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Coding School Attains Apprenticeship Accreditation

closeup of woman's hands coding on laptop screen

Make School, which proclaims itself to be a "computer science college for the 21st century," has found accreditation for bachelor's degree in an applied CS. The feat was accomplished in partnership with Dominican University of California through an "incubation relationship" structure made available by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Make School, a for-profit school, is located in San Francisco; Dominican is a small private, not-for-profit institution located in San Rafael, just north of the city.

The incubation model, according to a blog post by co-founders Ashu Desai and Jeremy Rossmann, enables "upstart colleges" to pursue accreditation by serving an apprenticeship under an existing college. The advantage of this route is that there's no tenure or Ph.D. requirement for its faculty, and it has permission to "rapidly experiment and iterate on courses."

In return, Dominican expects to get help from Make School in developing CS courses as part of a new minor delivered on its campus.

Make School was founded in 2014 with interest and help from Silicon Valley employers, investors and educators. It offers a lone bachelor's degree — in computer science — which can be earned in two years.

Tuition is $15,000 for the fall and spring semesters and $10,000 for the summer semester. For those who take an "accelerated" class load, the total cost would be $70,000, for two fall and two spring semesters and a single summer session.

However, most of its students finance their tuition with an "income share agreement." As the school explained on its Tuition & Aid webpage, rather than paying up front, students may choose to pay a portion of their income for a certain number of years after graduating. Those who choose this route only pay when they're earning at least $60,000 per year, and the terms are these: 60 months of tuition payback at 20 percent of gross salary. According to the school, its alumni have an average starting salary of $95,000. Based on that level of salary, the school would receive payment of $95,000 over the course of those five years.

Following approval of the incubation relationship, Dominican — not Make School — is now accountable for coming through in several areas:

  • The institution is expected to "provide onboarding, training and professional development for faculty and staff to ensure educational quality and alignment with institutional mission and goals as the program scales";
  • It must continue developing and refining policies and procedures related to academic integrity, academic probation and student conduct;
  • It needs to "closely monitor student success metrics of achievement, retention and graduation";
  • It has to make sure that students receive "appropriate support for academic and co-curricular enrichment and success, including academic advising, financial aid counseling, career advising, and personal development"; and
  • Finally, it needs to develop a plan for separating from Make School and helping it achieve its own accreditation.

The founders of Make School already feel the change. "Once radical views" on what makes for great higher ed "have grown increasingly mainstream over the past few years," they noted. "We're no longer the rebellious upstarts trying to shake up the system from the outside, we've been gifted an incredible opportunity to lead from within the system  —  while staying true to our maverick identity — as a formally recognized institution of higher learning."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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