Outlier

Yesterday I read about an education start-up called Outlier. You can learn more at Outlier.org

Outlier is essentially MasterClass for credit transferable college courses. In fact, the company’s Founder & CEO, Aaron Rasmussen, was one of the co-founders of MasterClass (I have some thoughts on MasterClass that I will share in a future post). The content and production quality unsurprisingly appears the same and that alone bodes well for the company.

I discovered Outlier by the news that it just raised $11.7 million in Series A funding. For the time being, it offers only two courses – Intro to Psychology and Calculus 1. Unless colleges have changed a lot in the last few years, I imagine a lot of students would consider any alternative to the Calculus 1 class that is offered by their school.

It looks like the courses have multiple teachers for each subject with different approaches to match different learning styles. I would be curious to hear from students who took these classes in the Fall 2019 semester. My guess is that these classes are relatively well liked and that most students found them effective to at least a satisfactory degree.

As important as the fact that these classes earn students real transferable credits is the fact that they are only $400 per class, including textbooks. If you do the math assuming 5 courses per semester for 8 semesters gets a student to graduation, then a student hypothetically could one day get a full college education from Outlier at its current price per course for a total cost of $16,000. Compare that with the chart below from US News and keep in mind that those averages in the chart need to be multiplied by 4 to make them apples to apples with the $16,000 figure quoted above, assuming a 4 year path to graduation.

College education in the United States is obviously over-priced. Everybody knows this as a widely accepted fact but the chart below should make it evidently objective for anyone who still has any doubt.

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Maybe Outlier will be the first online program to crack the code on providing a successful alternative of scale for college education. Maybe not. Either way, I am glad to see a well-funded venture with strong leadership and a seemingly sound business plan attacking this problem that is well overdue for a fix.