Written by: Rebecca Grant, Venture Beat
The Ithaca gorges aren’t the only massive divides in higher education.
Education startup Quad Learning launched today, backed by $11 million in venture capital, to bridge the gap between community colleges and four year institutions.
Quad Learning’s American Honors program is designed to help community college students go on to earn their Bachelor’s degree. Taking the ’2+2′ approach, students complete the first two years of their education at community colleges participating in American Honors, and finish at a four-year university.
“Over the past 5-10 years, there has been a flood of high-achieving, traditional college age students to community colleges,” said CEO Phil Bronner in a Q&A. “These students have been priced out of 4-year college and turn to community college as the affordable alternative. Quad Learning helps community colleges build and scale honors programs through a mix of financing and dedicated capabilities. It enters the market as the demand for affordable honors education continues to grow and outstrip supply.”
The costs of higher education are prohibitively high for a significant portion of the population, and yet many community colleges and online education programs do not offer a comparable alternative. Quad Learning estimated that by participating in American Honors, students obtain bachelor’s degrees for 35% to 40% less than the cost of a traditional four-year program.
The platform delivers seminar-style classes in a virtual classroom led by qualified professors. American Honors also offers advisory and support systems for course planning, career exploration etc… to help student make a seamless transfer between community college and more rigorous curricula. The company partners with community colleges to create the curriculum and keeps all the elements of a student academic life into one place.
Tuition costs have skyrocketed over the past 30 years and the total student loan debt is at $1 trillion. Inside Higher Ed estimates that community college serve more than 40% of all undergraduate students in America. For those students who can’t afford to attend any college or university, Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Udacity, Coursera, and Khan Academy provide lower-cost education opportunities and classes in specific skills, like web development or design. These forms of learning are ideal in some cases, but not for students looking to be immersed in a community of learners and educators. American Honor seeks to “preserve the social and motivational scaffolding of traditional college.”
For this unique approach to opening up access to education, Quad Learning received financial support from Swan and Legend Fund, New Atlantic Ventures, New Enterprise Associayes, Comcast Ventures, and others. Quad Learning was founded in 2011 and is based in Washington D.C. So far, it has partnered with Community College of Spokane and Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, and this $11 million will contribute to expanding nation wide.