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Launch HN: Lambda School (YC S17) – CS education that's free until you get a job
436 points by austenallred on Aug 14, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 266 comments
Hey HN,

We're Lambda School (https://lambdaschool.com/computer-science). We train people to become software engineers, and we charge nothing until a student gets a software job that pays more than $50k/yr. At that point we take 17% of income for two years (capped at a maximum of $30k total).

There are so many people held back from a high quality education simply because they can't afford the cost and/or risk. Even if you can get student loans, four years and a potential six figures of student loans is a daunting proposition, especially if you come from a lower-income background. New alternatives, such as code bootcamps, either require expensive loans or tens of thousands of dollars in cash up front, which most people don't have, and they vary widely in quality. This leaves a lot of very smart people working for not much money.

We're different. We're an educational institution that owns the risk: if you don't get a good job, we don't get paid. We do everything in small, interactive, online classes with world-class instructors (currently from Stanford, Berkeley, Hack Reactor, etc.). Our curriculum goes a lot deeper than code bootcamps as well; we use C++ and spend a lot of time with lower-level algorithms, data structures, architecture, scaling, etc.

The full curriculum is here: https://github.com/LambdaSchool/LambdaCSA-Syllabus. Happy to answer any questions and looking forward to hearing feedback!

Bravo! This is overdue.

Back in the early 80's my dad ( a chess teacher from Odessa ) immigrated to NYC ( with just $150 ). My mom worked 3 jobs to put him through Yeshiva Uni where he learned Cobol, JCL, and Fortran.

He ended up getting hired right away by Lehman Bros, and realized he was sitting on a gold-mine. Tons of well-educated immigrants were coming onto the golden-paved shores, with 0 knowledge of computer programming.

So we upgraded our family 1.5 bdrm apt in Jackson Heights, Queens, to a modest 3 bedroom tower apt in Forest Hills, where he proceeded to lecture evening and weekend classes by the droves.. (all on 1 white board!) * my job ( i was 13 at the time ) was to serve everyone instant coffee and bagels.

One day I was curious and asked him “Dad, these folks can barely speak english.. how are they going to even pass their interviews?” — he looked up from his hand-drawn spreadsheet he kept a strict record of students..”Oh that part is easy… I already know all their future managers” — It was the perfect funnel.

best of luck fellas!

Fascinating story; why don't you write this up long-form and submit it here to HN?

yeah there is much to say! (good and bad)

Alas running a digital studio, a startup, and being a father to a wild 5yr old boy has produced few disposable hours(sigh)

..however weekly Medium posts is something i've been meaning to do...especially as im living abroad.

thanks for the encouragement.

What a great story. As someone who lived near Odessa for some time, thank you!

This sounds like the perfect opportunity for a documentary project, well beyond just a write-up. What an awesome example to be so close to!

Write it in an article.

In the registration process:

Are you legally authorized to work in the United States? Just a note: We are currently unable to offer income-based repayment outside of the United States. You can still attend Lambda School, but you would have to pay at least $10,000 up-front

$10,000 - that's about as expensive as a high quality bachelor's degree (in Germany) at private university via distance learning, where someone can pay flexibly btw. Additionally: We are talking about 6 semesters worth of material and study, study time can be extended for free.

What you are offering is a 6-month crash course where someone will have _NO_ degree whatsoever afterwards. I also doubt how much computer science you can teach in that time. Normal CS curriculum spends about one module (one semester's worth) on just the introduction to programming, has probably 2 modules (that you would do in 2 semesters) of computer science basics like computer architecture et cetera... there are so many good resources already available, including lectures of incredibly professors from some of the greatest universities.

Also: You have to create the learning resources once and can take on as many students as you want w/out any additional cost, great for you, seems like selling snake oil to me. I am unsure besides the resources and apparently online group working ("group work happens live and interactive") what it is you provide for possibly 30k$ in cash? 1 success finances the cost you have w/ an incredible amount of failures, and it's not clear to me if that one guy finding a job will have done so bc of your awesome curriculum and support?

It seems to me like anyone who can possibly finance proper education some other way should (and I want to repeat: it's a 6-months crash course, not a degree)

If I wanted to spend 10,000 $ on a CS education, I'd put some of it into the Georgia Tech online MS program [1] and still have 3k+ left. Admittedly I do have a Bachelor's degree in (non CS) engineering,so I meet their eligibility criteria.

Burning 10k for a non accredited "CS" education makes no sense. How much Computer Science you can learn in 6 months is another question. If you don't want accreditation,why not work through some CS MOOCS at edx in that time and save the 10k?

I doubt many companies will take 6 months of such "Computer Science bootcamp" seriously.

OTOH I suppose this might be better than paying for a code bootcamp. And many people do pay that much to learn barebones javascript, might as well learn some barebones 'computer science' instead. Why not?

Might be interesting to see how this turns out in a year or so.

[1] From the Georgia Tech online MS FAQ

How much does the degree program cost? Exact cost will depend on how quickly students complete the program. We anticipate that working students will take an average of two courses per term, resulting in a total program cost of about $6,600 over five terms. Students who complete their programs more quickly will pay less; those who take longer will pay more.

I'm sure the online Master's program at Georgia Tech is strong and it's certainly priced much better than an average MS in CS [1], but I think this is an apples-oranges comparison because the audiences are so different. As you mentioned, you have an engineering degree already. The overlap between people who are considering a dev bootcamp program and people that are also considering and are eligible for a Master's in CS must be a very small (or nonexistent) pool.

[1]: It's worth mentioning that one can effectively do a MS in CS at a research school for "free" with a graduate research assistant position that includes a tuition waiver. Some of these are competitive but again the pool of qualified Master's in CS candidates is relatively small to begin with.

Hi, I'm one of your unicorns! Currently attending Fullstack Academy, while I work on my GA Tech application.

I took some math and one CS class in undergrad... have messed around with algorithm study... really hoping I get in. I didn't want to pay $60k for a masters at a place like UChicago.

Where are these free masters you speak of? I don't have a lot of "accredited" classes, just a lot of self study online.

I put free in quotes because the tradeoff is that you do research for the university as part of a graduate research assistantship (GRA). Typically the position comes with a stipend as well and usually requires being a full-time student. The officially term is "tuition remission". You may receive special consideration if you attend the same university for undergrad and grad school.

Here's more info from the school I attended: https://engineering-computer-science.wright.edu/advising-and....

Ask HN: Is Georgia Tech's Online Master in CS Worth It? (1 hour ago)


I think you're making a big assumption that you'll be accepted - anecdotally I've heard that they turn away many people who meet their basic acceptance criteria unless those people have a large amount of industry experience. As a result, it's pretty apples to oranges - if you can get into GT's OMSCS you don't need Lambda School, because you're already in the field.

I wish they taught you JavaScript but I'm afraid a few of them "directly" teach you react or some library or framework.

It's not a great deal outside of the US, that's largely because our income share agreement relies on US infrastructure and is not internationalized. So you can still attend in the U.K., but unfortunately it's under different (probably worse) terms.

