MissionU Fixes What’s Broken in Higher Ed

There’s a lot about higher education that seems upside down. Like the exorbitant student debt crisis; degrees that don’t prepare students for jobs; and colleges that accept or reject you based on what you did in high school–when you were the least mature version of yourself.

Adam Braun has started a new higher ed experience, one that “values future potential over past test scores,” and that doesn’t charge students until they land a job paying at least $50,000.




Braun, who also founded Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit that builds schools in the developing world, developed MissionU to address some of the significant problems in higher ed.

I spoke with him recently by e-mail to learn more.

Why did you start MissionU?

MissionU seeks to address the two main issues driving our broken system: insurmountable, crushing debt and the fact that students are unprepared for today’s job market. MissionU was created as a better, smarter form of higher education to give young people the skills and experience needed to launch a successful career, debt-free.

What is the MissionU business model?

MissionU charges $0 upfront tuition, instead investing in its students for a full year with a unique income-share agreement. Students pay 15% of their salary for three years after they complete the program, but only once they’ve landed a job paying at least $50,000. We set up this model to set a new standard for institutions to align with student outcomes.

Are these blue-collar jobs, white-collar jobs, or something else?

Our first major is Data Analytics and Business Intelligence. We chose this major because after speaking with hundreds of employers across dozens of industries, we identified a tremendous gap in skilled, available talent in those areas. Data analytics came up as a job in high demand across industries and one in which competency could be clearly demonstrated, so we developed our first cohort around that. The average market salary for data analysts ranges between $55,000 and $100,000 per year.

Where is MissionU?

We determine the physical location of each cohort based on where we see the most demand from our application pool, so anyone from any part of the U.S. can apply. Because our curriculum is a combination of online and in-person, we require that students live within 50 miles of their cohort. Our headquarters are in San Francisco.

Applicants must be 19 years of age or older to apply, and we do not evaluate standardized test scores, GPA, high school degree, or college credits as part of the admissions process. If you refer a student that succeeds, MissionU will pay you $500.

For more, visit MissionU.