A New Vision Of College

By Emily Deruy
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The goal at “Make School” is not getting good grades. It’s putting together a portfolio of practical work capable of impressing Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook, and prompting them to make lucrative job offers.

SAN FRANCISCO

Make School, a for-profit startup in this city’s South of Market district, is one of the most unusual schools in the country: It lets students enroll in classes for free if they agree to pay later after they land a job.

“We can only make money if the students are doing well,” co-founder Ashu Desai, 24, said during an interview at the school, an airy space where students sit side-by-side at long rectangular tables pounding away at Mac laptops.

Desai, who attended the tony Menlo School in nearby Atherton, helped create Make School in 2012 after dropping out of UCLA after just one year.

The goal at Make School is not getting good grades. It’s putting together a portfolio of practical work capable of impressing Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook, and prompting them to make lucrative job offers.

But the nontraditional approach to higher education is raising red flags for some experts. The model, they worry, creates an incentive for the school to admit only students it thinks can succeed, which some education officials worry could disadvantage “risky” students who come from low-income backgrounds.

Make School runs programs of varying lengths. Its “Product College” is a two-year computer science program that combines internships at big-name Silicon Valley companies with classes that are light on lectures and heavy on projects. The goal is for graduating students, most of them 18- to 24-years-old, to have created games or other apps they can take to job interviews.

That, Desai argues, is often worth more in Silicon Valley these days than a traditional bachelor’s degree in computer science, and some well-known investors are betting on the idea.

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