It’s a rainy Saturday in November, and I’m sitting at the office wondering which story to tell. On the one hand, we’ve made more progress in the past three months than in the previous six. We doubled in size, exceeded our Q2 metrics on every indicator, partnered with two top online universities, built a student-focused website, and moved into our first office.
On the other hand, we’re also in a season of reflection. Our team is convinced — more so than ever before — that working students need a better way to earn their degree, and our approach is the most effective and affordable option in the country. We want to show higher ed how to serve the 31 million Americans with some college and no degree, and as you read Gaby’s story, you’ll understand why.
To get there though, we need to change. We’ve proven the support model, and now we need to earn revenue and become a social enterprise. We have a partnership with St. David’s Hospital-North and another in the works with the City of Austin. Our board has a retreat next month to finalize our strategy — then we’re off to the races.
Want to help? We plan to grow from 30 to 100 students next year, and want to share our work with others. Introduce us to a journalist / blogger / podcaster who can share our students’ stories. Details below.
Key Performance Indicators
- 31 students enrolled
This is up 13 students from Q2, and includes 17 students enrolled in college and 14 who began provisional enrollment in October.
- 94% of students are on-pace to earn their degree in four years
This is up 5% from Q2. In Texas only 28% of students Bachelor’s degree students graduate on-time.
- 82% of students who began college with PelotonU are still enrolled
This is up 3% from Q2. For working Central Texas students who attend part-time the graduation rate is only 16%.
- No student with college debt
This is the same as Q2, and compares to an average of $25,000 for four-year university graduates in Texas.
Enrollment and Changing Demographics
Recruitment continues to pick up, and we’ve doubled in size since July. As the chart below shows, we had more applicants in Q3 2015 than in the previous three years of PelotonU’s history.
We also decided to lift our age cap and enroll adults. We have seen our average age increase from 22 amongst current students to 32 for our newest provisional cohort.
College for America (CFA)
Our first students enrolled in September. Already, three have finished their first seven classes — in only three months. They’re working incredibly hard, because at CFA you cannot finish a class until you earn an A and have robust projects to demonstrate mastery of the material.
Now, much of this material (as with my own freshman year of college) is material our students have seen before. As they progress, the topics will get tougher and the pace might slow. Even so, we’re excited to see our students love learning and work at all hours of the week to apply themselves because of the thoughtful curriculum design.
Partnership with Western Governor’s University
Friendships pay off. Through the City of Austin, we were introduced to the WGU team and negotiated a deal where our students receive a tuition discount and access to special scholarships. Here are the details:
We’re learning to time cash flows
Moving into our new office was more expensive than we expected. What it revealed is that we do have enough income, but not when we need it. Grants can be committed, but if it’s a receivable and not cash, it doesn’t pay the rent. It’s taught me to ask for help, and a great team has stepped in to stabilize our finances.
As our team preps for 2016, we’re learning to plan much further in advance to align our fundraising with the upfront costs of enrolling new cohorts.
We’re learning what data to measure
I was on a call earlier this week and they asked us about statistics. It’s a tough question, because we don’t always know where to start. There are national, regional, and institution-specific data sets. For college, we can track enrollment, diversity, retention, debt, or eventual employment. These indicators vary by income, ethnicity, and enrollment status. Different audiences want different indicators.
So we use too many, and that needs to stop. We’re building data and impact dashboards for our website that will clarify that landscape moving forward.
Gaby ignored her Breakthrough Austin advisor, Byron, for a long time. She was sure that her plan to get certified as a Medical Assistant through Southern Careers Institute was the right path for her, so when Byron first told her about PelotonU, she wasn’t interested. “I thought I had a good plan in place, that I was on the track I wanted.”
But as her teachers quit and the $700 per month tuition caught up to her, Gaby began to reconsider. “I realized I wasn’t getting a good education at Southern Careers — especially not for how much I was paying. Plus, I worked from 9–6 every day and then went to classes from 7–11 pm at night. I was exhausted.”
How You Can Help
1) Share our story
We’ve just started distributing a press release to Austin journalists and national education reporters. Do you know journalists, podcast publishers, newsletter writers, or regular bloggers? If so, we’d like to pitch them our story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll give you the details.
2) Donate to our work.
14 students are currently in provisional enrollment and will begin college in January. We need $28,000 to ensure they avoid costly student loans.
100% of overhead is supported by our board. Will you make a contribution to our scholarship fund?
Thank you for believing in our mission of providing working students a pathway to graduate from college debt-free.
If you have any questions, always email.