Paying the Tuition, Only if You Get a Job


App Academy in San Francisco (and now New York) offers a 9-week, 90-hours-a-week boot camp to turn programming novices into code jockeys. They just graduated their second class last Friday. Of the fifteen students to graduate from the first class, fourteen have found jobs, co-founder Kush Patel says. Typical annual salary, he says: more than $80,000.

“We don’t want to charge up front because we feel pretty strongly about tying the payment to the outcome,” says Patel. “If they can’t find a job, we’ve screwed up somehow.”

Can’t find a job after you’ve graduated from a program that’s designed to get you a job in the thing you learned to do? You don’t have to pay the tuition. It’s kind of genius isn’t it? Especially in the case of App Academy, which understands that there is an actual job market out there for programmers. Students who are interested in doing the program pay a refundable $3,000 deposit to hold their place and sign a “good-faith” agreement that they’ll look for developer jobs when they graduate. Those who do succeed in getting jobs—and so far the success rate has been very high—agree to pay 15 percent of their first-year salaries back to the program, which is essentially their tuition payment. This probably wouldn’t work at the university level because so many students graduate and end up in jobs that don’t have a lot to do with what they studied, but it’s such a smart idea for highly specialized programs.

Photo: CE Thompson

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16 Comments / Post A Comment

Blondsak (#2,299)

This is awesome. I think this would especially behoove people who already have a related degree. I am currently getting an MLIS and I have many friends who are struggling to find jobs in the field – this could be their ticket (unfortunately many of them claim to hate programming, but I think at least in some cases, they just don’t know it well enough to feel confident at it).

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Blondsak I am working on my MLS right now as well, and am currently enrolled in a required programming course. It’s not all programming, but enough that I’ll have a good sense of it. I think it is an essential skill in many many fields at this point.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@Blondsak I seem to remember we’re in the same program (UMD?). If so, I would have to disagree with you that the required programming course even begins to cover what’s necessary to know for programming jobs. But, I am glad they require it – it at least introduces the basics and opens the door for people who never thought they could/would learn programming. I would recommend taking the advanced programming course if you are interested in programming as a large part of your day-to-day work interests though.

I definitely agree that it’s essential in many fields. I was just pointing out that in our field in particular, where so many new grads are having trouble obtaining FTE, it could be a very natural next step.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Blondsak Your memory is a lot better than mine it seems, kudos :)

My post was definitely badly worded. I completely agree with what you’ve said. It’s just a gateway but it is more programming than most expected to do I think… a lot of my classmates dislike it because they think they’re no good at it, but like you said I think it at least gets you the basics so that you have an idea.

The other issue is though that there are so many different types of softwares and programs that on-site training – no matter your experience – is almost inevitable. And having that background could help you to better understand the different software when you get to that point.

Thanks for the rec – unfortunately I’m in the online program so I have no leeway.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@bgprincipessa Thanks for the clarification! I absolutely agree that it is more programming than anyone (myself included!) ever expected to do for an MLIS/MLS program. Many of my classmates also disliked the course immensely.

I would be interested to hear more about the online program! I didn’t know you had zero leeway for classes. Are you able to do any of the specializations?

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Blondsak Sadly, no. I am part of the Fall 2012 cohort, which is only the 2nd cohort of the program (it’s very new). Starting this year though, there will be specializations. They very recently put this up – which is BY FAR the most information we’ve received to date: http://ischool.umd.edu/content/class-schedule-examples. I’m enjoying my courses, but it is definitely not as well-organized as I would like – just in terms of not being given information even after requesting it repeatedly (which holds true for classmates as well). But it’s been really good and we are pretty active in a page we have up on Facebook, so we still get some camaraderie in terms of griping about assignments, helping each other, etc.

23RVS (#3,493)

This is kind of like the Startup Institute in Boston (opening one in NYC this summer) Skills! Jobs! Etc!

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@23RVS And now I’m applying for Startup Institute NYC, which I had never heard of before. Thanks for the tip- the marketing track seems like it would be exactly what I need!

Megano! (#124)

This is totally genius! I wish it could be implemented on a larger scale.

deepomega (#22)

Love it – of course, the number of fields where this is workable is pretty small. You’d never be able to do this for library science, say.

cjm (#3,397)

I think, if you could “never do this” for a field of study that is focused on a specific career, then the program is by definition deceiving students. If you couldn’t do this for law school, nursing school, medical school, mechanic school, ITT Tech, medical billing school, or teaching then the program is not doing what it is designed to do. (Though 15% for one year might not be the right figure for all programs). This incentivizes the school to only take students they think will succeed in the field and are serious about the work. They can only take as many students as they think the market can provide jobs for. Students would also have a good metric to compare schools. A more expensive school may have fewer successful and less successful students as compared to a less expensive school. (i.e. Harvard law knows it only needs 15% of salary for 5 years since it graduates people who get good paying jobs the vast majority of the time, v. Third teir school needs 25% of salary for 10 years because most students don’t get a job in the field or are paid very little.)

Right now, students make the same bet, by going to X school, for $Y I will probably be able to pay off my loans at Z% of my salary in 10 years. But students are the least informed and most delusional about their job prospects, most will assume a 100% in field employment rate.

@cjm Not only would schools be pretty selective about who they let in, I would expect that they’d kick a lot more students out partway through programs to limit their losses.

EM (#1,012)

@cjm It would also help with the barriers to admission for lower-income candidates, like the med school finance post last week which illustrated that it’s pretty prohibitively expensive to compete for a place in a professional program.

@Michelle I’m not sure it would help with the barriers. Schools might just decide that kids from richer backgrounds will have better connections/support/whatever to allow them to get a job post-school, and weed out low income kids that way.

EM (#1,012)

@MilesofMountains Well, schools like that wouldn’t be into an alternative fee model anyway, so I guess it’s moot.

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