Education startup Udacity has decided to try out the age-old “money-back guarantee.”
In this case, it’s a promise that graduating students will get a job in their field, or get a full refund.
Since 2012, founder Sebastian Thrun (also known for launching Google’s secretive hardware lab Google X) has aimed for what he describes as the “societal moonshot” of democratizing tech education.
Although Udacity initially offered a handful of online classes completely free of charge, the team pivoted a little over a year ago after seeing dismal course completion rates to a new “Nanodegree” program targeted at landing students jobs in areas like front-end web developer, Android developer, and data analyst.
Classes cost $199 per month, but anyone who finished would get 50% of their tuition back.
Now, the $1 billion startup is upping the ante with a “Nanodegree Plus” program that will cost $299 per month with the stipulation that if the student doesn’t get a job within six months after completing it, they will get 100% of the money back.
“We believe our product will get people a job,” Thrun tells Business Insider. “And now we’re held accountable.”
Right now, Udacity is offering the Plus program in four topics (Android and iOS developers, machine learning engineer, and senior web developer). It designed those — and the rest of its project-focused programs — with the help of major tech companies like Google, Facebook, GitHub, and Salesforce.
“We’re going to get every single person a job”
Students can still choose to take Udacity’s free online courses or enroll in the $199 per month program, but the upgraded package comes with customised job preparation, including resume review and mock interviews.
Although Thrun says that offering loans to prospective students may one day play into Udacity’s plan, it has nothing to announce just yet.
“Right now, if you enroll in this program and then get a job, then typically within your first month, you’ll be able to pay back your tuition,” he says, quoting average salaries from job site Glassdoor as $87,000 per year for Android developers, for example, compared to the $1,800 to $2,400 it would cost to complete that nanodegree in six to eight months. “My expectation is that we’re going to get every single person a job, and those that we can’t will get their education for free.”
This new program comes hot on the heels of Udacity’s $105 million fundraise in November. At the time, Udacity told Business Insider that it was profitable, but Thrun says that the company is now reinvesting all its money into international growth and program topic expansion.