Parents – It’s Time to Expand How We Talk to Our Kids About Education

The day after Labor Day is the traditional back-to-school moment for families all over the country, a time to reflect and set goals for the academic year ahead.

And as a father of two, this time of year has me thinking how as parents, we need to update the advice we give our children when it comes to the choices they have for their education and futures.

Lambda School co-founder Austen Allred with his daughter. (via Twitter)

When I was growing up the message on this was clear: the path to professional and life success was a four-year traditional university degree. I tried it - but it wasn't the right option for me, and after a couple of semesters, I left.

As parents all over the country look to help their kids in the school year ahead, let's also remember to help them recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all path to higher education.

This means talking to them about options that go beyond a four years on campus experience. Trade schools, two-year colleges and new educational learning models like Lambda School need to play a much larger role in our family conversations.

Lambda School (which I co-founded) was designed specifically to provide another, more accessible and direct path to a successful future. It's one that reflects the needs of the current hiring market and doesn't require astronomical upfront tuition fees.

It's online (so accessible from anywhere); the curriculum and teaching format are live and interactive. Unlike the traditional lecture-and-listen model, students at Lambda School work alongside instructors and peers immersed in the material. The hands-on experience (over 1500 hours of coding) replicates the projects and team building experiences that they will find at their next jobs.

And to hold ourselves accountable, and de-risk education for students and their families, we build a business model which depends entirely on our ability to help them meet their goals.

At Lambda School, students can either pay $20,000 in tuition up-front or opt to pay zero initially and instead, use an Income Share Agreement or ISA, which means they only pay tuition once they have a job.

All ISA's are different. But with a Lambda School ISA students only pay 17% of their salary for two years (capped at $30,000) and only when:

  1. They have a role in their field of study, and
  2. That role pays a minimum income of $50,000 annually.

And if a student doesn't find a well-paying job within five years, he or she owes nothing to Lambda.

This makes our business goals and the student's goals from our program the same: mastery of the skills employers seek, and then getting connected to, landing, and thriving in a job based on those skills.

With the ISA nothing is owed unless our students secure and stay in the high paying tech jobs that they were looking for.

And so we designed our entire 360 curriculum around that goal.

We provide our students with an educational program that emphasizes skills mastery, contextual learning, and hands-on experience; we provide a network and community that helps students get interviews, arrange for industry mentors, provide coaching and career support services that teach everything from resume writing and cross-cultural communication, to negotiating job offers and setting up a bank account.

Education has always been the path to economic mobility, but the growing cost of it and the disconnect between what is being taught and what employers are looking for has led to talent being wasted and underused.

Currently, people as young as 17 accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get an education, and at $1.6 trillion, student debt is the second-highest consumer debt category, behind only mortgage debt.

The traditional university experience is right for some, but it also comes with real risks that need to be better acknowledged and communicated to parents and students.

And while ultimately every child and person must find her own path, as parents the best we can do is know what's right for our kids and express risk involved in their choices, and support them in whatever they end up doing.

At Lambda School, we're building a future where education is risk-free and accessible to all. I hope you'll talk to your children and families about attending.

Sincerely,

Austen Allred, CEO of Lambda School

Twitter: @Austen

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