Proof. TL;DR I dropped out of MIT and started a college called Make School. It's the college I wished existed - we offer an accredited, project-based bachelors in applied computer science where you don't have to pay if you're unemployed after graduating. Ordinarily we operate out of a campus in downtown San Francisco but have been operating online since early March.

I did an AMA last fall and most of the questions focused on our no job = no pay model, how legit we actually are, and why a student would ever consider coming to Make School instead of a traditional college.

Since then, the entire calculus behind college choice has changed as colleges have moved online and vary in how prepared they are for the fall. To put it mildly, a lot of students are having sub-par experiences and a lot of colleges may close or significantly cut their offerings over the next few months. It isn't pretty.

I've had a front-row seat into how colleges are handling the shift online. I'm hearing a lot of students wondering whether they should even go to college this fall, how much is reasonable to go into debt if they do, and how even to go about making those decisions when the future is uncertain.

Whether you've got questions about what it was like starting a college as a college dropout, how colleges are shifting online, or you want advice on your personal situation - AMA!

Spoiler alert - community college makes more sense than ever...

Comments: 1269 • Responses: 84  • Date: 

elysiansaurus1498 karma

So it's like Accepted but irl?

JRManifold917 karma

Kinda haha! Still haven't gotten to the part where the founders give themselves degrees ;)

Icandothemove405 karma

If you have Lewis Black on faculty I'm quitting my decent position in sales and applying now.

JRManifold339 karma

He hasn't answered our recruiter's emails unfortunately.

npeip563785 karma

What’s the average starting salary for graduates of Make School?

JRManifold1090 karma

For our most recent placements it's been between around $110k, if you take the average including data back since 2016 it's almost exactly $100k. Too early to call how the pandemic will affect those numbers. No red flags yet, students still getting offers and no mass unemployment among alums.

Sir_Justin530 karma

I would assume this is in the bay area if you're based there as well.

JRManifold643 karma

Most but not all end up with Bay Area jobs yes.

diarrhea_shnitzel460 karma

How many of your students become hyphy?

JRManifold106 karma

No comment

bb-samansa36 karma

By placements, does this mean you literally place your students at companies for post graduate work?

JRManifold158 karma

Not quite literally. We teach students how to effectively apply to companies they are interested in + facilitate introductions to companies in our network. Some students get jobs through companies we introed, some students get jobs through companies they proactively applied to, in all cases they have to pass the interview process. We don't have reserved slots within companies or anything like that.

0bviousTruth2 karma

This doesn't mean anything. Picking and choosing hires to then boast about starting salary for your fake school. If you go to DeVry you can make starting pay of $150k.

JRManifold2 karma

These are averages not best case. Our top outcomes from a compensation perspective are closer to the $200k total comp mark usually at Google/Facebook. Not the typical outcome for sure.

If you're ever in SF post-pandemic you should come check it out. Nothing fake about it :)

FjasklL112 karma

What’s the median starting salary if you don’t mind me asking?

JRManifold166 karma

Looking at the 15 or so last placements it's around $120k.

joshred69 karma

How bout the last fifteen or so, months?

JRManifold131 karma

Excluding those 15 most recent placements the median salary is ~$103k. It's been over $100k since 2016.

justscottaustin538 karma

Am I just missing the words "accredited" somewhere?

JRManifold614 karma

Editing post :) yes, it's a regionally accredited bachelors degree.

weber7683 karma

What regions is it accredited in?

JRManifold248 karma

WSCUC is our accreditor. They cover most of the California schools you've heard of including Stanford and the UCs.

GoldRequest364 karma

What language do you recommend someone who has no experience programming learn first?

JRManifold557 karma

Python

AndreIzCool332 karma

What is Make School’s current plan going into the fall semester due to covid19?

JRManifold507 karma

Onsite-optional. Come on campus if you want (and if it's allowed) but you don't have to. If you want to do the entire fall online, that's fine - we guarantee that all the classes you need will be available online in the fall.

fuck-dat-shit-up135 karma

Would you consider expanding that past fall? Seems like you could gain more students from other parts of the state or out of state if you offered all the courses online as well.

