Nashville Opportunity Tuition

Oct 12, 2017
John Wark


We are rolling out a name change for what has been called the Nashville Tech Apprentice Tuition (or usually just “Apprentice Tuition”). This program has been an integral part of how we create opportunities to launch tech careers since our founding in 2012. The new name for the program is the Nashville Opportunity Tuition. It’s the same risk-sharing, joint investment plan; we just have a new name for the program as we prepare to move into 2018.

One of the big drivers for the name change is the fact that we are working with the Nashville Technology Council to roll out the recently announced ApprenTech Tennessee registered apprentice program. That program is due to be piloted during 2018 and we wanted to eliminate any confusion that might result from using the word apprentice in the name for our tuition program at the same time as a formal registered apprentice program, for which we are a training partner, was being rolled out. Hence, the new name - Opportunity Tuition - for our existing program.

There are no changes to the substance of the Opportunity Tuition program. This is still a program that helps satisfy several aspects of our non-profit mission. The Opportunity Tuition allows individuals in an economically disadvantaged situation to pursue the training required to effect a career change into a technology career. It also allows us to lower barriers to individuals from underrepresented groups such as women, African Americans and other people of color, and veterans relative to starting tech careers. And it helps us support Nashvillians who desire to launch new careers right here in Nashville vs. heading off to one of the coasts to get into tech.

The essence of the Opportunity Tuition is that both we and the student share the risk and co-invest in their career. Students selected for this program receive a $2400 scholarship and are only required to pay $1500 in tuition at the start of the program (“skin in the game money”). The remaining tuition balance of $8000 is carried on our books until such time as the student a) graduates from NSS and b) secures their first tech job post-graduation. If those two conditions are not met, i.e. if the student drops out of the program or if after graduation they do a diligent job search but after searching they are unable to secure a job in technology, we write off the $8000 in owed tuition.

This program gives us “skin in the game” as well - it helps ensure we are focused on selecting well, training in a way that makes graduates “job ready”, and preparing and connecting graduates into the local tech and employer community. We invest in the student’s training, we share the risk associated with their career transition into the tech world.

Assuming successful graduation and job search, we then get paid our $8000 of deferred tuition by some combination of the student (usually in a deferred payment plan stretching over some period of months) and the employer (possibly through a placement fee, possibly through tuition reimbursement to the graduate or directly to us). Given that our normal graduate is significantly increasing their income, even with a junior-level tech job, repayment tied to starting a tech career ties payment to a point when students are much more easily able to afford it as well as to a point when the success of their training/career change is fact instead of theory.

We’re very proud of the Opportunity Tuition plan. We’re now seeing some of the concepts of our plan (e.g. deferred tuition, shared risk) applied more broadly around the country. Some programs integrate one or two of the concepts, some more, but in any event we’re starting to see more innovation being applied to helping people afford vocational training and career change.

The Opportunity Tuition has helped between 200 and 300 of our graduates afford our bootcamps and start new careers. It has allowed us to help people whose economic situation would have never permitted them to afford the training cost to change careers and it has helped enable us to attract people from underrepresented groups into technology careers. It has also helped the community by expanding the pool of great tech talent in Nashville and allowing so many people to greatly increase their incomes and living circumstances. We expect to continue this plan as well as look at additional ways to lower economic barriers to launching careers in design, software development, and data science.

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