Also, everything we do is live and interactive, so it's not a matter of just "creating learning resources." It's a lot of one on one time with instructors.

Germany is an outlier in higher education. In the US, $10k is lucky to get you 1 year of in-state tuition and books (excluding room and board) at an average public state school with a CS program. If you go to college in a state different than what you live in, the rates are even higher.

In Scotland, there are no tuition fees charged to anyone from the EU (except England and Wales - funny story - see bottom). I have a student loan from my studies, but it was only due to the need for living expenses, and the government insisted (legally) that my parents contributed to them based on their income. The loan's interest rate is capped at inflation (0% real term interest), so it is quite literally the best loan you'll ever get. You start to pay it off after you reach a certain income level (£15k/year, I think), paying something like 4% of your income towards the loan, and if after a fixed amount of time you have not paid it off (because you never earned enough) then the loan is written off.

People here are frequently warned of the silliness of paying off their student loans early. If you get any kind of loan with interest above inflation (which is basically all of them), it would make more sense to pay that off before the student loan.

EU law says universities must charge foreign EU nationals the same rate as they charge locals. There is a loophole in that this does not apply to the "home nations" within the UK, so Scottish universities (and English and Welsh return) can charge the other home nations' students whatever they like.

Out of interest, what was the Scottish universities' plan if the independence referendum had succeeded (in which case EU law would have prevented them from charging or discriminating against English students, and suddenly England's 10-times-bigger population would have had a £9,000 per year incentive to go to Scotland for uni...)

The vast majority of the big money comes from non-EU citizens studying in Scotland, who get charged double, triple or even more than English students, especially for subjects with good job prospects like business, law and medicine. I imagine they would have increased non-EU places at the expense of EU places to compensate. There was an idea to allow foreign nationals to stay much longer after finishing their degree in order to work and gain experience, which would have made studying in an independent Scotland more attractive.

I am quite aware that the situation might be different, I still consider most of my points valid for the US though, for example regarding quality of education provided + that the business seems a little bit "shady" to me.

btw: a degree from the University of London (via distance learning, can be done from many parts of the world) is about ~5000£ (~6482$) - again we are talking about flexible payment + great study resources (6 semester's worth) + a full bachelor's degree!

This however seems (to me) w/ all due respect like a "get rich quick" scheme that won't work for 99% of people. And the other 1% would have probably made it some other way and are possibly paying 30k$ for it (and I want to stress again: 30k$ for a 6 month crash course with _no_ degree in the end)

I see your perspective but also from a US perspective the cost is much lower than a Bachelor's in CS (just to be clear I'm not claiming this is equivalent to a BS). So it is faster, cheaper, and with better repayment terms than one can get from a US university.

Now, a problem dev bootcamp type programs have is lack of accreditation (can't call themselves universities) and lack of curriculum standardization across code schools. In the US, engineering and CS universities have ABET accreditation to solve this problem which sets the model / baseline curriculum for what a BS in CS must cover.

Do the European schools have some sort of curriculum standardization for CS? The larger question I am wondering is if an international CS degree carries the same weight as a domestic one in the US.

Or is USA the outlier? I paid $100 a year here in Norway, e.g. nothing.

Eg = for example

Ie = id est = that is

In Sweden 10K would cover most of your living expenses for a year. Oh, you're talking about the cost of education? Well that part is free ;)

The original example was 10k for a "private university via distance learning", which I assume won't be free in Sweden either. FWIW, I paid 250 euros per semester in Germany, most of which was for the public transport ticket.

Private universities don't exist in Sweden, at least none that offer CS degrees. There are a few MBAs for which one has to pay the full price but they are usually only attended by professionals and charged to their employer.

Same in Poland - all of the best universities in the country are public universities and are free for everyone. Private ones have a reputation for being very very poor and something people sign up for just to get the paper saying they have "a degree". Even then, they cost something like $300/semester so if you really need that paper it's not that expensive.

In Australia, bachelors degrees are $15k to $30k, and you don't pay until you have a job. And with the benefits rules, sometimes you can receive more in benefits to enable you to study than the student debt you'll incur.

I'm a little surprised US undergraduate tuition manages to stay that high, as it seems it would often be cheaper to migrate to Europe or Australia for the purposes of study (and Australia and Europe are quite receptive to that... education is Australia's third biggest export...)

> and you don't pay until you have a job

Some US student loans work this way with income-based repayment. However there are plenty of gotchas: It only applies to federal loans. Many people with large amounts of school loans > $15k-20k/year for 4-5 years can't actually get this much in federal loans, and also only a subset of what they can get has subsidized interest. I'm not sure whether loan interest continues to accrue normally in the period where payments are reduced. I think this depends on the type of federal loan and there are quite a few. Some are completely unsubsidized (i.e., accrue interest while in school).

the united states is the outlier here

You're right about this and it took a few international responses to remind me of how messed up college is in the US. It's easy to forget that some countries have it much better off than the norm here.

What's more is the example I used for the US is on the low end.

The average annual tuition (with room and board) from the US Department of Education is $16k public and $42k private [1].

> For the 2014–15 academic year, average annual current dollar prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board were estimated to be $16,188 at public institutions, $41,970 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,372 at private for-profit institutions.

What's more jarring is that these numbers are a bit cooked to blend 4-year and 2-year schools whereas most students don't consider community colleges (which grants Associate's degrees vs Bachelor's… I'm not sure if every country has something similar).

The actual average annual numbers in cureent dollars (as of 2014-2015) are $18,632 for 4-year public and $37,990 for 4-year private. For some reason the private numbers blend nonprofit and for-profit private schools whereas a figure excluding for-profit would probably be more accurate.

[1]: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76

It's funny that nonprofits would charge almost twice as much as for-profits.

Do you know if any German universities offer Bachelor's in Software Engineering, or if they are comparable to US degrees, IE 4 years?

I feel it's misleading, it's naming feels like its coat tailing off implying something like a university comp sci degree ( with a practical bent), and this seems more of a React web/mobile app design course with a bit of C++ and some basic algorithms ( presumably so they can pass interviews that seem to be obsessed with such things )

$30k seems steep, and while 0 $ upfront is appealing, that kind of strategy can be exploitative( like 0% deposit financing ). It can be super appealing to someone who doesn't have much money, but they end up paying a lot more than they really should be.

Not saying this is bad (maybe it's good thing), but when look through it, I'm getting alarm bells.

17% is huge, particularly when you consider it within the context of after tax income. $100k salary is $60k or so after taxes in California; take away $17k + rent and food, and you're getting pretty close to paycheck to paycheck living, particularly if the person has loans from a failed college attempt, medical expenses, etc.

They're essentially asking for $30-$60k or so - which is more than in state tuition for a bachelor's degree in many states. The difference is that a BSc is still widely recognized and accepted and will still be in 10 years (despite what many HNers would like to think), unlike this program, which most certainly won't even exist anymore.