JRManifold193 karma

We'll do it if we have to, but this program is intended to be on-campus. In parallel we're looking at whether we can launch an online-first program.

WindowFromAfrica282 karma

I dropped out of the University more than seven years ago. I tried everything possible to get back but living in a third world country with no students loans, I could not get a job and things just keep going south.

This post offers hope, but sometimes I get to feel people like us, live in a different planet entirely and opportunities like this may never reach us.

I'm male (28) and sometimes I think, if I want to get back to school now, where do I start from?

JRManifold202 karma

What country do you live in?

JRManifold585 karma

Some profile stalking (sorry) suggests Nigeria. Have you looked at the Andela Learning Community? A great place to start afaik: https://andela.com/alc/

brssnj93261 karma

What’s your acceptance rate?

JRManifold735 karma

We don't publish it. We serve a lot of students with non-traditional academic backgrounds and we realized that as soon as we started talking about our acceptance rate those students would shy away from even applying even though they have a good shot at getting in.

brssnj93105 karma

Is it higher, lower, or on par with Lambda?

youcantfindoutwhoiam387 karma

Not OP but I think his answer is pretty clear. He says they have low acceptance rate but favor people from 'non-traditionnal' background. Implying that people who would think they won't get in (because of the 'non-traditionnal' part) would shy-away from applying because of that.

Of course with no acceptance rate published this could all be BS and they accept everyone which would make most people shy-away.

JRManifold324 karma

Here's some data - last year, slightly less than half our applicants passed our required admissions 1:1, it's a phone call we require applicants to complete before we complete their file and make a final decision. So that gives you an upper bound on our acceptance %. We don't just accept everyone.

GenuineGanja212 karma

Why didn’t you wait until you had a degree from MIT to start the college? Not trying to sound negative but wouldn’t that have helped build your credibility

JRManifold378 karma

I was really excited about building my own software products and teaching others how to build their own. I was not really excited about the classes I had left ahead of me in Junior and Senior year at MIT. I was careful to leave in a way that would make it easy for my to come back after a semester or two away so it wasn't as big of a risk as it seemed in the beginning. I also am fortunate to have very supportive parents, dropping out was definitely a privileged move. I wouldn't recommend it to most students.

Lindsiria188 karma

A few months ago, a recruiter for your school reached out to me to fill a teaching position as I have CS and teaching experience.

I have been super hesitant as the salary is less than a developer made after graduating your school and working for a year. Especially for being in the SF area.

How do you find and retain teachers when the industry pays so well? The love? Pto? Etc? How many teachers do you employ and what is the goal for 2021? Do you plan on expanding out of SF?

JRManifold211 karma

We have 11 faculty right now, looking to grow to 14-15 +- depending on how enrollment numbers turn out for the next class.

I hear you. It's definitely a bit of a trip to be teaching students who go on to starting salaries that are higher than yours. Teaching can be a fantastic experience, and I think for a lot of our faculty it's either the realization this is their calling and how they want to spend their days or they see it as a tour of duty, a great life experience for 1-2 years before launching into their next move.

We've had faculty quit to start YC funded startups and take highly compensated jobs elsewhere and we remain on great terms with them. I think a good amount of rotation is actually a good thing to ensure a critical mass of our faculty have recent industry experience, but we also want to create a career path for those who want to stay long term.

whatameow137 karma

Why aren't there any programs in Make School that accommodate people who already have a bachelors degree in computer science such as myself?

To clarify, I would love to go to Make School, however, I do not want to spend 2 years just to get another Bachelors degree. I understand that people in situations such as myself are probably not part of your target audience but are there any future plans for something such as a 1-year bootcamp style education to handle people who already have a bachelors?

JRManifold179 karma

Good question! Starting schools and launching new accredited education programs is real challenge is part of the answer. I have no doubt that offering a project-based Masters is in our future, and it sounds like that's more what you would be looking for.

Besrod133 karma

Why dont you accept G.I. benefits?

JRManifold305 karma

Bureaucratic holdups. One of my biggest frustrations that we haven't gotten that up and running yet. Fighting for it to be set up in time for fall, can't promise we'll succeed.

qwearkie100 karma

What are some of the most important skills for you to be successful? What are some of the overrated skills colleges emphasize? Neglected by colleges?

