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Lambda School (YC S17) now pays eligible students $2k/month (lambdaschool.com)
298 points by austenallred on March 12, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 191 comments

Hey, co-founder of Lambda School here.

We launched our online CS academy with no upfront tuition almost two years ago.

Now with thousands of students enrolled and hundreds already employed and paying back we wanted to take the next step and open up access to folks who couldn’t afford to pay to survive while attending.

Of course, that introduces significant risk on our part, as students still only pay us back if they get a job paying $50k/yr or more, but we’ve spent the last two years perfecting our admissions and course to select hard-working folks who are likely to have what it takes to get hired and do everything we can to get them there.

For context, we have dozens of full-time interview sourcers and multiple companies per day coming in to interview our students - incentive alignment is powerful. Now that that’s working we can afford to take more risk.

We’re hoping we reach a point where anyone anywhere can move quickly to a high paying job, and only pay back if it works!

Are you thinking of expanding into programs outside of web development?

As a cyber security engineer I think that this is something that would really help get more people into the industry. And there just isnt enough universities that have programs. My Alma Mater is going to be starting one soon but... Looking at the class list I cant help but feel like the 4 years are wasted and a more concentrated program would yield better results.

Yes, cyber security will be our next track. We also have a UX design track, as well as data science, iOS development and android development.

Thats really cool to hear! I'd be interested in what you guys end up commiting to teaching for it.

This is very interesting, and I'm curious about the nature of the risk that you're taking on.

It seems like risk would only become a factor for Lambda School if you're taking 10% of pre-tax income from graduates for the 5 chronological years immediately after they graduate (regardless of employment status).

If you're instead taking 10% of pre-tax income from graduates for the next 5 years in which they're working (non-chronological), then the risk on your side actually seems fairly low, since most software jobs in the US pay >50k a year.

If you're taking 10% of pre-tax income from folks for the next 5 years in which they're employed AND making >50k, then the risk for Lambda School is basically zero. I believe this scenario is what is actually happening.

If the final scenario I laid out is what is happening, then this seems very close to traditional debt (take a loan out for living expenses + tuition, then repay a much larger amount down the line).

> then the risk to Lambda School is practically zero

If only!

We only get paid if a student is making $50k/yr or more and the agreement is time-bound (10 yrs).

A student may teach those levels of salary without our involvement, but when our possible downside is $18k + the cost of training and our potential upside is somewhere between $0 and $50k any level of default or non-hiring destroys returns immediately.

If you're only getting repaid when someone is employed and making over 50k, which seems to be the case from your website ("Upon completion of the program, students will pay 10% of their [pre-tax] salary for a five year period once they're making at least $50,000 per year"), then the "repayment floor" for Lambda school is 25k (with probably a close-to-50k "repayment average").

I'm assuming that if someone loses a job, and later regains one, then payments pause while they're unemployed, but don't count for "repayment time", due to an article I read -- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/business/dealbook/educati....

How I think it works is that once someone graduates, they have 5 years of "repayment time debt". Once they get a job that pays >50k, the "repayment time debt" starts ticking down. If they lose their job, or start making <50k, then their "repayment time debt" stops ticking down, and will resume when they next get a job.

Even with a 10-year cap, this seems very close to traditional debt. It seems likely that software engineers will make more than 50k for 5 out of 10 years.

The repayment floor is $0.

You’re assuming that everyone will quickly start making over $50k, which isn’t the case. Given that we outlay ~$30k in stipends and training and the cost of that capital is non trivial there’s no way a loan term would come close to this.

"Rates for PLUS loans, which are for graduate students and parents, rose to 7.60%" [1]

7.6% interest for 5 years on a $30k loan is $43,269.57.

However that is: - a government loan where default rates don't directly drive the interest rates - effectively subsidized by the govt

In your situation you must have much higher costs of capital from capital markets than the government's t-bill rates of 2.5% [2]. Especially given that your product is effectively equivalent to a unsecured loan in the eyes of wall street.

Then compound that some percentage of students don't make the $50k income requirement in the first year or two after the program and others who are even further delayed. We can equate this to a traditional default rate except the are no negative consequences to your student for delaying (in comparison to traditional default which hurts their credit), all the while your cost of that original capital keeps growing.

Given that your upper bound repayment is 50k and most students won't make more then $100k their first couple years out, then that is an effective interest rate of 11% if the 50k is paid over 5 years.

All in, you guys have a tricky problem. That is unless you can get as good as Sofi at picking which people to finance, i.e. Those that will immediately many >100k and with a quicky increasing salary. But Sofi has it easier bc they just cherrypick all the Stanford MBA grads who already have high paying jobs and first refinance their Debt. You on the other hand have to forecast accurately who will be successful.

Total capital cost isn't that much though. 1k students at $30k is $30M. You can easily raise VC to cover that (actually already raised $48m [3]) and don't need traditional capital markets / wall street to prove the idea. Only when you begin to have 20k+ students would you need traditional debt facilities. Thus, isn't your cost of capital just giving the VC ownership in the company instead of a repayment cost of capital (for now at least)?

