UniversityNow: Another VC-Backed Online College, but This One’s Not Elite
UniversityNow has raised $17.3 million in new funding to make college more accessible.
The company is looking to create a network of affordable online colleges for adults. They will be high quality, but not necessarily elite, like some other new online learning efforts.
San Francisco-based UniversityNow’s Series B funding comes from University Ventures, Bertelsmann AG, Kapor Capital, Novak Biddle Venture Partners and Greylock Partners. It also just received a $300,000 research grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.
UniversityNow runs New Charter University, a cheap online college that opened in April, and plans to expand to a network of such schools.
The UniversityNow model stresses competency; there’s no grading on a curve, and courses can only be compeleted once the system determines a student is ready to pass the final exam.
Students are carefully monitored in their online progress in e-textbooks by individual student advisers and subject-matter experts.
At New Charter, $199 per month gets you as many courses as you can take at one time, including books.
“This is not comparable to a four-year liberal arts degree at a small Northeastern college,” said UniversityNow CEO Gene Wade, contrasting the company with other VC-backed college alternatives like The Minerva Project (see our story).
The goal, rather, is to help people who might not otherwise get a college degree, due to cost or other commitments. Typical students are in their mid to late thirties, Wade said, and many of them in the U.S. can get their tuition covered by a tax credit.