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Tom Vander Ark

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Skip College, Go to Work in a Hot Startup

Posted: 03/24/2012 2:05 pm

The much vaunted American higher education system coasts on the reputation of the top three dozen schools which themselves gain much of their stature simply by excluding 85 percent of applicants. Most post-secondary institutions just don't add much value and can no longer justify outrageous tuition.

As recent graduates of American universities, Shaila Ittycheria and Kane Sarhan came to this conclusion and they decided to build an alternative. E[nstitute] is a two year apprenticeship program empowering young adults to learn from and work with top NYC entrepreneurs."

"Higher ed is not working," Kane said, "but internships do." Shaila and Kane are targeting 18 to 24 year-olds with no bearing on where they are in formal education. The first class of 15 young people will begin working with 35 entrepreneurs in August.

Their geeky website explains that "In probability theory, E[x] stands for expected value, which is why E[nstitute] uses brackets in its name."

Participants will start their two year work study at the bottom of totem pole but they will gain valuable experience and exposure to top entrepreneurs in fast-paced start-up environments. In their second year, apprentices pick a "major" and focus on building a marketable skill.

Kane and Shaila have been learning from two of my favorite people, Dennis Litkey from Big Picture Learning, and Bror Saxberg from Kaplan. If they can combine what Litkey knows about internships and what Bror knows about online learning, they'll build a high impact program.

Formed as a nonprofit organization, E[nstitute] seeks to create transformative learning experiences for young people. Kane and Shaila are fundraising to launch and scale the program but think it can become largely self-sustaining in the future.

In the process, E[nstitute] may just redefine the higher education landscape by turning thousands of startups and small businesses into classrooms.

 

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