[1] https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/student-loans/student-...

[2] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/i...

[3] https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/lambda-school

This is laughable. As they scale, they will get 10-20% deadbeats that avoid paying, minimum.

They’ll probably sue them.

Love what you're doing. Think the model could work for other well paying jobs such as the medical field or legal?

Watch this space.

You would think medical jobs would have some kind of on-the-job training while they pay for your school

I think Lambda school is great, and applaud what you are doing. College needs some.seroous rethinking, so I applaud basically all the ideas we are trying.

I wonder what you make of the argument that most of what colleges/boot camps/etc are providing is largely just signaling, rather than education?

Obviously there is some education component, but I'm wondering how you think about the nature of the value you are providing.

I don’t think anyone believes in any sort of a “signal” from Lambda School yet. That’s something you can coast on after years of success.

This is amazing!

I'm curious, one of your student stories mentions a student who was immediately hired into a senior engineering role upon graduating. While I've heard great things about Lambda School and its students, that gives me pause. When companies hire new grads directly into senior roles, do you think that they're set up to succeed in those roles? I'm genuinely curious.

This isn't that surprising for someone that has a lot of experience in something like project management or academia and/or is very good at negotiating.

For instance the place I work just hired as a senior engineer a former math professor with a math PhD that hasn't written a line of production code in their life. If this person decided to go through a 9 month bootcamp before applying the outcome would have been the same.

He was a recent college dropout and bodybuilder, but yeah it’s not an absolutely absurd result.

I have to be honest, it sounds absolutely absurd. What kind of definition must a company be using for "senior" if they're willing to hire someone into that title with no prior professional experience? It's almost certainly title inflation.

Note this is not a comment about the quality of Lambda School. I've heard good things about it. But it's almost tautological that someone shouldn't be eligible for a "senior software engineer" title after they've graduated Lambda School, just as they shouldn't be eligible for it after they've graduated university. Such training is necessary but insufficient for being able to meet the level of responsibility you're given at that title.

That company has hired 20+ Lambda School grads, two hired as senior.

I believe you. But there is also significant title inflation at that specific company. There is no reasonable definition for "senior software engineer" which has qualifications that can be met from scratch in nine months. What are their "junior" engineers like? Do they have a title between junior and senior?

Like I said, this isn't a comment on the Lambda School. It's a comment on the idea that this occurrence isn't absurd, regardless of whether or not it's rare.

Different companies have different titles for similar roles, and share titles for people of vastly different quality and experience.

Senior Engineer is a relative title. It means more senior than the other engineers at that firm not other engineers at different firms. A senior engineer on the google android team is way more knowledgeable than the senior architect at a local coding shop where the average dev makes 40k/year and has a year of experience.

It is most likely that company simple has a HR policy regarding pay and positions. If you Senior if you earn > $X.

The "Senior" hires may have significant outside industry experience, even if they only have 9 months of programming experience.

The title is a paygrade in this case, not a level of experience.

It is ridiculous. At Uber they hired so many “seniors” that at some point they made two levels of “senior” and arbitrarily moved some folks to the “real” senior level.

You can imagine how well this went over.

Ya I don’t disagree that there’s title inflation, but yes they do in this instance differentiate.

Bodybuilder sounds like an odd thing to mention.

It’s rare that that happens. That particular student is now leading a team of 40, so he was well suited, but we tell most students to be at “try to go senior quickly” level (with regard to ability not necessarily title).


As someone a bit later in their career (4 years in), I'm a bit jealous of this opportunity. I'd be very curious in some kind of midlevel->senior program like this. Something like Bradfield but more widely available geographically. The content is more difficult at that level, but the salaries are substantially higher as well.

Coming soon.

> We launched our online CS academy with no upfront tuition almost two years ago

What about international students ? Can a Canadian apply to Lambda School ?

Ask me again in about two weeks :)

Who should ask you in two weeks? Internationals or Canadians specifically? Huge difference because the latter is for most intents and purposes, 'half American'. The Canadian case is super different from the rest of the outsiders. So some clarity would be nice.

Canadians should in two weeks. EU is live now (https://lambdaschool.com/eu), no firm plans elsewhere but working on it.

I'm planning my life around it already haha!

Any chance there may be also opportunities for Mexicans? The TN visa is the same used for Canadians.

It’s not a Visa thing we need to solve, we need to set up infrastructure (economic and legal) in each country.

But hopefully soon.

Hey, may I just say that I really appreciate what you are doing.

The biggest problem in education right now, IMO, is that incentives are not aligned. What happens with college is that students put themselves 100K+ in debt, but the college doesn't really care if the people get jobs in not.

It is an extremely upstanding and honest business model, to make is so the educational institution (you, in this case), only get paid if the students get paid.

I really hope that more educational institutions follow your example of taking on the risk of the students.