Thanks so much for opening yourself up to this AMA :)

JRManifold338 karma

The biggest thing you have to unlearn from traditional education is that in a traditional system, if you do good work and get a good grade or if you find a way around the work and get a good grade, the result feels similar. You're almost rewarded for finding ways around actually learning if it gets you a good grade more easily. This is a great essay on the topic: www.paulgraham.com/lesson.html

In the real world, especially at smaller to medium sized companies, it's the opposite. What you actually learn, what you actually produce is what actually matters.

In terms of useful skills, what we see correlate strongest with success are work ethic and communication skills - not in the sense of being good at public speaking, more in the sense of reliable communication (answer email, Slack in a timely manner, never miss a meeting on your calendar) and over-communication - documenting what you need from others and what others need from you in detail, succinctly, and in writing.

Bjeoksriipja96 karma

Why do you say Community College makes more sense than ever?

JRManifold226 karma

If you're studying online, the quality difference between institutions mostly comes down to quality of professors. Community colleges can offer similar-quality courses at lower prices, if you're going to take general education classes from home you might as well do it at community college tuition prices and then transfer than do it at college tuition prices.

Or, you should look for accelerated programs like ours (you can complete our 4 year degree in 2 years of intense study). The fewer years you spend in school the fewer semesters of tuition you have to pay!

mccarki85 karma

You’ve recently announced the Google CSSI program, the Microsoft/Lyft mentorship, and have notably hosted companies such as Yelp, Twitch, Facebook, etc.

How does Make School go about corporate partnerships, and what are some of your big picture ideas as it relates to internships? — Schools such as the University of Cincinnati are world renown for their co-op program and company partnerships for placement, is this a long-term goal of Make School?

JRManifold133 karma

This sounds like a friend planting a softball question for me haha :) If so, hi friend!

Deeper integration with companies and increasing availability of internships and apprenticeships is a long term goal for sure. In a dream world every student is getting paid by a tech company part-time while they study + full time in chunks for internships/co-ops, learning both at school and on the job simultaneously before graduating. We're not all the way there yet but the partnerships you mentioned go a long way!

One of our secret weapons is our career services lead. He worked in career services at Stanford CS and was a recruiter at Microsoft before that. Given our students have so many awesome projects to show since our program is project-based, our student projects really help our career services team seal partnerships with companies - they see that our students will emerge job ready and that is really appealing to them.

thewafflestompa75 karma

I had to drop out of college to help my parents back in the day. I still work full time to take care of them. Is this a school I could do online in my own time? I’d like to get a degree but I already have to work remotely to make sure they are okay.

JRManifold107 karma

One day we'd love to offer something like that. I honestly don't know of many, but someone showed met this recently and I found it interesting - maybe worth looking into but can't vouch for it: https://www.uopeople.edu/

hiaeri68 karma

How can students who are inexperienced in coding tell that they like computer science before attending make school?

JRManifold112 karma

We have a program we offer students who are applying called Spark. It gives you a taste of what coding is like to help you understand if you're going to like it.

If you want something to check out before even applying, I'd recommend spending a couple hours on these tutorials: https://www.codecademy.com/courses/learn-python/lessons/python-syntax. Really good intro to the basics and gives you a sense of how coding works behind the scenes. If solving the kinds of problems that show up in those tutorials to build web apps, mobile apps, and data science projects seems exciting to you that's a good sign!

stroikan58 karma

What are the biggest issues you see in a school like MIT? I'm sure students there are also actively involved in projects alongside the curriculum and their financial aid is exceptional. Coming from a traditional university background myself (ucsd) I think opportunities such as research, career fairs, funding for startups, and building a network with faculty in the cs department can open a lot of doors. Sure you can land a well paying job by just doing projects but is this an enriching experience that offers as many opportunities as a school like MIT?

