For many millennials, paying for college or grad school is a big financial burden. There’s been speculation that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos won’t do any favors for the student debt crisis we’re experiencing, and those of us working to pay off student loans know that they will affect our daily lives for years to come. In response to the rising cost of an education, Adam Braun — who previously founded the school-building organization Pencils of Promise — recently launched MissionU, a college alternative that’s, wait for it, also debt-free.

“The number-one reason young people give for attending college is ‘to get a better job,’ but colleges get to charge insanely high tuitions whether that goal is achieved or not,” Braun says. “We don’t think that’s right.”

MissionU’s model actually requires zero up-front investment from students. Payment happens later on, only after graduates secure a job earning a minimum salary of $50,000. At that point, they will pay 15 percent of their income back to MissionU for a three-year period. “At MissionU, we’re only successful when you are, and we believe every student, no matter their background, deserves access to a debt-free education that can help them land a great job,” Braun says.

MissionU’s emphasis on career placement has led them to partner with well-known companies for curriculum development. According to Braun, feedback from these organizations (which include Spotify, Lyft, Warby Parker, Uber, Casper, and Birchbox) suggested that graduates of traditional colleges are often unprepared to enter the working world. As partners, the companies help guide the MissionU program to better serve their post-grad needs, and in turn, they get early hiring access to top students.

In addition to being debt-free, MissionU is also a more efficient way to bridge the gap between high school and the working world. It’s an intensive one-year program completed remotely, with monthly in-person meet-ups planned in the program city for each cohort. MissionU’s focus is on data analytics and business intelligence, making graduates especially suited for today’s growing STEM industries. Braun sees it as a unique opportunity to even out the much-discussed gender gap in these fields.

“Many of the most in-demand jobs today are in STEM and there should be more opportunities for women to learn the skills necessary to succeed in these careers,” he says. “MissionU aims to provide a career-focused education to a diverse group of students and set them up for success. I plan to do everything in my power to make sure the opportunities [my son and daughter] have ahead are equal.”

Enterprising men and women can apply online for the first MissionU cohort, which is scheduled to begin this September. Braun says the ideal candidate for the program is “anyone who feels like they’re not getting what they need out of the traditional college path.” The application process does not evaluate test scores or a high school GPA. “We look for people with great soft skills and character traits we’d want in our community, which include passion, drive, collaboration skills, and leadership,” he says.

MissionU has already received great feedback, which bodes well for the program’s plan to expand into multiple cohorts, cities, and majors in the coming years. As for the doubters? Braun has this to say: “I’d challenge those people to speak to anyone who’s been crushed by student debt by believing in the traditional system and is now stuck in that situation for life. There are many great schools where the value is certainly there, but we need to give young people more choices so they can be smart about how they’re choosing to set up their future.”

What do you think about MissionU as an alternative to traditional college? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)