Incredible opportunity! If I wasn't familiar with Lambda School it would be hard to believe. I think that shows just how good of a deal it is.

- current Lambda Student

For people with their sights set on a FAANG type company, do you have a "grind leetcode" track?

Meaning a hyper-focus on data structures and algorithms to get you through the interview circuit?

We train students on that stuff but they’d really struggle in the long run if that were too much of a focus.

How do you collect the money? What's preventing a student from not paying you?

We get students’ tax returns to verify income and they sign a contract. What’s stopping them from not paying is the American contract law system which is severely underrated.

I suppose the contract obliges them to look for / accept a job after graduating? I mean, I'd be happy to take money to study for a while, but I wouldn't look for a job afterwards.

Looking for a job is built into the curriculum itself. Of course, you could just turn job offers down and never get paid a high salary, but most people aren’t optimizing like that.

Interesting, is the job market in the US so good that even new graduates without work experience can expect to find well-paying jobs? I'm in Australia, where things seem a bit different.

The good ones can with a lot of help. Weak ones or those that don’t know how to navigate a job search well struggle.

Our first cohort, for example, hit 100% employment.

All +$50k?

I’d have to look but I believe so yes


In major tech cities (NYC, Seattle, Silicon Valley) the starting salaries are over $100,000, plus $20-40,000 in Restricted Stock Units, and $20-40,000 in yearly bonus.

Importantly, RSUs from public companies are directly convertible to cash once they vest (usually 12 months). Startup options lottery tickets are a different story.

See http://comp.fyi

In software development and other IT fields, yes. In many other fields, not so much.

I hate to break it to you, but I don't think many people can afford to live without a paying job, and if they can, I doubt they're willing to exchange their time for $2k a month.

I don't think people not looking for a job is a problem you need to heavily consider. Especially if there's a selection process for admission -- which the founder says there is.

I cannot speak for Allred or Lambda School, but I suspect they, like all people and institutions, cannot solve all conceivable problems for everyone, anywhere, in every circumstance. But they are working to expand the range of possibilities and open up frontiers that were closed just a few years ago.

We also have a part-time program that's for people who need to keep their 9-5 job while going to school.

I suppose you can optimise by only taking candidates who can't survive without a job. There are certainly people who can, e.g., people who have partners with well-paying jobs, people from wealthy families, or people with investments. Some of them may still find an extra 2k/month attractive.

Edit: I my case, I'd find an extra 2k/month attractive, and there are always new things to learn about software.

Is there any concern about them sending fake tax returns?

The IRS copies us on their returns. So, no.

Same as any other IOU.

Awesome, and kudos for having real skin in the game. Hopefully it will be well executed and rewardful for everyone involved.

Any news on expanding yet beyond the EU and US? I'm in India and I would absolutely love this program.

We need a few more key hires in order to scale internationally, and hiring is what I work on all day every day. When we do it will be everywhere and fast.

We're single digit months away.

I think there would be huge demand for such a thing in india, especially in the coming years as the internet continues to reach the remotest (ones who would need this the most) corners of the country. Kudos to you!

This sounds amazing. Any chance this will be available for EU students in the future?

As quickly as we can go!

do you have C++/low-level programming track? and do you have to be on-site or remote is possible?

how do you guys make sure student pays back? What if student just goes MIA and never pays back?

While I am very happy for this but this will over the time out downward pressure on the developer wage.

Today, atleast in US it requires taking significant debt/risk to become a developer which keeps away the people who are risk averse.

I seriously suggest stopping this program otherwis there will be massive supply of developers resulting in huge wage drop.

The number of engineering openings is growing much faster than a single school can.

This is a far, far better deal than the one that I got for university (CS at a major US research institution, class of 2004), which involved a sticker price of about $140k, a work study assignment unjamming printers to justify ~$2k of wages per semester to cover (barely) the meal plan, and ~$X0k of non-dischargeable debt which started ticking the day I graduated, despite the fact that I was earning salaryman wages (~$30k) for the first 6 years of my career.

Lambda School is quite possibly the most impressive startup I'm presently aware of. They are going to hit tertiary education like a freight train.

The university system in the US is shocking. I studied CS in Germany. Paid no tuition (except for 150€ per semester for some fees and a free bus ticket for 6 months), received 550€ every month for 5 years from the state via a program that’s called BAföG, only had to pay back half of it and was like 9000€ total, because I paid everything back at once.

For the US, something like Lambda school seems to be a great alternative. For Europeans, it’s way too expensive at $30k max.

Maybe consider studying in Europe. Good universities, no mandatory meal plans or dorms, no tuition, comparatively low cost of living, great education. Language could be a barrier, but there are international universities afaik.

Edit: This isn’t to downplay Lambda School. I think it’s great to have alternatives to US universities. It’s just to give some perspective what education looks like in other countries and that the US university system is kind of insane.