Repayment is capped at $30k max, so the most we could possibly take is $30,000.

Original posting is ambiguous on whether the $30k cap is yearly, or for the whole duration. Thanks for the correction.

I lived (well) in San Jose on <$65,000 pre-tax for 4 years, including picking up a degree at nights to the tune of $20K. I agree that it is some financial challenge, but it is nowhere near as dire as "paycheck to paycheck."

I agree with your larger point that a bachelor's degree is a better value, especially over the long term. Unfortunately a BS is going to take longer to get, especially in CA, where the education pipeline is overflowing and underfunded (but still very good value for money).

I think we go a lot deeper than you seem to think - we're not a 100% proxy with a full CS degree, but we're more CS degree than just code bootcamp.

I'd agree that its more, but not much more, still closer to bootcamp than CS degree.

unless there's more beyond what you posted here https://github.com/LambdaSchool/LambdaCSA-Syllabus#project12 it really seems a very quick march through some basic computing concepts and some practical skills using the tech du jour with a goal of getting people to a point they can get info into and out of a data store and present it on a web page and then interview well.

Nothing wrong with that and done well can launch people into careers... I really don't know what that's worth but 30k for 6months ish feels a bit off to me.

But I think if you then asked your students at the end to give a summary of what computer science is, what are the problems, and the broad dimensions of the subject are they might struggle.... you also use the word engineering, again, I think asking your students to summarize the broad areas of software engineering I think they'd struggle. Or at least what's presented doesn't fill me with confidence. But ask them to summarize web development, I think they'd give a reasonable answer.

This is very interesting and I like the finance model a lot. I'd be curious to see more details on the syllabus, however.

I also have questions about the quality of instruction. There are some big name institutions listed, but that doesn't necessarily indicate quality instruction. The best researchers are often emphatically not the best instructors, and for this venture instructors are much more important.

I sincerely hope this is successful; perhaps this can prompt traditional institutions to be more innovative (in delivery, instruction, finance, all of it).

> The best researchers are often emphatically not the best instructors, and for this venture instructors are much more important.

This is very true. Most of our instructors are refugees from an academic world; they really just want to teach, and research for them was a necessary evil.

We have a pretty rigorous hiring process (and we're hiring now! careers@lambdaschool.com)

>I'd be interested to see more on the syllabus

What would you like to see?

>What would you like to see?

Not OP, but I think your "syllabus" is seriously lacking in detail. For example, you have a week and a half of "operating systems" That is summarized as 4 bullet points. I would really expect to see at least a paragraph under each of the three sections describing exactly what a student should understand after completing each module. For the operating systems section, I would like to see something like this for the first half of week 19:

|Operating Systems II

|After completing this section, students should be able to describe the various levels of memory used by modern computers, including CPU caches, RAM and swap space. Students should understand how each of these levels of memory are used during program execution. Additionally, students should understand how memory is addressed, including physical and virtual addressing, how memory is managed and allocated by the operating system, and how memory may be shared by multiple processes on the same system.

Good feedback. We'll add more detail.

This is my gold standard for bootcamp syllabi: https://www.turing.io/programs/back-end-engineering

It tells me:

• What grads know when they get out

• How they apply what they've learned

• How it applies to my workplace if I'm considering hiring them

Curriculum becomes outcomes through building competencies. The outcomes are pretty clearly defined here.

Building the competencies? There could be a bit more information regarding that once the activities to build the competencies is run through.

If you're looking for more of that content to be posted publicly, that may be a separate question.

The complete sylabus would be wonderful. Knowing exactly what one would learn would be very useful.

Will work on fleshing that out. Thanks!

How do you know that your graduates are or aren't making more than 50k? How do you know that you're getting your 17%?

Aside from that, you're essentially giving your students a loan and then having them repay it once they start earning money. How is this any different than a regular student loan (but with way more risk on your end)?

> How do you know that your graduates are or aren't making more than 50k?

Great question. In addition to our income share agreement, each student submits a form to the IRS that will essentially copy us on their taxes. We have annual reconciliation based on those numbers to see if they match a student's self-reported numbers.

> You're essentially giving your students a loan and then having them repay it once they start earning money.

Eh, kind of. The biggest difference is if they don't get a job that pays $50k+ they don't pay us. Also, if you ever lose a job, your payments stop until you're back on your feet.

It's an equity instrument, and we think it's much better and more forgiving than loans as a result of that.

It's fing brilliant. You guys are heros, don't let anyone say anything different. This sort of thing really changes the world when your goals are aligned like this. Just.. wow.

> ... if they don't get a job that pays $50k+ they don't pay us. Also, if you ever lose a job, your payments stop until you're back on your feet.

This is how it works in the UK and Australia with normal student debt. It's deferred until you're earning enough money and then is taken directly out of your pay cheque. Collection of the debt is also held off until you're earning a certain amount (in any field.)

> ... each student submits a form to the IRS that will essentially copy us on their taxes.

So it's not a truly universal online training environment, then? As a British citizen living in Australia, I can't file a form with the IRS, nor would I give the IRS my details for obvious reasons.

We're still figuring out the details outside of the US.


Honestly as someone who never went to university (I never finished school), is self-taught in C, assembly, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Go, and so on, and is now a Senior Site Reliability Engineer, I think your product is excellent. I was even considering asking to see what jobs you have on, but I don't have a degree, so yeah.

Keep up the good work. I hope you're successful.

You might find the value proposition a bit different where governments pay for student tuition.

While that's generally true, the proposition of 6 months vs 4 years is also valid.

> It's an equity instrument, and we think it's much better and more forgiving than loans as a result of that.

I wonder whether this type of financing is more acceptable to Muslim students. Do most Muslims in the US avoid traditional student loans which charge interest?

If that's a step function, then people would be happy earning $49,999 than $60k (and may even try to negotiate with the employer to reduce the salary)

I suppose that's a risk we have to take, though being willing to forgo $10k of income for two years ($20k) in order to avoid paying $20k seems a little silly; all you'd gain are the taxes, but you'd also have a hard time getting a raise, etc.

Unless they form a contract with their employers saying they will take 49,999 for 2 years with a guaranteed raise to 60k at the end. Employer saves money, employee saves money, school gets screwed...

If that's how you want to optimize your life, congratulations. You cheated the school that gave you a chance out of a few thousand dollars.

Might be smarter to just get paid more :)

The way I read it you collect 17% once they start earning $50k+. Do you really collect nothing if their first two years are below?

If they make <$50k we wait until they're making more, for up to five years. We will keep trying to get them a high paying job the entire time.

But then the student is caped at $49k for life, when they should be able to double or triple that salary over 20 years, which will easily pay off the loan.

What is a student decides not to pursue software engineering? Do you still take your cut? In my experience, the market is oversaturated with code bootcamp grads; many of them decide to go back to their previous profession.

We only take a percentage if you get a career in software engineering, so we have built that kind of risk into our model.

Is there a time limit after which the debt is forgiven?

