books.

JRManifold1 karma

Teshercohen1 karma

For someone who has already graduated from college with a non technical degree (STEM), would you still recommend Make College as a continued education instead of pursuing an MBA?

JRManifold1 karma

They are totally different paths. We do have students who come to get their second degree with us because they want to be software engineers or product managers. Getting an MBA will not prepare you for a career in software engineering. Would say its mostly going to be a choice of which career you want.

Ayatollah_Bahloni1 karma

Where did you get your funding?

JRManifold6 karma

We got our initial funding from Y Combinator, then from impact/education investors.

Satiricold1 karma

how do you think that the perception of getting a job in tech has changed over the years? especially with what skills sets are valued, portfolios and experience, etc.

thanks for the AMA! it's great what you're doing through Make School

JRManifold2 karma

I think there's been a large shift away from traditional signals and towards portfolios. There's several top ranked CS colleges that serve predominantly wealthy students whose CS grads go into entrepreneurship, project management, whatever-job-their-rich-parents-set-them-up-with, etc... but are quietly known among recruiters to not be (on average) super qualified for software engineering jobs. Only so many times recruiters can get burned by trusting brand name of a degree before cultures change.

pranitpanda1 karma

Hi, I'm a high school senior interested in applying to make school.

I first heard about Make school at Basehacks 3.0 and it sounded like a really interesting concept. I tend to get bored when my teachers focus on theory and abstraction so the idea of project-based learning sounds really dope.

I have two questions:

  1. Assuming I get a 60k+ job after graduation, what will the total amount I pay be?
  2. When is the application deadline?

JRManifold3 karma

  1. 20% of your pre-tax salary for 5 years assuming you choose the full ISA option (meaning you pay $0 up front)
  2. Our early deadline is Nov 10, our regular is Jan 5th

volster1 karma

... how "woke" are you guys?

JRManifold2 karma

hella

darknep1 karma

Can I go there once I graduate high school? I’m in 10th grade and that looks amaaaazing

JRManifold2 karma

Yup!

mordecai981 karma

Do you have a masters program?

JRManifold3 karma

No, we do hope to down the line though.

Koldores0 karma

I am from Omni Hacks, what hackathons are you going to in the Silicon Valley next?

JRManifold1 karma

Mission Hacks, Hyphen Hacks, TeenTech SF (more of a conference than a hackathon), SolarHacks, Atoms and Bits, QuestHacks. Probably more :)