JRManifold216 karma

If you get in to MIT, you probably should go to MIT. You should consider us over MIT if you're a) 100% sure you want to be a software engineer b) Didn't get good financial aid at MIT, so we'd come out as cheaper c) Want an accelerated degree (we're 2-3 years vs 4 there) with stronger Silicon Valley connections and d) Aren't interested in research. I got really turned off from the way MIT taught undergrad CS especially in lower-division courses, but I'm by no means here to advocate dropping out of MIT.

I'd put Stanford, Harvard, CMU, and Georgia Tech in that same category for CS - if you get in, you probably should go unless your financial aid package sucks there.

throwawayyOwO22 karma

What about the University of Waterloo?

JRManifold49 karma

Great school, highly recommend. Considered the top school to hire from in the Silicon Valley by many companies, ahead of MIT and Stanford even.

Norgeroff54 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

JRManifold122 karma

I buy several at once in multicolored pack so it varies.

devthreethousand49 karma

Given that Make School is still a relatively new school, do you think I should be careful w.r.t visa refusals (28 y/o, from Nepal, aiming for 2021) coming from a third world country and make it less risky for me by applying for established colleges/community colleges first and then transfer to MakeSchool just for the sake of being safe from visa denials? I have been rejected once before and I am afraid of another rejection tbh. I am also restarting my education(previously, did actually go to college but didn't finish my degree as I was doing startups) after a long gap and I want to reduce the risks and not look suspicious when I go for an interview and have to explain to them about the possibility of getting a degree in 2 years via Make School which I am very interested in. I know that the visa question is completely out of your scope but I just wanted to know your thoughts on my thinking on approaching the visa and attending make school hopefully.

JRManifold95 karma

Great question! Not outside my scope - the program is technically housed under the Dominican University of California through a partnership with them. They've been around since the 1800s and that's the school the visa officers see. So while a denial is always possible, it won't happen because you're attending a 'new school'. We have had students from developing countries successfully get visas to attend!

brssnj9336 karma

If I transfer credits will my tuition be less? Or is the program a flat fee?

JRManifold49 karma

Right now flat fee, though we are working on re-balancing tuition so that you can pay less if you transfer in credits. No promises it will change in time for the fall, but it will change at some point.

qwearkie19 karma

Do you ever wish that you knew more math? If not, what was it that you wish you knew more of?

JRManifold45 karma

I do haha... but the thing I can't get enough of is foreign languages. When I dropped out of college I was studying Mandarin and Russian, it's on of the things I most regret from leaving school, not being able to continue structured foreign language study. I've just started picking foreign language studies back up using Verbling actually.

qwearkie11 karma

In what ways would knowing more math be useful to you?

JRManifold50 karma

Exposure to proof-based math helps you accumulate a toolbelt of logical concepts that can really be helpful to making good decisions at work.

VS-SHADOW18 karma

I dropped out of college so I can join make school and now this pandemic gonna make me regret that decision. What would you suggest ?

JRManifold15 karma

Are you already enrolled at Make School or you dropped out of another college but were planning on joining us in the fall?

VS-SHADOW12 karma

Dropped out of a local college and was planning on joining make school in the fall. Also why is pay later programme (i forgot the name) is not available for India ? Is there any way around?

JRManifold41 karma

Ah if you're abroad, I feel you :/ You can definitely start our program remote since we aren't requiring you to be on campus in the fall, so visa issues aren't really an issue until you need to come to SF in January.

We can't offer the full ISA program (the one where you pay a % of your salary after graduation instead of paying cash up front) to international students because your ability to stay in the US after graduation and earn high salaries isn't as certain. This isn't because of your skill, it's because of visa uncertainty. So the max we offer to international students is a half tuition up front, half tuition through ISA option which is still more generous than most colleges.

InterestingStrike817 karma

How much time does a Make School student spend in a day (@ Make School)? Approximately?

JRManifold50 karma

They used to spend 30-40hrs/week on campus and work an extra 10-20hrs/week on projects off campus. Our program is a cross between school and a workplace simulation in a way, so there's a lot about it that feels like a workweek (in a good way!)

Now that it's online, things are a bit different but students still work 40-60hrs/week on school. It's an accelerated program - you can get a 4 year bachelors in 2-3 years - so it's intense.

Xillioneur16 karma

Will you be accepting another batch of applicants when the quarantine is over? I missed my opportunity to apply for fall 2020 and would love to get in as soon as possible.