What prevents someone with no intention of finding a job of signing up for the free education?

EDIT: I'm entirely serious about part two. I know quite a few people that would love to learn programming but, AFAIK, have no intention of working in the tech world. I could see them taking advantage of something like this. Most of them work in non-tech functions in an office environment. So learning programming would be useful to them but it's not their actual job.

The income share is forgiven after five years. Hopefully we can weed those types out in application process.

You know me? I'am considering taking CS as a part-time education, but I have no intention of becoming a software engineer.

Exactly. There's tons of people like that. Not sure how they'd filter them from the rest. There's a lot of careers where it'd be incredibly useful too. Even just basic data munching with awk/sed puts a person light years ahead of people stuck with Excel copy pasta.

I'll say this if it's just for "fun" for someone I don't think it would work that well. I took the first PT bootcamp (I paid) and that was a HUGE undertaking. They are only going FT in the near future until they can figure the other options time wise, so if that person has a day job that would make it tough and if they didn't have a day job I would imagine "most" people aren't going to complete the whole thing anyways. I'm sure a couple of people will squeak through but I don't see that being a huge issue with the course work being on the more difficult side of things especially for someone coming from a non programming background.

They still need a job to pay the bills, don't they? As long as that job pays over $50k, I'd assume they'd have to pay the commission.

Came across your site the other day. I was wondering is the 17% from their base salary before taxes? So they (if in say California) pay federal, state, & you guys off the top? Great idea either way!

Before taxes.

I applaud your effort and am interested in how you're working out the tax implications. $17,000 doesn't come of the top in reality, for the marginal $50k person you'd be taking nearly 1/2 of their take home pay. Seems like a longer repayment would be more fair. Also if you forgive the $30,000 that's still a taxable event for the student; they'd owe the IRS as through you'd given them the money, might cost the student $10,000 or more depending on the person's situation.

Note: 17%, not 17,000. So $8,500 for a person making $50k. But 17% does seem a bit high to me, pre-tax.

Ah cool! I was curious about the income thing, thanks for sharing!

What about married people that are jointly filing taxes, will you take only the income of the person attending the school into account?

Yes, that's exactly what we do.

i'm not affiliated, but like this model.

> How do you know that your graduates are or aren't making more than 50k? How do you know that you're getting your 17%?

you can ask students to fill out and sign, as a condition of admission, forms authorizing the IRS to hand over their tax returns, in advance. it wouldn't be very hard to contract with a law firm to take the results and check to see if they had more than 50k of income, while ignoring/discarding all other information.

or just have them sign a thing saying they'll do X. if they lie, they're probably committing fraud. most folks don't run around committing high dollar fraud.

> Aside from that, you're essentially giving your students a loan and then having them repay it once they start earning money. How is this any different than a regular student loan (but with way more risk on your end)?

the point of this model is to lower risk for the student, and hope that the value you're providing is sufficient to offset the additional risk you're accepting.

This is essentially the same was what AppAcademy does, though they don't offer this to everyone across the board anymore (some groups have to prepay in full).

Also we're 100% online, so people don't have to move to San Francisco for 3+ months.

Yeah, it's a similar idea with a few differences.

Lambda School is six months long, online, and teaches CS fundamentals (computer architecture, operating systems, C++) in addition to full-stack web development and mobile development.

Lambda School also doesn't require a deposit.

Could you please tell me whether its applicable in India or any other counties or not?

I think India would be much more difficult because the Indian salaries are lower and it's more difficult to take someone to court if they owe you money. (And possibly more people who underreport their income)

We're working to figure that out, but first we'll start servicing more of the US applicants we have (we can only teach a tiny, tiny fraction of the willing students at this point).

What determines whether an applicant is accepted into the course?

Sounds good. Awesome work and good luck!

I'm going to play devils advocate here. I don't think I'd be in your target market primarily because I feel for 15k a year I can achieve a decent education just by online resources alone. It would be just as well recognized; I'd even think that a local community college could be cheaper. Granted, upfront cash is a luxury that few without the bank of mom and dad can access.

An Irish degree costs 3000 euros a year to enroll. Even for four years that would be cheaper than what's on offer here with a world wide recognized qualification.

On the whole, it seems like a very American solution to an American problem, education is just far too expensive in the states. * I'm a beneficiary of free state education from Ireland.

Best of luck in the effort, I do applaud you for it especially in the US where there are always tech shortages but...I really wish your country was in a place where your type of business didn't have to exist. A country where only those who can afford to be educated can receive education. I'm saying this as someone living in Nepal where those who can't pay can't learn either.

I really wish education was subsidized, worldwide! Alas, never going to happen.

Indeed, it is difficult to compete with the price of a fully subsidized education.

That said, we still have students from the EU that attend Lambda School. It's not all about cost, it's also about use of time. You can get a degree that is more well recognized in four years, or you can attend Lambda School and work for three years. Would you rather hire someone with an official degree from a community college or someone that attended a CS Academy and worked for three years? You could argue either way, but it's not clear to me that the degree is the clear winner.

I'm curious how your students in Europe will agree to return the % of salary back to you. I would imagine there would be more restrictions in that regard than with the IRS.

In Ireland even a degree in CS from the worst school guarantees a base of education that has been reviewed and agreed upon. I'm unaware if the same vigilance has been applied in your own curriculum.

Also, please remember that degrees are necessary should one wish to migrate internationally in many situations so don't discount them out of hand.

Personally, I'd hire the person with the degree before any bootcamp on its own. That said, I believe that most degrees are useless without real world knowledge and application. I've hired 10 staff over the past 12 months from a variety of backgrounds, some with MSc level, others who have barely scraped through their B.Sc. Qualifications means competence at school, doesn't always equal to success in the software engineering field.

We don't know how students in Europe can agree to return a percentage of salary yet, which is why we don't offer income share agreements in Europe yet.

I don't discount degrees at all, I just don't think they're the ultimate solution to anything nor do I believe they're the only way to be qualified for a job.

We have a lot of students with CS degrees that starting out could barely code their way out of a wet paper bag. I'm entirely unconvinced that a degree guarantees any real level of ability. That's not to say that no one with a degree can code, just that not everyone with a degree can code.

The concept of community colleges in the way you have in the US doesn't really exist in Europe in the same format. It's a result of education being cheap or free that everyone can attend "real" universities. So you're comparing someone with a 3 year university degree to someone from a 6 month bootcamp. I know who I would pick for my team.

What if you compared someone with a 3 year university degree against someone with a 6 month bootcamp and 2.5 year work experience?

That's not the issue, the issue is getting that first 2.5 years of experience. I would argue that a university degree gets you into that first job easier, at least in Sweden. Not only because of the (hopefully) superior education but also thanks to the connections you make with older students who might influence that hiring decision.

The timeline for community college is usually 2 years or 3 with a work term.

