New career college advances debt-free model for students

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new for-profit career college has opened in San Francisco with a twist- the students won't pay any tuition unless they get a job earning at least $50,000 annually once they graduate.

Career colleges received a bad rap several years ago for leaving their graduates with huge debt with few job prospects. This model could reduce that risk substantially.

A student's face lit up at that light bulb moment.

Classmates at San Francisco's MissionU will be the first graduates from the one year program preparing students to be data analysts.

Lydia Thornton worked in retail sales before enrolling. "They're exposing us to so many different concepts and facets of the tech industry," she said.

High tech companies told MissionU they were in desperate need of more data scientists.

Thumbtack is one of those companies

"There's a shortage here in the Bay Area," said Nikki Pechet of Thumbtack. "There's a shortage elsewhere. There's been an enormous explosion of data and we've got to train people to keep up with it. "

The technology company is one of many which advised MissionU on its curriculum.

These companies have also committed to giving these students internships.

In exchange, the companies get first access to the students when they complete the program.

Adam Braun co-founded MissionU.

"The first thing we put in place was a commitment to our students that MissionU would not be successful unless they were. "

Students won't have to pay for their classes until they earn 50,000 annually.

The tuition will be 15 percent of their earnings for three years with a cap at $45,000

The job web site Glassdoor says the medium salary for a data analyst in San Francisco is $91,000.

Students will not earn a degree and the school is not yet accredited.

"It doesn't bother me at all because I'm getting more experience than a lot of accredited universities will get me," said Lydia.

Accreditation could come later. The emphasis for Mission U right now is giving students the needed skills. Thumbtack agrees.

"We look at hiring for skills," said Pechet. "We look at the job that needs to be done. We look at the skills that are required for that job."

Thumbtack also believes hires who don't have the stress of college loans make better employees.

Braun says he learned from real life experience the tremendous toll of being saddled with student loans.

"When I met my wife, she was in six figures of student debt and I saw the crushing burden that that could put on someone's life," Braun remembers

Mission U plans to expand to other cities in the coming year and says its curriculum could expand as well.

Produced by Randall Yip
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