JRManifold29 karma

We haven't stopped accepting applications! You can apply here: makeschool.com/apply

Kenny_easy14 karma

If an international student gets admitted to Make School this Fall, can the admission be deferred to next year?

JRManifold14 karma

Yes you can defer for one year.

bri_go14 karma

What is the culture like among students @ Make School?

JRManifold44 karma

I'm gonna try to find a student to answer that one for you one sec.

InterestingStrike812 karma

If you were not at Make School, where would you see/like to see yourself in the tech industry today?

JRManifold17 karma

I like teaching and I like creating experiences for others. I would be doing something else in education or something in the entertainment/VR industry I think.

S33V10 karma

The cap on ISA payments for current students is at $170,000. For those who will end up paying that amount, do you think the education they receive is that valuable?

JRManifold38 karma

$175k actually :/. Since it's 20% of your income for 5 years, to end up paying that much you'd need to make $175k/yr on average for 5 yrs.

If you earn $175k/yr on average for 5 years, yes I'm confident in saying the education we provided was that valuable.

That doesn't mean we don't think it would be better if the cost was less. The new financing options we announced last week will reduce the amount high-earners have to pay for Make School significantly.

Girlfriend_Material10 karma

Hi, I hope you can help guide me with this problem. I have a kiddo who is 12 and autistic. He very much wants to go to college but is also very afraid of the increased social expectations on top of the increased academic ones. (He was planning to take a media editing type class a couple of semesters ago but the teacher wouldn’t allow him to enroll in her class and I think it really discouraged him.) oh yeah, he only starts high school next year. Originally he’d planned to take duel enrollment classes but ever since that teacher stopped him from enrolling in her class he’s been less motivated.

Anyway, my question is more about if your college could be a better track (than traditional) for somebody like him. I suspect so but I’m going to do more research and check your school out some more. What kinds of things should I be asking myself and my son to help us figure out of that is the direction he should go?

Edit: I read some more of your answers and a follow up question I have is do you have any autism specific support programs? I know some colleges are starting to offer these types of services. Thanks!

JRManifold27 karma

We don't have autism specific support programs though we do provide accommodations for students with learning differences. To be honest we've had students on the spectrum thrive and others struggle here. The challenges that I recall have been more social than academic and as of course you know the term 'autistic' includes quite a lot of variance - so it's hard to give a blanket answer.

I am by no means an expert, but if I had to generalize (always a bit dangerous to generalize but here it goes) students who have challenges limited mostly to social interactions tend to do well here. The community is understanding and supportive of students who present as shy, reserved, or socially inexperienced. Students who have additional challenges such as outbursts in response to certain stimuli tend to have a harder time because we don't have the dedicated expertise to support those students.

It's a huge bummer that that teacher discouraged him. Dual-enrollment can be an amazing path, especially if your child is the 'little-adult' type who may benefit from exposure to college-level courses. Don't give up on finding an environment that is de-stressed socially and up to his level academically. If dual-enrollment isn't it, see if there are local homeschooling groups or other resources where he may be able to find a community to support his learning goals.

vorpalglorp9 karma

How expensive was it to start the school? Did you get investors?

JRManifold16 karma

Millions of dollars over the years to be honest. Yes we have investors, Y Combinator funded us in 2012 and over the years we've raised money from specialized education investors, impact investors, and education companies.

mxinburritos9 karma

Is it still possible to apply for the Google CSSI program and if so, where can I fill out the application?

JRManifold11 karma

Applications for the Google CSSI program at Make School are open until next Friday, May 15th. The application will be accessible on your application portal as soon as you are admitted to Make School. The program is reserved for students enrolling in Make School’s fall 2020 class.

harlequinnx7 karma

What's your graduation rate? Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with this number and how do you feel you could improve it?