> For the US, something like Lambda school seems to be a great alternative. For Europeans, it’s way too expensive at $30k max.

You should tell that to our rapidly growing number of German and European students :)

How long does this "pay 17% of your salary" apply? What if my first job pays less and then I switch jobs, or I get a raise that goes over the $50K but only after a couple years?

Maybe an explanation is: CS students usually don't get entry-level jobs that pay more than 50K EUR, often probably less. So maybe they hope that they never have to pay back. Or they don't care and are happy to have a good education after all.

I'm happy for you and the growth and maybe I missed something :)


TUITION OPTIONS - 0 up-front + 10% of salary for four years (£25k GBP / €27.5k EUR maximum total payment)

- £16k GBP or €18k EUR up-front + no income-based repayment

PAYMENT CAP £25k GBP / €27.5k EUR maximum

Thanks, but this doesn't answer the question on whether or not the four years start right after "graduation" or when I start my first job. So can I reduce my tuition by slacking around for a couple years?

The payback period begins when you get paid at a qualifying job, and pauses if your work does. (ie. Lose your job, or decide to move and takes a month or two to land new gig, etc)

The five year payment window clock starts on graduation. So if you don’t get a qualifying job within 5 years of finishing class, you pay nothing.

The EU has a lower salary threshold - €27,500 I think, though it isn't explicitly listed on the site (https://lambdaschool.com/eu/)

EDIT: Not sure if you were referring to US or EU, since you mixed around the $ and € sign a little!

I couldn’t agree more. The traditional education system is broken for training software engineers in my opinion. I thankfully dropped out my freshman year, but some of my classmates were literally not capable of using Git (branching & resolving merge conflicts) for their senior capstone projects. Given almost every company uses Git all day every day how is a $250k education helping prepare them for working in the real world?

I love that programs like Udacity (and likely Lambda School as well) teaches Git(hub) as a 101 level course and use traditional workflows to submit, critique, and grade code.

I do, however, still think traditional universities still have a place, especially when it comes to research. I’m referring to things like AI/ML.

Under no circumstances would I be happy if my degree program taught me how to use git.

I can’t think of a single skill more stupid to learn in university.

My degree came a lot cheaper than the modern ones but if I got a similar experience now as then I wouldn’t feel cheated.

My undergraduate provided opportunities to program lisps & assembly & write published articles on data structures & I literally went to the local state school.

Just because I like telling this story: My university taught me every sorting algorithm known to man (or at least it felt like it at the time). After graduating, I traveled for a bit in the UK and got a job at a travel tour company doing odd jobs. One day the finance department asked me to sort a room full of records. Normally it took them 2 weeks to do the work.

"Right! If there is one thing I know how to do, it's sorting", I though.

Finished the job in half a day (shell sort -- which sadly was the only one I could actually remember...) They thought I was a freaking genius :-) Who says you'll never use this stuff?

That is a great story.

How many times have you told it? :)

At least 3 times on HN :-)

Harvard now teaches git fundamentals in their intro CS classes. It adds like 15min of work and in most cases you’re expected to do it on your own, but you don’t graduate without some git basics under your belt.

The idea that universities should only teach theory is preposterous. While Bolonia or Harvard or Oxford might not have been founded on the idea of helping students find jobs, that’s an implicit - and legitimate - expectation since the mid 20th century.

It’d be criminal for unis to drop out students into the real world without any knowldge of git. Hell, it’s also widely used in academia, so if you teach students “research techniques”, you might as well teach them git.

Just to show my age a little the equivalent sentence when I did my degree would be “it would be criminal for schools to drop students out without knowing clearcase”.

I’ve used at least 8 source control systems in my career. Knowing them have not been long term beneficial. Especially in comparison to the other things I did learn.

The concerning aspect of not knowing how to use git is that you're not working on any projects with other people, which is a fundamental aspect of being a capable and talented software engineer.

Colleges would argue turning you into a software engineer isn't their role, which is fine, but I'd argue that is the goal of the vast majority of CS students, so there's a mismatch.

> I can’t think of a single skill more stupid to learn in university.

I can (for an aspiring software engineer) - real analysis, differential equations, number theory

What CS curriculum includes number theory?

University of Texas at Austin. Their cs department is(or at least was) heavily influenced by Dijkstra so it was extra heavy on the theory(especially math) and extra light on the software engineering. By the end I was pretty good at proofs and dog shit at development.

I don't see it listed there; I do see mandatory Calc 2-3 and linear algebra (the linear algebra is useful!).

This was a decade ago and looking at the curriculum now it seems like they emphasize discrete mathematics less or I accidentally took way more discrete math and logic than I needed to.

And yeah linear algebra is definitely something I wish I got more out of. In college I did enough to get a good grade but not nearly enough to grok it. I'm hoping to take fast.ais course on it some day to rectify that mistake.

I'll be the 999th person to recommend the OCW Strang lectures on Youtube as a good intro, as well.

