Disenchanted with the out-of-date curriculum of traditional college, Jeremy Rossmann dropped out of MIT. Within a few years, he and co-founder Ashu Desai, started The Make School, a college replacement program for founders and developers.
"Our core philosophy is if you teach the same thing two years in a row, it's got to be wrong because computer science as a field and software engineering as a discipline is moving so fast," said Rossmann.
Instead of tests, there's project-based work. Instead of tuition upfront, there's a debt-free model charged to students only once they find employment after graduation. The Make School also claims to bring its students better access to top tech company functions, networking, and guidance as they shape their career.
Classes focus on developing desirable qualities and capabilities as expressed by current hiring managers in Silicon Valley. Beyond programming classes, subjects also include nutrition, health, writing, and exercise - tools to succeed in a professional life.
"And then some more general life skills, communication, empathy, understanding the history of tech and then a big segment on ethics. So Uber, what do we think? Airbnb, where do we stand? Is it okay to start a company in that way? Is it beneficial for society? Are the laws out of date? How does this all work behind the scenes?" Rossmann continued.
In September 2015, The Make School began its first academic year with nearly 30 full-time students in the founding class. Some students are fresh out of high school, some have left their colleges to pursue education here instead. They all live together in dorm-like housing in San Francisco, and though they may also be carrying fake IDs, it's not to sneak into bars for fun like their university-counterparts. It's usually to be able to hear a tech company founder speak at a networking event, or meet other contacts in the industry for a job.
Not everyone is on board with the new program, including some parents, who prefer their children still attend traditional, name-recognized universities. To which Rossmann responds, "When LinkedIn and Lyft and these companies with tens of millions of dollars of funding are all committing contractually to coming and recruit here, and they don't come to the school where your child is studying, that means something."