June 30, 2020 – Future of Work

Rivet School: Redesigning the college experience for working adults


The cost of college has been rising for almost two generations. By one account, tuition rates have increased eight times faster than wages since the 1980s. This steep increase has kept millions of individuals out of the post-secondary education system. For those who do make the leap to college, rising tuition can make it difficult to stay on track and complete a program. About 70 percent of U.S. high school graduates enroll in college, but only 51 percent will return for their second year—and only 30 percent graduate.

Rivet School, formerly known as Concourse Education, is attacking this problem. By pairing a job-focused online degree with real-world resources — like a personal coach, coworking space, and more — Rivet School enables students to graduate in two to three years, and for less than $10,000, total.

In the face of COVID-19 — and with $100,000 in philanthropic support from the Charles Koch Foundation — Rivet announced Pay It Forward, a new program that allows students to enroll and pay no tuition during the course of their studies. Graduates  pay back only once they earn at least $40,000 annually. All payments that are made under the Pay It Forward Program go directly back to the program, supporting future generations of students. (For more from Rivet on the impact of COVID-19 on students, read this column at EdSurge news by Co-Founder Eli Bildner.)

Vince Han, who immigrated with his family from South Korea to the Bay Area as a young child, is a Rivet School student and a Pay It Forward participant. As an adult, Han was working in a lower-wage job with a long commute when he heard about Rivet School from a coworker. When he fell victim to a COVID-related layoff, he decided to apply. “I knew that I needed additional training if I was to find a better job, with better pay,” Han said. “But I’d rather not do college than taking on student loans. When I learned about Pay it Forward, I was like, ‘I can do this.’”

Support from the Charles Koch Foundation  will allow Rivet to support 60 Pay it Forward participants. It will also help facilitate an experimental evaluation of the program, which Rivet School is conducting alongside Ben Castleman, a recognized education expert and former advisor to Michelle Obama. This randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluation will be one of the first in the country to experimentally test the impact of so-called income share agreement (ISA) programs like Pay it Forward.

“Rivet School is working to reduce the cost and time it takes to get a college degree while helping more people transform their lives through individualized learning,” said Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “Their model demonstrates what a more learner-centric model of post-secondary education could look like, and we hope others will quickly take notice.”

Learn more about Rivet School — and the Pay it Forward program — here.