That would be a waste of time to teach. It takes maybe a few hours to learn almost everything there is to know about branching or merge conflicts. You should learn the hard things in school, not the minutiae or trivia you would learn in your first month of any job.

When I was in school I'm glad I went out of my way to take all the math-heavy and theoretical classes I could, and no classes like "modern web design" or "software engineering project". Learning basic programming is trivial and something I literally get paid to do (so long as I learn at a decent rate) while all the knowledge I have about math and theory is a lot harder to learn outside of an academic setting and is a force multiplier on most things I do for work.

> That would be a waste of time to teach. It takes maybe a few hours to learn almost everything there is to know

You are thinking about this wrong.

If it is so easy and quick to teach people how to use git, then why aren't colleges doing it!?!?

Learning how to use common software engineer tools is a low effort, high reward situation. All they have to do is spend a day on it, and they have now made their students significantly more valuable.

Educational institutions that do not even bother to spend such a small amount of time, in order to make their students much more valuable, are making a huge mistake.

> Educational institutions that do not even bother to spend such a small amount of time

I can confirm that there are theory-focused professors at a particular state university that don't understand version control or have any experience with it. It's not that they don't see any value in it, they just don't have any experience with it to pass on to students.

Or any software engineering experience for that matter. One professor was blown away when I showed him you could change change the query parameters of his custom submittance application to see other student's submitted work.

> If it is so easy and quick to teach people how to use git, then why aren't colleges doing it!??!

Some of them actually do.

What are you doing professionally that your math heavy and theoretical classes are a force multiplier and what classes were they?

Data science (although I do a lot less of that now, I still work exclusively with data). And taking lots of general AI/math classes outside of just ML also generally taught me better problem solving strategies. You would be surprised how often planning, constraint satisfaction, optimization, graph theory etc. come up in every day life. And the upper level algorithms classes I think also improved my problem solving creativity. Compilers and (intro level) theory of computation were pretty useful too.

I'm a current student at Lambda School going part time. So this is pretty biased:

I've been enrolled for about 6 months. I've had previous programming experience so I feel I've had a leg up. But had no idea how to use the skills or build anything. I've never felt this confident with what I've learned in my life. Period. Everyone I've interacted with is genuine, welcoming, and gives me the impression they want me to succeed. I'm truly grateful to be able to be enrolled and I look forward to working to be able to pay back the school the value they've imparted in me.

Thank you Austen and everyone from Lambda School!

While I think what Lambda School does seems pretty great I have to wonder what will happen when the next recession hits. If their new grads aren't getting hired, they can't afford to pay for their current class. It feels like something that is only possible right now because of bubble economics and cheap VC capital.

We have to prepare pretty seriously for a recession - recessions are when school enrollment explodes because job opportunities dry up.

I can’t go into all the details publicly, but it’s something we have to take serious consideration to prepare for.

@austenallred What's the catch? Lambda School has always struck me as scam like with a very vocal CEO and over promises.

What happens when regulators start cracking down on these practices and what makes you think Lambda will be successful when most bootcamps have failed or been acquired.

The catch is that you have to pay us back if it works.

What makes Lambda School different than other code schools is a few things:

1. Our incentives are entirely aligned with the student. We don’t get paid unless they get hired so juicing revenue numbers with weak students just isn’t interesting, in fact it’s fatal.

2. We put an insane amount of time, money, effort and energy into instructional design. Lambda School is nine months long, and includes a computer science curriculum most bootcamp grads need (and lack).

Regulators love us - they’re sick of for profit schools promising a lot and delivering little except debt. We’re the antidote to that. That’s why there’s so much hype.

I agree that Lambda School sounds too good to be true, but once you start looking they've got real answers for just about everything. I'm a high school teacher, and after watching students struggle with decisions about what to do after high school, I love what I'm seeing with Lambda School.

What do you think regulators need to address at Lambda School?

I guess “seems too good to be true” is an OK marketing problem for us to have.

If you’d like you can attend classes on a trial basis and check it out!

What exactly is your admissions criteria for someone to get accepted to LS?

How big of a problem is that for your student-to-job conversion rate when the criteria has to become less stringent to scale?

We look mostly at how well they do on our pre course work, how hard they work and how quickly they can climb steep programming learning curves.

We’re seeing over 1,000 applications/week. Top of funnel is not our issue.

Appreciate the response!

First part: Makes perfect sense

Second part: How do you assess this beyond prior school/work history or how quickly they finish the prep course? I could see it being much more difficult to assess with older students/parents/people who struggled in school etc.

Third part: As a non-programmer, any examples of one of these steep curves?

I wasn't meaning to imply the demand isn't there, was just trying to picture LS at scale in 3-5 years (say 25k-100K students a year). Do you think that 75%+ placement is possible at scale -- I'd assume abandonment/failing students etc would increase greatly similar to other "open enrollment" coding bootcamps.

Regardless, it clearly is a +EV decision for any student who is able to get in. Congrats on creating a great product.