In the end it feels like a bad deal because you need to pay 17% and you miss out on the extra year of education

>Would you rather hire someone with an official degree from a community college or someone that attended a CS Academy and worked for three years?

obviously, one would eventually transfer from community college to a university

'austenallred is a cool individual, and this seems like it could be a particularly good take on the code school model, but I always wonder if programs like this help on the margin. That is, do they help people succeed (i.e. get a job in software) who otherwise wouldn't, or do they just accelerate the success of those who would, one way or another, eventually succeeded regardless of their participation in the program? I think the latter might be likely simply just because for good programs (like this one) demand far outstrips supply, so they can be extremely picky about who they accept and only accept individuals who are destined to succeed.

Not that accelerating the success of those destined to succeed is in any way a bad thing (it is, undoubtedly, a good thing, and can certainly make for a good business), but my interest is much more in helping those succeed who otherwise wouldn't. That seems like a much harder challenge and one that can have more interesting ramifications for things like social mobility and income inequality.

> demand far outstrips supply, so they can be extremely picky about who they accept and only accept individuals who are destined to succeed

The same criticism has been applied to top-tier universities such as Harvard:


I've thought a bit about how you would structure something like this as a pro-bono service instead of a paid service. The thing I always struggle with is how to get people who currently lack the basic computer skills, math, and logic skills and get them to the point where they could benefit from a bootcamp. Most people I know who've made it through a bootcamp successfully already had some sort of exposure to coding before starting.

You'd almost need a skills camp before the bootcamp that would be less choosy and take the top 20-30% of those students into a further bootcamp... but at that point the economics start to break down (why it'd likely need to be pro-bono).

Anyway, that was a big tangent! I think what you're doing is interesting. Do you have a twitter account set up if we're interested in following along?

Looks very similar to Holberton School - https://www.holbertonschool.com/ - launched 2 years ago, it's also 17% after students get a job. Their curriculum covers low-level programming, high-level programming and system engineering. They have a pretty good track record so far, students finding opportunities at NASA, LinkedIn, Apple, Dropbox, Docker.

>They have a pretty good track record so far, students finding opportunities at NASA, LinkedIn, Apple, Dropbox, Docker.

Where are you getting that information? NASA is doing very little direct hiring right now, certainly not hiring software engineers without a bachelors degree. It's entirely possible to get hired as a contractor working at NASA, but that's really not the same thing.

Ya, holberton is solid. It would be difficult or impossible for most of our students to move to San Francisco unpaid for two years.

They get paid pretty fast though at Holberton, as they start their first internship after 6 months in.

Ya I've got nothing against Holberton, it's just not a model that works for the vast majority of our students.

IMO, the cost of living is the core problem with CS education programs like this. It's always been possible to teach yourself to code for free if you have a computer, Internet, and 40 hours a week to spend on practice. But who can afford to do that?

What these programs need most of all are cheap dormitories that offer room and board. (Close proximity to students can also help provide one another with a support network.)

100% agree being around other students would be a huge plus. I went to a school where I was surrounded by 40 other amateur programmers all driven towards building awesome products and writing quality code. Being in that environment is what made me obsessed with software.

There's actually a program called Make School that's pretty similar to this Lambda school, except they DO have student dorms and even offer a 2k/month living stipend in SF. Finding Make School on ProductHunt a few years ago was probably one of the highlights of my young adulthood.

https://www.makeschool.com/product-college https://www.producthunt.com/posts/makeschool-gap-year

You're still surrounded by other software engineers; you have a set class you'll get to know very well.

> What these programs need most of all are cheap dormitories that offer room/board.

That's also true, but it's much more easily for someone to find a place to crash for six months than to come up with $10k out-of-pocket.

Eventually we'll be able to provide a stipend for living expenses and/or dormitory style living as well, but for now it is what it is.

A studio apartment in Oakland is $1,500 a month. There are already a bunch of great free resources to learn to code, including Codecademy, Coursera, Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseware, and freeCodeCamp.

Right now, the people who need to learn to code need room and board, not yet another free coding school.

First, why live in Oakland? A lot of our students move to more friendly environments (read: cheaper) during that time.

There are a lot of great resources, no doubt, but those don't really compare to an in-person experience with an instructor and a school incentivized to take you all the way to hired.

The difference is that with Khan Academy, Coursera etc. you need self discipline. With Lambda you have a coach who expects you to be at your computer at 9am every weekday, and who has a strong financial incentive to ensure you learn.

Plus in time a Lambda qualification may become more respected by employers than a Coursera degree.

Have you run across any prior business that trade education for a percentage of future income?

Ask since I've looked at this model before and while I'm not able to find it, I recall court cases that ruled against this type of finical agreement.

Make School (also YC, W12), has offered income based repayment since 2014 for our college program www.makeschool.com/product-college. There are now 3 cohorts of students who have gotten jobs and paid us under this model and a 4th is entering this fall.

Holberton School is also using this model since we announced in 2015.

We are working with VEMO http://vemo.com/ISAinitiative/ they are specialized in ISA - most schools are using them.

Yeah, even Purdue University uses income share agreements, it's not widespread but it's not rare either.

For those outside of the US take note:

    Just a note: We are currently unable to offer income-based 
    repayment outside of the United States. You can still attend
    Lambda School, but you would have
    to pay at least $10,000 up-front

Do you have plan to support student outside us so they will have a change to get remote job or even full-time job?

Ouch, and 17% seems quite steep? Hm. It might be cheaper compared to a student loan in the USA, but in Australia, you can attend university and get a degree for roughly that cost (or cheaper, from what I understand).

How long does the student have to wait before getting a job to void the agreement? What if a student takes the class, can't get a job, then spends 6 months of their own time on MOOC and gets a job should they still pay 17%?

Mixed feelings ... 50k/yr hardly sounds like a successful placement for a semi competent programmer, more like a pipeline to the gulag in a profession that's notoriously bad at obtaining fair wages. (I presume OP will be teaching the segment on living in your car in Palo Alto ... ;p ) However, I've always been curious about this business model for schools and hope it succeeds!

The number is $50k because of folks in smaller/more rural areas. There $50k can be quite a lot.

Yes it can, which is why using a flat pretax minimum is absolutely silly. $50k in Seattle isn't living confortably, but with your cut it's $41.5k. That's less than a bank teller makes.

You should have a COL adjusted minimum. Otherwise you'll only be targeting rural areas where most jobs aren't.

Ya, we could, that just gets complicated really fast

Anyone can help me with a question I have?

What if I want to take this program from outside of the USA and want to work remotely? Would this count as working in the USA? (Which is one of the questions on the form)

No, it's almost impossible for us to guarantee that kind of a job.

I think this is an excellent idea. There definitely is a gap in the market for non-CS grads who want to get a more robust grounding than a ten-week bootcamp can offer.

I'm interested in how you select applicants but your website doesn't let me look at the application process. Your funding model means selecting the right students is crucial as you carry the risk. How do you select from the candidates? Are they meant to be already quite experienced? I looked through the curriculum and it seems very intense even for someone with a bit of coding experience. How do you make sure people keep up the pace?

