While working on his MBA at Wharton, Jake Schwartz came to the conclusion that business school sucks time, money, and prime working years out of its students. So in 2011, Schwartz and his three cofounders took a new approach to higher education. They opened a learning center in New York City to teach the skills that businesses need at that very moment, like digital marketing, mobile development, and data science. "We wanted something with a value proposition of grad school, but with a much higher return on investment and more relevant to the 21st century economy," says Schwartz.
That immediacy has resonated with would-be students. After expanding its reach from nine cities in 2013 to 13 in 2014, General Assembly’s annual class hours have shot up from 117,012 to 260,176. The organization already has more than 10,000 alumni, and 90% of them have found a job within three months of completing their courses—and 99% of grads have secured employment within a year. "In two years we will have close to 50,000 alumni," projects Schwartz, whose team now numbers 450 employees and instructors. General Assembly aims to add another seven cities in the next two years to give them an around-the-globe reach.
Tuition ranges from $2,800 for part-time courses to $11,500 for a full-time, 10-week program. So far $1.57 million in financial aid has been distributed to students, thanks to partnerships with loan providers Earnest and Climb. And while General Assembly doesn’t have the clout of Wharton, the organization is now establishing certifications for its curriculum to reinforce to companies that their programs have merit. "We want to bring in enough companies so it’s just the standard," says Schwartz.
[Photo: courtesy of General Assembly]
A version of this article appeared in the March 2015 issue of Fast Company magazine.