Money is often a pressing concern for those wanting a college education. With the student loan debt crisis continuing to worsen, alternatives to traditional higher education have emerged.
Holberton School, a tuition-deferred institution for software engineering, may provide academic outlets for some Oklahomans. The San Francisco-based school, which opens its Tulsa campus in early January, allows students to pay tuition using an income-sharing agreement, meaning they pay nothing upfront for their education, including fees, but, instead, pay fixed percentages of their incomes after they’re employed.
“Students who seek employment in the Tulsa area after graduation will pay 10 percent of their annual salary for 3½ years,” says Libby Wuller, executive director at Holberton Tulsa. “We believe that a career in software engineering should be available to all, regardless of your ability to pay upfront.”
The school is named for Frances Elizabeth Snyder Holberton, a programmer of the first general-purpose computer created by the U.S. military. In 2016, Sylvain Kalache and Julien Barbier began Holberton, which also has locations in New Haven, Connecticut; Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali and Medellín, Colombia; Tunis, Tunisia; and Beirut.
The duo wanted to build an institution that addressed the issue they saw repeatedly in their field: software engineers, in debt and under-prepared, not being job-ready after graduating from four-year universities.
“Holberton is a revolutionary … school that trains people with no prior coding experience how to be software engineers in under two years,” Wuller says. “They will graduate with a certificate of completion … as full-stack software engineers. We do not have teachers or classrooms; we think that our students learn best by getting hands-on experience with the course material, so our curriculum is delivered through project-based learning.”
Holberton has no grade-point average requirements, application essays or application fees; you just need to be 18 or older and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. The program runs 9-18 months, depending on whether a student wants to specialize with a final “career sprint” to prep for entering the workforce, Wuller says. The 9-month foundations course is on a trimester system, and each student completes the curriculum at the same pace as others in a cohort, a group of peers studying at the same time.
Holberton has set up shop in Tulsa through help from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which “recognized the need for education programs in coding,” Wuller says. “Tulsa has a real spirit of entrepreneurship; from its founding as a trading post to the oil boom, the city has always been a hub for innovation.”
Holberton takes pride in enabling anyone, despite circumstances or background, with the skills and knowledge needed to seek a coding career.
“Our students come to Holberton with various degrees of educational experience,” she says. “We are a good choice for an aspiring student who can’t afford a traditional degree or doesn’t fit well in the lecture-style classroom setting. But we are also a great option for someone already in the workforce, someone looking to accelerate their career in tech or make an industry move altogether.”
Applications, online at holbertonschool.com, are open for a second round of classes starting in June.