We keep that kind of close to the chest. We have pre course work for applicants to complete, and let's say we can learn a lot from that.

Viking Code School grad here. Really happy more institutions are implementing this method. I didn't have to take loans to start my journey in Full Stack development. It's been the best decision of my life.

I'm kind of nervous that there's a lack of discrete math in the courses listed. I believe it's a fundamental requirement to gain understanding of the underlying intuition behind a lot of CS.

Here's an idea: go live in a cheaper country, pay couple grand for the whole degree. No one will have heard of the school, but that's the case anyway unless you go to the few top US schools.

I like that this model has become available and wish you luck! Always good to have options for getting this education.

One pedantic but perhaps important nit to pick: I would not recommend the language "especially if you come from a lower-class background". Lower income, reduced opportunity, lower education, etc but lower class reads like you're coming from a position of privilege that looks down on potential students.

Good point, thanks!

How is this different than Make School's model (also a YC company)? I understand they've been doing this for some time, and even offer a stipend to people who are accepted in the program to help pay for housing and other costs.


A full ISA from Make School would cost you approximately $90,000, and would require you to move to San Francisco for 2+ years. Nothing against Make School, we're just going after a very different market.

Wonder how legal taking a percentage of future earnings forever is?

For example, could I sell you a car and say "the price is 1% of all your future earnings"?

Legally I guess I'd have to say "The car is $30k, but I'm giving you a loan at 999% interest, with repayment demands capped at 1% of your salary (upon production of salary evidence), and the loan to be forgiven in full in the case of death".

Do you offer opportunities for existing programmers who are looking to improve their skills with the goal of getting a higher programmer salary?

We're working on that. Not yet, probably three months out.

If you have a solution to this problem, I'd be extremely interested.

Would the commission be less?

Would probably have to be. Our risk is much less.

I was curious about the type of students you'd want to recruit. The type you're featuring all seems to be out of college and have experience under their belt.

Your schedule is full day learning. So now I wonder: are you targeting people who are out of jobs? It seems a little confusing to understand your criteria of recruiting students (I have not paid too much attention yet).

There's not a "type" we're looking for; some of our best students barely finished high school, let alone college.

Our schedule is full-time just because we're looking for people that are dedicated. We're working on part-time, but have to be more careful with that, as it would be about a year long.

But how would a person in high school dedicate full time learning 'how to program'? That seems impossible. The same goes for full time college student.

Let's say I think I am dedicated (I know you'll have your own criteria on identifying my dedication). Say that I am in high school. How do you expect me to study during your defined hours full time? The best I could think of is dedicating my full time hours during summer vacation (if I have to let go of my part time job, camps, or home-work - testing, AP etc).

The same would apply when I am in college trying to get a degree.

In addition, I also don't see how any full time working individual could find time to accommodate learning schedule during the day. Say that I may be looking to change career.

I think the concept is awesome and I hope that my comment won't be taken as cynical:

I get the dedication part but some people may have commitments that they can't avoid at all - childcare, for example. Having commitments shouldn't be confused with lacking dedication, IMO. For me, the biggest USP about a remote school, or any MOOC really, is the flexibility that it offers. Structured, yes, but 3-5 hours a day would be more manageable than 9-5 five days a week. That will probably add extra months to the course though - but that's OK, a Masters takes 1-2 years for comparison.

Of course Lambda instructors are world-class, but technically you can train yourself; there are very good guides signposting to free resources, and online communities for support. It might not be to the level of depth that the Lambda course offers, but is indepth knowledge really a key employability trait? (I'm not questioning the value of knowledge.) After all, many recruiters now emphasise on having a good portfolio over a certificate.

But hey this is more like a feedback than a criticism. I sincerely think that this concept is super and hope that the Academy succeeds :)

Ya we're working on part-time, it just comes with other complications.

You don't have to start full-time, but most of our students have dabbled. That's not a 100% truism.

Ah I forgot about the full week schedule (my post was also about your first question). I'm also curious about how the programme is structured on a typical day.

For me personally, if there is a part time option (4 days a week even) this would be hugely attractive.

Out of curiosity, I signed up for the JavaScript Mini Code Bootcamp - Archive to evaluate the quality of the lectures. I've been watching/listening to the first 20+ min and so far, I'm quite skeptical of the quality of the instruction. Are the archives some sort of practice run or are they reminiscent of the actual lectures?

That's where we test new instructors. It's a class taught to thousands of people at once, so very, very different.

I see. Thanks for answering that. If you don't mind, I have some follow-up questions then (since I'm considering doing this as a way to get back into a programming career and possibly recommending this to a friend's friend who has been looking for a bootcamp to change careers):

* What is the style for the actual lectures?

* Are you using any tools aside from screencasting and chat to supplement the lectures?

* Your courses are listed as full time, 9-6 affairs. What is the typical schedule over the course of the day?

* Is there any room in the course/syllabus for the instructors to help students with questions about related topics not included in the syllabus? For example, a quick glance shows that you cover React Native's ListView but I see no mention of the newer FlatList or SectionList.

* Related, do you discuss why certain tools are chosen to be taught over others? And how to choose a library to use when presented with several seemingly similar options? For example, XMLHttpRequest vs fetch vs SuperAgent vs etc. vs your choice of axios. Same with react-navigation over other libraries. People unfamiliar with the field will undoubtedly hear about these other libraries or even get asked about them, so I'm a bit concerned about recommending this to someone without any background in programming at all.

Ok, style for the actual class: We start the day out with a code challenge, then move into a mini lecture (a few students with one instructor) and a mini project you'll work on with a pair programming partner. Then another short lecture and you'll begin working on your main project.

If you're ever stuck you jump onto our #help channel on Slack and there's instantly someone available to help out. Chances are they've seen that problem before.

Once you're finished with your challenge or project you'll submit it as a pull request (we use Github for everything) and you'll have a code review. Sometimes those are in person, sometimes they're just comments left on code.

We have frequent brown bag lectures (lectures with industry experts) and office hours with instructors to discuss, well, anything.

Hope that helps!

Thanks for getting back to me. It sounds a bit geared towards people who have enough experience to know what to ask, so I'm not sure if this is something I would recommend to someone coming from a completely different field. Would that be an accurate assessment of the learning style?

Also, I'm still unsure about what tools will be used as part of the lectures. If it's really just screencasting + chat, I can't believe that the material will be conveyed all that well. At least as evidenced by how prepared your instructors seemed in the Archive videos. Sorry if it's a bit harsh, but my expectations are a bit high since I'm coming from a background that includes 5 years of teaching ESL.

It's not a screencast, it's a video conference. We use Zoom.us. So it's a multi way conversation, just like any classroom would be.

Would be curious to know what disappointed you in the archive videos. I have a guess, but that's just my assumption.

I hope you'll forgive me that it'll take a minute to get to these questions.

Yeah, of course. Launching is a big day so take your time. Thanks for leaving a message first instead of leaving me wondering.