JRManifold15 karma

We've only been a degree program since 2018 and our first graduates are graduating this month! We have a lot of outcomes data since we ran as a non-degree program since 2014 and have always focused on whether our students get jobs, but we don't have graduation data yet. Will take another year or two to have solid stats, but generally as long as students are making a smart long-term choice we aren't upset if they drop out for a great opportunity, so we're not inclined to obsess over graduation rates as much as employment rates.

mcromeen7 karma

Are there plans in place for when school is back in session on campus? What precautions will be taken given that we expect several waves of the virus? Will covid-19 testing be available nearby? Temperature taking? Regular sanitizing of equipment and classrooms? Plans if student/faculty does contract the virus?

JRManifold34 karma

All great questions. Plans are evolving but this is what I have for you so far:

-Hold empty rooms in student housing with designated bathrooms so students who are sick can self-isolate.

-Continue course delivery online so students don't have to congregate in classrooms for class. Campus used for project time/lab time.

-Project/lab time is socially distanced, with PPE required and spacing between desks. Faculty/TAs go table to table to assist students 1:1 during that time.

-All Faculty/TAs are tested regularly. If you pay up, there are tests available, so we will pay up. If a student is symptomatic and needs a test their insurance won't cover, we'll cover it.

-Daily sanitizing of all areas used by students in campus and student housing common areas.

-If science supports temperature screening at entry as being effective, we'll do it. Looking into it. Don't want to do it just because it makes people feel safe if it doesn't meaningfully improve outcomes.

mcromeen5 karma

I saw that UCSD is rolling out a Return to Learn program. It would be nice to have something similar to this. https://coronavirus.ucsd.edu/return-to-learn/index.html

JRManifold7 karma

Thanks for sharing. Very helpful resource!

hhh17216 karma

Heard your talk yesterday! So many great insights. I know you mentioned that college students tend to pitch ideas that mostly only address college problems. When working with students on projects, what techniques have been the most helpful in getting them to think bigger picture?

JRManifold8 karma

My usual brainstorming prompt is this: what is a slice of the human experience or global industry that you understand better than your peers? What is broken there that needs fixing?

Just a few examples I've seen from my students that have come out of those brainstorms:
-My grandmother has dementia, I visit her frequently and realize nursing homes operate without much new tech -> building software for nursing homes

-I've recently moved to the US, I am Muslim, and I don't know where to worship -> building an app to help travelling Muslims find places of worship

-I vape, I want to stop vaping, I've tried many things to stop vaping -> building an app to help people stop vaping

buttchomper5 karma

Were you at all influenced by the movie Accepted?

JRManifold6 karma

No, but there are parallels haha

manpatpost5 karma

How was it to start a college as a college dropout? How did you do it?

I admire your work!

JRManifold8 karma

It's a long story - you can listen to it here: https://youtu.be/jiEtVpTE40g. It's been a wild ride for sure.

1m-done5 karma

What's going on for the current students with covid-19?

JRManifold23 karma

We switched to online learning in early March. No classes were cancelled and we continued all scheduled programming online - mental health counseling, our career fair, spirit week, even our campus preview weekend we ran virtually over the last couple of months.

We have a bit of an advantage because our faculty mostly come from engineering backgrounds, so they know how to work remotely effectively and know how to use remote-work tools to run their classes as if they were running a team in industry. So we're not just doing Zoom University, we're doing Zoom + Slack + Github + Asana etc etc

We're running online through the summer and announced what we're calling an 'onsite-optional' policy for the fall. That means you have the option of coming to campus if it is safe to do so, but you don't have to, and all classes are guaranteed to be available online for the semester.

About 1/3 of students say the quality of the academics have gotten better since the shift to online, 1/4 say it's gotten worse, and the rest say it's about the same. Many students are facing new, non-academic challenges due to their home/family situations and I don't want to minimize that in the least. While we're doing a better job of the switch to online than most colleges, it's generally a rough time for our team, students, and country.

Radiant-monk3 karma

Will college admissions be easier for international students now or harder?

JRManifold11 karma

I'm afraid it will be harder. With international travel and entry requirements in flux as they are, international students are a riskier admit than they used to be - colleges aren't sure when they will be able to show up. This is going to be lose-lose, huge bummer for any international students who weren't able to study in the US because of the pandemic and huge financial loss for colleges who rely on internationals. Even if getting admitted doesn't get harder itself, actually coming to study in the US will.