At 100k students/yr we won't be all software engineering and we won't be only in the United States

Can I ask (as a 39yr-old who's looked at your school as a route to facilitate a career change) whether you filter by age?

Only by 18+.

We helped a 45-year-old get hired recently!

What are your issues then?

We don't have any "issues" in the sense of things that will kill us immediately, with the possible exception of an out of the blue regulation, so I try to spend time on Capitol Hill from time to time to make sure they know the good we're doing.

But really it's just that things take time. Two years ago we didn't exist. Now we have over 1,000 concurrent students, 60+ full-time employees, and 120+ contract technical mentors. And mostly we think about product and how to make everything better as quickly as we can.

We want to continue improving everything as we 10x the number of students and open up opportunities to more people, all while improving our outcomes (https://lambdaschool.com/outcomes). It's just hard to do.

My guess is as the number of participants goes up, the quality of the student will decline and many will never get to payback employment levels. But it just has to work enough to make good margin.

Right now they can cherry pick the most promising. And learning something is different than doing it as a career. I personally know 2 bootcamp (not Lambda) grads who subsequently left software altogether since it wasn’t as much fun as they thought. Learning new stuff in a fun, hip, environment is great! Debugging some 5 year old production code while the customer is howling on Christmas Eve...not so much.

Overall though I’m a fan of non-traditional education so I think there is a place for this. I am also an employer and am in favor of increasing talent supply and reducing wage pressures.

I know there are sharks in every industry, but is it a bit odd that this is a company offering free tuition unless you succeed, and draws this comment, while a typical college that charges up front and offers little help finding employment has only recently started to get a little pushback?

The major universities in my city all advertise in really over-the-top, emotive, glowing language.

If regulators do this it will be to protect a crooked accreditation monopoly from their well-deserved demise.

RE: Those interviewing at Lambda (rejected)

Luck of the draw with who decides to interview you, I had a guy from the admissions team with zero enthusiasm essentially just reading off of a list of questions. I tried to answer well but giving off good energy from a dead duck is hard. I also was more practical with my answers of wanting to get into coding, jump in profession, curious, experience as a BA, writing technical docs and general data analysis. Each response by the interview was simply: "hmmm ok." Rejected around ten minutes after my TEN minute call. PS tell them you love coding, live and breathe it, etc.

Hey there -- this isn't right, and I'd love to know more about what happened. Do you mind emailing me with more details? I'm tommy@lambdaschool.com

huh, didn't know there was another collison brother. you guys are like the weasleys.

Yes, the third brother isn’t quite as successful as the other two, who are brilliant. He works at a payments company in San Francisco.

This is standard tech recruiting even outside of Lambda

If it were an HR screening I would agree but I think there is some responsibility on the interviewer to remain engaged.

While this program could be useful to many students, it's a loan program.

> Upon completion of the program, students will pay 10% of their salary for a five year period once they're making at least $50,000 per year. The max possible payment is capped at $50,000.

It’s an income share agreement, which is quite different than a loan, and you only repay if you get hired making $50k 94 more. And it’s also a school that’s run quite differently than other schools out there. We have to do everything differently from first principles to make this work.

If your point is “the $2,000 isn’t free” then yes you’re 100% correct.

That brings to mind the literal classical lawyer joke/logic exercise Paradox of the Court. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_the_Court Paradox of the Court.

I suspect the $2k could suffer from a free-rider problem from those who never intend to acquire such a job - especially in low cost of living areas with few jobs but unwilling or unable to relocate. Ideally it wouldn't make sense to do so.

10% of a $50k net salary is far less than my student loan payments would be out of that same net salary.

Just a heads up. Your site website navbar header is pretty hard to read (desktop, chrome, on mac). Here's a screenshot of what it looks like for me. The links are blending into the background.


Thanks, you’re 100% correct. Currently working on a redesign.

Maybe worth doing a quick hotfix until the redesign is pushed?

Ya the hacky way is to use a new image with a dark background, will have it up soon.

Fix pushed, will deploy momentarily

I love how responsive members of this community are

I mean the cofounder himself made the post, this is essentially a targeted post on HN

Good response time nonetheless. Sam Altman recently did an interview where Tyler Cowan asked, "How quickly should someone answer your email to count as quick and decisive?"

Sam's answer: "You know, years ago I wrote a little program to look at this, like how quickly our best founders — the founders that run billion-plus companies — answer my emails versus our bad founders. I don’t remember the exact data, but it was mind-blowingly different. It was a difference of minutes versus days on average response times."

It is an interesting system.

I did a "full time" 3 month long more "traditional" structured boot camp. I really wish it had been longer and that they.... filtered .... students as it went.

Do you mean the teacher's effectiveness would be improved if slow learners were cut from the class?

I wouldn't say slow learners are typically the problem. From my experience in teaching it's the students with lazy habits that tend to break down the professors' effectiveness. People that refuse to "learn how to learn" and expect everything to be googled for them can be difficult to filter for during the interview process and really cause a drag on the class as a whole.