Amazing! I'm pleased to see that there are startups out here trying to solve this type of problems. Taking the risk is ballsy and should be rewarded!


- Do you plan to extend the syllabus to something more fundamental? Asking because you have some C++ and already go further than bootcamps, so I'm wondering if you intend to pursue this direction and get closer to a formal CS education.

- Do you plan to work on giving some sort of degrees later? Some countries require degrees for immigration, which is a door that bootcamps do not open. By offering degrees, you open the global market to your students, and in an increasingly connected world, it can make a huge difference. I basically owe my quality of life to the mobility I got thanks to my degree, and this is something I wish to everyone.

Massive Kudos to you guys! I hope you will eventually offer the same service to students outside of the US. The market is large.

1. We think we're already covering a lot of the fundamentals. We're not all the way yet, but we're within striking distance of a CS degree.

2. To give a "degree" you have to be accredited, which brings all sorts of ridiculous rules along with it that don't really make sense. So yes, but we're not ready to jump through those hoops yet.

Nice to offer a pay-it-later approach (like App Academy) but seems a bit expensive for an online course?

The expense of these courses is instructors, regardless of where the course is held.

This is an awesome idea. What I'd really like to know, however, is if any of the existing loan options will accept this as schooling in order to loan a student money for living expenses. Some students already have a family, and thus they cannot crash at a flophouse.

It likely depends on who you talk to. We probably don't have a long enough of a history for most, but eventually housing is something we'd like to have a fund for ourselves.

Let's say I make $60k a year now in an unrelated field and I join your school, but after graduating, I was unable to find a job in software.

Would I still be on the hook to pay you 17% of my income despite not landing a programming job?

No, you'd never pay us a dime.

> We train people to become software engineers, and we charge nothing until a student gets a software job that pays more than $50k/yr. At that point we take 17% of income for two years (capped at a maximum of $30k total).

This is similar to how all university tuition fees in the UK work, with slightly different numbers. A very sensible solution to the astronomical cost of education, provided people want to get jobs.

In the current UK scheme you pay 9% of the amount you earn over £21,000, or nothing while you earn less than that. Debt written off after something like 25 years if unpaid.

This is great!

I've trained 3 people to code using a similar meta-course I built. It's more of an apprenticeship scheme (they work for me once they get good enough). https://github.com/z-dev/learn-programming

From that experience I think this idea could do well. I think no-win-no-fee education like this will be popular. I also think that a scheme like this could do a lot of social good and help people who might not want to go to University.

Good luck :)

This is definitely one of the more interesting ideas/launches that I've seen on HN recently, congrats! I'll definitely be following you guys to see what you get up to.


Not getting a job is one risk. Loosing the interest in CS is another.

I know a fellow who was very much "into computers," decided to become a programmer, signed up for the (offline) classes and then had massive troubles trying to understand how a do-while construct works. He was in mid-20s back when it happened, spoke 3 languages and had a day job as a nurse. He did finish the course, got his grades, but ultimatley lost all the interest and never got into IT.

Can you fail out of this program? If not, the degree is worthless. If so, the program wastes all the money it spent educating you.

The incentives at play here seem a bit out of whack...

Of course you can fail out. We have to build that into our risk model.

Computer Science and Computer Engineering are two different things and the proposed curriculum cover none of these completely. The term CS education therefor is misleading. I would suggest "Introduction to Computer Engineering".

> "At that point we take 17% of income for two years"

This is insane for too many reasons. What happens when the applicant change jobs, goes abroad, gets fired, quits, creates her own company?

This isn't new. And with schools like this, they say "good job" or tech job, but they mean "any job" (that pays over 50k). I've had friends screwed by this before.

If you can't get hired because you went to a "dev bootcamp" or just aren't good enough with code after spending all that time in school, they'll come after your for that car mechanic pay check.

That's simply not true

I was referring to the part about us taking a percentage if you're not working as an engineer. Of course there are other schools that use income share agreements.

Afaik App Academy only collects for software engineering jobs.

What are the differences between this and Make School?

A lot of things.

We're online-only, focus on CS not building apps, 6 months long (vs 2 yrs), a bit less expensive, and generally speaking target different markets.

I don't have anything bad to say about Make School. Have never met them, but they seem like they're doing a fine job!

Hey Austen - we should meet!

We have a 4 term sequence of CS courses that cover most if not all the topics listed on your curriculum page. These topics are also touched upon and put to practice in our mobile, web, and to some extent our data science courses.

It's only our Summer Academy which caters to students enrolled at others schools on summer vacation which focuses on app or VR development.

Cool. Ya we should meet sometime.

What if the student decides to use those skills to create their own startup, instead of getting a regular job? How would you get paid?

We still take a percentage of income. So we'll be rooting for you!

App Academy has the same business model in SF and NY. I went there along with thousands of others. Cool that this is online though.

Im 32 and have 4 kids. I would love to excel at this program and reach high coding experience. I really am struggling economicly.


Wish I could. I work full time at 12 bucks per hr as a pipefitter helper. I so wish we had basic income or some kind of help so I could do thid. There is nothing more in this planet I want most is to be a computer scientist.

What's the application criteria like? I notice that the current students listed in the website all have some sort of technical/reputable background (one even had an MS in Computer Science already!) Does this mean that the computer science course is not for complete beginners?

I also noticed a mini web dev bootcamp, when will this be launched?

Thanks :)

The application criteria is pretty much that we can only accept n% of students (currently it's a little less than 3%), so those are the most "credentialed" students, but probably not representative.

It's vague, but what we really look for is dedication and a love for programming itself (as opposed to wanting to make more money), which exhibits itself in a variety of ways.

We hope to move to a model soon where as long as you complete code challenge x, you're enrolled, but we're not there.

What happens if I complete the curriculum and then decide to seek employment in a different field? Do I still pay?

Do you take older people >50 years old with zero programming experience? I want to forward this to someone.


That's cool, but isn't there an inherent ageism in the industry that would prevent someone of that vintage from getting a job? Especially without a broad resume..

I'm all for the idea of older folk getting tech jobs (I'd like to be one myself, someday), but it seems like a larger risk on your part.

There may be some ageism, but there are enough employers that don't care that we're more than OK to take that risk.

Any potential for time changes in the future? I'm on EST and being in a class M-F 12p-9p is a bit harsh.

We're always trying to figure that out, but it's the time that (barely) works for all parties

Do you plan on accepting students from outside the US, and if so how does that change your model?

We will open in the EU and Canada soon.

Hm... EU, Great Britain is still in the EU, but will not be soon; are you going to accept from there?

It's too bad this is US only.

CC: Treehouse Seems equivalent to their "tech degree" which costs $199/mo

Well, self-paced options typically have very low graduation rates. It's hard to compare a self-paced online course to something that's live, full-time and >40 hours a week with instructors, TAs, etc.

So basically it's a student loan with a friendly debt collection policy?

I don't know of a student loan that disappears if you don't get a job that pays more than $50,000/yr

Now you do.