InterestingStrike83 karma

What are the requirements for someone outside the country to apply as an international student?

freshdudeut2 karma

Most colleges require that students take well rounded coursework in topics outside of what they are studying to ensure that they have a basic understanding of all necessary topics, not just their major. For example, despite studying Computer Science at the University of Texas, taking required culture courses has opened by eyes to the realities of worldwide immigration policies, as well as religious and ethnic practices that I was not aware, which I feel has made me a more intelligent and well rounded individual. While the Make School is far more focused on post-graduation job opportunities than other colleges, how does it handle ensuring that it produces well educated individuals with an understanding of general world affairs and cultures, which is an important goal of university education?

JRManifold3 karma

Those are required courses here too! Everyone has to take a religions course, communications course, history course, physics course, etc etc. We agree it's part of the purpose of higher ed and employers like well-rounded hires too.

Asmodiar_2 karma

Does your college have hookers and beer?

JRManifold9 karma

Absolutely not.

One of the things we feel is broken about higher ed is campus culture. My co-founder and I noticed it when we were in college and we saw it in countless films depicting college life. A lot of what happens at college parties is not OK. 1 in 4 college women experience sexual misconduct. The culture of binge drinking and lack of strong education around consent can create challenging environments for people of all gender identities. The same problems exist in the tech industry, and we feel that’s in large part due to the normalization of certain behaviors in college along with the lack of diverse representation, and those problems compound each out.

Make School strives to create a campus and community culture focused on inclusion and respect. We teach our students to understand the world through each others’ lenses, what it means to be a woman or a person of color entering an occupation in which they may face harassment or misconduct. We want our students to party and have fun, but do it in ways that focus on music, creative expression, and connection rather than binge-use of substances. As an example, we hosted an on-campus Daybreaker - a sober morning dance party.

We’re also frequently asking ourselves how we can do a better job educating students on consent and providing safe spaces for students to ask questions about what’s OK and not (since each student comes from a different background with different cultural norms). Though we don’t always succeed in meeting our standards (there’s a lot more we can do around consent culture and emotional education), we’re really proud of the culture our students have created. All this is a long winded way of saying: if you’re looking for a college that has the type of parties depicted in older films where you can go “wild” partying with beer and hookers, Make School is not the place for you ;)

RedWolfWilson2 karma

You just announced a new financial model. Can you discuss why you rolled that out now?

JRManifold6 karma

Yes, we just introduced a student loan + unemployment/underemployment protection plan model. All the details are here.

In short, our students can now access Federal Grants, Federal Loans, and private student loans to pay for Make School. But we don't believe in leaving students with debt they can't afford, so we created a new program called Extended Income Based Repayment that caps your monthly loan payments as a % of your income. It's covered out of a protected fund Make School will create starting next fall.

Under our new plan, we're on the hook for your monthly student loan payments if you don't have a job. It's a way to align incentives and to protect students from having debt they can't afford. In short, a way to make student loans not evil.

Now some of you know we used to operate on an Income Share Agreement (ISA) first model. If you didn't want to pay tuition up front, you could promise to pay 20% of your salary for 5 years afterwards only if you are making more than $60k/yr instead. On paper, awesome financial model because it makes the program accessible and aligns incentives between school and student.

Two things happened.

First, our alums started sharing consistent feedback that the ISA was too expensive. We've been doing ISA for 5 years now, so we're starting to have meaningful data. At the salaries many of them are earning ($100-$150k/yr), 20% of your income is a lot!

Even though many of them came to Make School to avoid taking student loans, now they were telling us they wished they had taken a loan. A bit of a plot twist..

Second, funding markets for ISA contracted as a result of the pandemic, so it isn't sustainable for us to offer ISA to every student any more. We still offer it as a backup if you can't get loans to cover your education.

kevintblake2 karma

If you were (unpaid) chancellor for a day at Berkeley or Stanford - what’s the one change that you would make and why?

JRManifold10 karma

Ok shameless plug but I would create a protection plan for student loans like the one Make School just created and like some law schools offer so that the school is on the hook for graduates who can't afford their loans.