> teaching it's the students with lazy habits

I think that's very much a thing. I do think that some folks ... just can't beyond that, but I agree lazy habits are the worst and frustrating.

I put in a TON of time outside class when I went to a bootcamp. I'd make progress and come back with a quick question for the instructor, and there would be a series of people with the same questions waiting to talk to the instructor who clearly did nothing since the last time they talked to the instructor and were asking the same question as the day before who are mildly perturbed the instructor doesn't just give them the answer...

A lot of the time I just gave up trying to talk to the instructor.

We use mastery based progression, so if you don’t fully grasp a unit you roll back, we assign you a new instructor/mentor, and you work on that week again.

Absolutely. Many students in my class were not going to get far / absolutely not going to be capable of working in the industry / struggling at even the basics .... and they eat up a ton of instructor time.

And just as bad they ate up a lot of my time on group projects. It's no fun working with people who aren't capable. I don't mean lesser skilled, there's always stuff for lesser skilled folks to do IMO. But if they can't do anything, not worth it.

Having said that, I was happy to help any fellow students when I was in class, but if it is clear they're not doing well / not getting the thing for the 8th time, I don't think it is worth anyone's time anymore, including the person not getting it.

I think there is a line between "slow" and "not gonna get it". I ran into a great deal of the "not gonna get it" and it burned a lot of my time / instructor time.

Also, to some extent "slow learner" and a bootcamp could be a mismatch from the start. I'm by no means "fast" but if i were slower the class maybe fundamentally wouldn't have been a good match for me. I did put in a lot of outside work to catch up at times, but that was on me.

Are there any bootcamps that filter/drop students?

I don't think it would make sense to do so from a business perspective unless they were concerned about elevating their post graduate placement rates. Most students pay upfront or on a monthly basis for bootcamps.

It would be a lot easier to just tighten your admissions process.

I don't know of any. I asked about it but obviously they don't like to talk about it so you never get a straight answer.

"Upon completion of the nine month program students will be required to pay 10% of their salary for 5 years."

Yes, that covers the price of tuition and repayment of the $18,000 Lambda School gives out in stipends, as well as cost of capital and risk (you only pay back if you’re making more than $50k/yr, otherwise you pay $0).

If I make $50,001, would I have to pay back the full 10%? Or is there some sort of gradient?

Yes, you’d pay $5k/yr.

In fact you might just want to ask for a raise to $55k and be net ahead because that’s not a great software engineering salary.

Being net ahead at $55K suggests the repayment is tax deductible. Is that the case?

No, that’s an oversimplification on my part to not complicate things, you’re right it would need to net higher.

How does taxes factor in with Lambda school? Are they taking pre or post tax income?

You pay on a percentage of pre-tax income.

Wowza. People are gambling on tax rates of every level?!

You may be able to deduct the payments as either an education expense or an unreimbursed job expense, but I haven't dug into the tax code to find out for sure. I'll be the LS people know though. :)

Unfortunately you can't deduct the payments. There is some potential legislation around that, but it hasn't been pushed through yet.

This is accurate.

Can you compare your model to Modern Labor, which also received a lot of attention for a similar premise recently?


Modern Labor’s founder used to be a finance partner of ours, and decided to do something similar to what we had been working on. Modern Labor is (and this is my biased opinion) focused on the finance part and on bringing cost down, less on building “the school.” We are mostly focused on building the best school there’s ever been, and finance is a necessary piece for us but not necessarily the driver.

Just different models!

Hey Lambda team. Congratulations on the ISA program and living stipend! I'm sorry for having so many questions. We have an ISA program as well and I found these to be the most important questions people have about coding bootcamp ISAs:

1. Do the payments begin if the new job is not in-field (not related to Software Engineering)?

2. Is there a grace period or deadline (depending on your point of view) before the payments begin? If so, how is the monthly payment amount calculated?

2. Is there a grace period in the event they stop working after the payments begin?

3. Do the ISA payments kick in if it's not a new job? In other words, if they continue working in a job that makes >=$50K/yr?

4. Are the requirements for participating in your ISA program similar to obtaining a loan? Good credit, no defaults, etc..

Sorry if I missed any of these answers in the announcement or terms. We have been offering an ISA program at our Houston and Atlanta based bootcamp for just over 6 months now and recently adjusted it based off feedback so that payments only kick in when the new job is in-field, includes a grace period, and must be a new job. However, we couldn't do much for the credit history requirements. An ISA is essentially a delayed loan and requires the same (if not stricter) credit history requirements. It's a good alternative to taking out a loan for some, but it's usually not a fallback if you can't get one.

Thanks Lambda team!

1. The language around what counts as in-field is in our ISA. It's more dependent on what skills you use in your job as opposed to your title. You can see a sample ISA we use at https://lambdaschool.com/faq/.

2. You pay nothing between when you finish the technical portion of the class and when you get a job, and after you start your job, there's a 30-day grace period.