Great idea. Great business model. I think the issue will be for the engineers who graduate to get over the bias that software companies have today over hiring from a code bootcamp/code school.

Yeah, we hope to be the antidote to that and create our own brand.

Brilliant, I've long thought that all universities should run under this model (although when applied to the humanities I can hear in my head the 3000 years of the land owning, non-laboring intelligentsia protesting about the noble virtues of an education uncorrupted by the banalities of productive yada yada...) But anyway back to CS.

1) Risk is pooled in the institution rather than distributed amongst the students, which is the textbook way to deal with uncorrelated risk.

2) The incentive of the university and the student are aligned as much as possible

3) By putting costs and benefits into a form with equal time horizons, disadvantaged students no longer need to rely on the generosity of governments or private lenders for upfront cash.

The only thing I'd always questioned was whether such a scheme as described above could pass legal muster, as it bears a resemblance to involuntary servitude, as well as requiring access to income statements. I've never heard of anyone but the govt placing liens on income. I'm hoping a workaround has been found, because from a strictly incentive based analogy, this model has the potential to do to modern education what patent law did to manufacturing

>I've long thought that all universities should run under this model

I did too, until I though about it a bit more. You'd end up with Universities cutting all of their "non-profitable" majors, but those things still have some value to society.

Perhaps a hybrid model, where the "profitable" majors are free but you pay afterwards, and the unprofitable ones you pay up front.

Sure, I'd be good with that. I also think that if there are some things that are non-profitable but still valuable to society (and no doubt, there are), then the problem is really that the agent isn't capturing enough of the value they are creating for society, and society ought to find an incentive mechanism that changes that. But since we live in a practical world and that is an impractical demand, I agree a hybrid model would be beneficial

> Sure, I'd be good with that. I also think that if there are some things that are non-profitable but still valuable to society (and no doubt, there are), then the problem is really that the agent isn't capturing enough of the value they are creating for society

more likely (and IMO obviously, when you make this more concrete), educational institutions are overproducing the unprofitable degrees.

for instance, if some degree X is "unprofitable", do we really need to produce new PhDs in it at well above the replacement rate + population growth? that'd be maybe a handful of new PhDs per professor's _lifetime_. then maybe enough undergrads to ensure there's some competition for the PhD pipeline, and that should be about it.

Well, that's the problem with the status quo, that wouldn't be the problem if universities switched to an income sharing strategy as proposed. I was assuming we were talking about "unprofitable"-but-valuable majors in a world in which income sharing has been implemented

>Brilliant, I've long thought that all universities should run under this model

I strongly disagree. Let universities be universities. The point of a university is to develop your mind, not train for a job. There's no reason we cannot have a parallel vocational system which teaches people practical skills. Let the market decide which one better serves students.

> The point of a university is to develop your mind, not train for a job.

I think that's true in practice, but not in most university's marketing, or even the general cultural/social attitude towards going to university, which is in general viewed as the surest path to the best job.

> Let the market decide which one better serves students.

Most universities exist outside of the market in how they receive funding etc.

If that's what universities are, that's fine, but I'd argue that's not why the vast majority of students attend a University.

Completely agreed. The US needs a robust vocational system a la Germany to fill in the gaps.

Amen :)

> The only thing I'd always questioned was whether such a scheme as described above could pass legal muster

Income share agreements are all-but blessed, at least in the US, and in Australia they pretty closely mirror how most student loans work.

> It bears a resemblance to involuntary servitude

The concerns of indentured servitude go away when you realize each student can live or work or do whatever they'd like, they willingly enter into the agreement, etc. We obviously want them to get a high-paying job, and it's in both of our best interests for them to do so.

Awesome, that's great to hear. And I completely agree with your last paragraph, my concern (without knowing the relevant laws) was always just what a judge would hear. Really glad to see someone doing this

>it bears a resemblance to involuntary servitude

Surely this is a typo, you mean voluntary servitude? But even so, if 17% can be considered servitude, then income tax would be involuntary servitude.

What did patent law do to manufacturing?

I applaud that you aren’t charging a base tuition in addition to your income-based repayment. 30k for a useful education, job placement assistance, and community is worth it.

How will you prevent this from becoming predatory as pressure for improving the bottom line mounts?

It feels like a very fine line between altruism and taking advantage of ignorance.

I'm not sure how to answer that question; if you are giving people a job it's hard to be too predatory so long as you charge reasonable rates. We simply try to be honest and fair up-front.

> so long as you charge reasonable rates. We simply try to be honest and fair up-front.

And what is your plan to prevent you from changing your terms later?

You sign an agreement.

How exactly is this taking advantage of anybody?

The exact terms aren't disclosed, and what is disclosed is too open ended.

This is what I could get from their website.


> Attending Lambda School is completely free up-front, and students pay back a portion of their income after they find a high-paying job.

> If, for some reason, a student is unable to find a job with a salary above the set threshold, they are not required to pay anything. The total amount of repayment is also capped at a pre-determined maximum amount.

How long is the statute of limitations before I no longer have to pay?

What if I am unable to get a job, and then later do a paid-for program that does land a job?

What if I get a job as in QA, Program/Product Management?

What will stop you from changing your terms mid-course and require me to accept new terms before finishing?

If you email we can send you a link to the whole agreement. We don't post links to it publicly for a few reasons.

You sign an agreement at the beginning of the course, so we can't change terms on you.

Austen, this is going a bit meta but why launch at ~4pm Eastern time instead of 8am? The post has done pretty well anyway - glad to see you hitting the big-time!

When you launch in YC you do so in coordination with the HN team. WE weren't scheduled for today, but another company was unresponsive so we stole the (late) spot.

I really hope this model ends up growing beyond CS and into other fields as well. The traditional 4 year university model could definitely use the competition.

We're launching other programs soon, starting with AI/Machine Learning, bioinformatics, and data science.

We plan on becoming a full blown university at some point.

Awesome, I'd love to be running something like this IRL with room and board like another commenter mentioned. Will settle for being a hiring partner :)

Room and board is something we're working on.

I remember the Functional Programming course you guys taught. Any chance of putting that course in the "Free Course Archives" :)

Sure :)

Love the concept! What about the people who want to freelance after the program? What will be the fees for them?

The same! It's income-based regardless of where you work.

Is the content your teaching currently openly available or are there plans to make it available in the future?

We have no immediate plans to do that, but honestly finding content isn't the hard part of learning for most people; there are some pretty great resources out there for free.

Well I applied. Hope I get in.

Any idea what the acceptance rate is like?

What sort of time frame will you hear back if you got accepted or not?


You'll hear back within a couple weeks.

I need the education but I already have a job. Two years ago, I would have jumped into this feet first.

Do you accept or plan on accepting international students?

Working on it. It comes with a lot of complications.

Who are the founders?

Hmm kudos. I’ll have to look into this.

Looking for any instructors/TAs?

Yes. careers@lambdaschool.com

Applications are open for YC Winter 2021

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