If the school feels the financial pain of every undergrad who is underemployed or unemployed, they will be forced re-prioritize undergraduate learning. And students especially from under-resourced backgrounds will be better protected from graduating with loans they can't afford.

qwearkie2 karma

Do you feel like machine learning and artificial intelligence are overhyped? Why or why not?

JRManifold8 karma

I don't think so. I can't think of an industry where those technologies wouldn't be applicable. New companies are starting every week leveraging ML/AI.

Did a bunch of startups add "artificial intelligence" to their pitches to sound cool without much substance to show for it? Sure. But the legit ones outnumber the posers. Learning to be a Machine Learning Engineer/AI Engineer is absolutely going to lead to in-demand jobs.

Hanuman-Crypto2 karma

What are some of your favorite books?

JRManifold4 karma

Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson and the Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem are highlights. I loved the Redwall Books and the Bartimeus Trilogy when I was younger.

If I'm being honest though, I've Franco-Belgian comics are probably what I've consumed the most of. I grew up in a French speaking household and those were absolutely huge for me. Think like Manga but somehow haven't made it out of the French speaking world yet.

freshdudeut1 karma

How do you feel about greek life coming to make school?

JRManifold7 karma

I'm a big fan of co-ops/community homes and found that co-ed living groups had some of the healthiest social lives when I was in college. I actually live with 14 roommates in San Francisco - it's an awesome setup. I'd love for there to be homes that get passed down from groups of Make School students to each other over the years.

I am not a fan of male/female only homes, binge drinking culture, and the consistent challenges with hazing and sexual assault that have plagued fraternity culture. I know, I know... not all frats, some of my best friends were in fraternities, yada yada but nonetheless - tech has it's own cultural demons and it's on us to be a counterbalance to that and mainstream fraternity culture isn't the ideal counterbalance.

New community groups that can further our goals of inclusion and creating an awesome home for students from all backgrounds would be awesome. That could include co-ed greek life. Traditional fraternities and sororities aren't the right fit for our culture I think.

Themusicalartist78951 karma

My school is offering online and in person classes. However, the school will be limited. I dont have the right equipment to do online classes. Should I still take them online?

JRManifold2 karma

What equipment are you missing?

Littlemissquick1 karma

What do you think the market looks like for these kinds of innovative approaches to HE? I just finished my PhD in education, specifically looking at how students experience culture in a non-mainstream HE environment and want to get involved with organisations putting the student experience first, like Make School.

JRManifold1 karma

It's still very nascent - there's a lot more alternative education than accredited alternative education. I think that's going to change over the next few years especially as the pandemic upends higher ed. I would look at the Minvera Project and the Shopify Dev Degree as other innovative approaches to look into.

h2g2Ben1 karma

Are you incorporated as a for-profit? If so, why?

JRManifold2 karma

The program 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. The PBC structure has been helpful in raising the capital we needed to get the program off the ground and running.

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.

Neon461 karma

Do you think colleges will accept more people for 2021 due to their economic situation?

JRManifold5 karma

Hard to say. I worry many colleges are going to cut programs and staff which may reduce their student capacity.

PlentifulCoast1 karma

you don't have to pay if you're unemployed after graduating

Do you guarantee a salary level or do students have to pay if you find them a minimum wage job or how does that work?

JRManifold2 karma

Student who pay through loans or income share agreements are covered. Students on income share agreements don't pay those unless they are making more than $60k/yr. For students taking loans we cap their loan payments as a % of their income:

$60k/yr 20%
$50-59k/yr 18%
$40-49k/yr 15%
$30-39k/yr 10%
$20-$29k/yr 6%
Less than $20k/yr 0%

If you owe money in excess of that income cap on a monthly basis, we'll pay the difference out of our protection fund.

Our plan covers Parent Plus loans and private loans. Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans have their own income based repayment plans built-int that stack with our protections. You can read the full details here.

sneakernomics0 karma

How do you sleep at night charge exorbitant prices for classes and know about 1/2 never get a degree and among those that do, the jobs they qualify for are on slightly higher than $15 an hour?

JRManifold4 karma

More like $50/hr on average. At the high end we have students getting starting offers at $150-$200k total comp when you include stock and bonuses.