2. The payments stop if you stop working. You can think of them as being 24 monthly repayments that will pause if you lose your job.

3. It does, but only after they finish the technical portion of the class, and they're using the skills they learned. We do look at things on a case-by-case basis.

4. Nope! We don't care about your credit score or your debt load. Things get tricky if you have a fraud conviction, but anything short of that won't impact our decision.

Hope this helps!

Wait, does #3 imply you enroll students who don't want to work as a programmer after graduating? i.e. a online marketer who wants to learn coding as a skill set.

I would assume these types would be filtered out during the admissions process.

Thanks for answering those - Sounds like a great program!

Austen: does your admissions process give any weight to outside referrals? I have a friend who would be an incredible fit for your program. I'm an engineer at a top company and I'm sure he could reach my level with some guidance, I just don't have time to give him that support myself.

It should.

Email me the details and I’ll pass on to the admissions team. austen@lambdaschool.com.

Austen, I was wondering if you would consider some online version of Lambda for regions where Lambda isn't there. I don't mean the academic part, but the hiring part. Sort of an evaluation of a student's skills to see if they are on par with those educated by Lambda Faculty. On the basis of those evaluations/tests/ projects , you can use your network to get those people jobs/ internships. For eg: I am from India. Currently in a 2nd tier college. Learning ML,NN, Data science and am doing Kaggle currently. But, college CGPA and college name is a major hindrance while getting internships. Am thinking of dropping out after 2nd year, because it's a huge waste of time.

Lambda School is entirely online; we don't have the infrastructure just just yet to go into India, but hopefully in coming months we'll open up.

Cool. Thanks. For me, the study materials , curriculum is not the hindrance. Being among like minded individuals, getting internships is the problem. If you think about it every education institution which develops into a brand has 1 key thing. Great, ambitious students and matching support. That's what I want. To be part of respectable group of individuals. Now, I know this might not fit the DNA of Lambda School, but, i think a new service where students submitted an application along with their work, projects and the site listed these students ( with very strict vetting to identify unique students, with their unique skillset mentioned) and partnered with companies for internships ONLY (no jobs )in the beginning. As the validation of the students skillset would start to take place in 1-2 years, the brand would gain recognition like Lambda. A small upfront application fee would be charged.

Looking forward to it!

Do check out schoolofacceleratedlearning.com. Might interest you. Mail me on raj@soal.io in case you're interested.

So if I'm reading this right, the normal LS program costs 17% of your salary, but this program pays you $2K/mo while you attend and then only charges 10% after? Of is it 10% on top of the 17%?

Either way, good on you guys for trying to do something that helps people that are disadvantaged. You guys should start a charity arm that people can donate to so that more people can get the stipend!

There is no 17% if you’re taking a living stipend.

It’s either:

1. No stipend, 17% for 2 yrs

2. Stipend, 10% for 5 yrs

They’re mutually exclusive.

And we do have a charity arm! https://lambdapaf.org

Excellent! Sounds like a fair deal.

Didn't know about the charity -- that's great! Is it a 503(c)? The website doesn't seem to have too much info about where the donation goes.

We have a fiscal sponsor if you want to send large donations, which would go to a 501c3 and be tax deductible.

The fund itself is a small nonprofit waiting on 501c3 approval.

Syllabuses are here, fyi: https://learn.lambdaschool.com

In the FAQ (https://lambdaschool.com/faq/) it says:

> We offer part time courses for some of our tracks. Part-time course hours are Monday-Thursday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 12 noon Pacific.

Are these times also for EU students?

Best would be a company that just takes on apprentices for $20/h. No debt.

Looks amazing. Just recommended it to a few of my friends who are considering moving into a career in technology. I hope this becomes a new model for education, both tech and non-tech.

Fantastic work. You and the other founders should be very proud of what you’re doing.

This is exactly what the world needs more of. I recommend this to anyone looking to switch careers.

Do you guys make any money on the recruiting end?

Not yet

I'm an experienced developer looking to dabble in some of the tracks you offer.

What's the best way to determine if this is a fit for me?

Email admissions@lambdaschool.com.

Admittedly we're mostly built for folks trying to break into tech right now, but will be modularizing and offering different segments in the near future.

I’d be really interested in filling in some gaps that I have.

I’m self-taught, but I definitely have some gaps in the algorithm side of things.

Can I ask how many students have a degree already? I'm not sure if its a University alternative or a capstone course.

It’s more a university alternative. About half have a degree of some kind, very few in CS.

I really hope you guys succeed. College is a dead model - this is life changing. At scale, it's world changing.

This is a great initiative! Thank you Lambda School. Will be following your progress closely.

Dang. This really is like a no brainier now. Keep rocking it!

This is fantastic work, I wish you guys all the best!

That's an interesting business model

This is US-only, I presume?


And the EU and U.K. Other countries coming soon, Canada in ~two weeks.

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