These Tech Investors Are Excited by the Idea of Affordable Private Schools

Earlier this year, IP covered the mega-investment Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and a handful of other partners made in Bridge International Academies (BIA). Collectively, this ultra-wealthy group put up $100 million in support of BIA's low cost private school platform that aims to provide a quality education to over 10 million children across the globe by 2025, beginning with Africa and Asia.

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Shortly after the $100 million investment in Bridge International Academies was announced, another group of tech billionaires made an enormous investment in ed tech. Unlike Bridge—which is aims to help poor populations abroad—this investment is squarely focused on education in the United States.

Altschool, a B-Corp that describes itself as a “collaborative community of micro-schools,” recently closed a $100 million funding round, led by Andreesen Horowitz and PayPal cofounder, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Another big tech billionaire adding to Andreessen Horowitz and Peter Theil’s investments in Altschool—and many may have already guessed this one—was Mark Zuckerberg.

By now most of us are aware of Zuckerberg’s desire to shake up the country’s education system. The Facebook cofounder is pretty well known for the $100 million he put into a bid to reform Newark schools and that $120 million check he wrote to improve schools in Silicon Valley.

Altschool’s impressive investor list doesn’t stop there. Laurene Powell’s Emerson Collective and Pierre Omidyar’s, Omidyar Network also put in for this latest funding round as did tech venture capitalist John Doerr.

Servicing the San Francisco Bay Area, Altschool’s highly personalized education platform employs project-based learning models in mixed-age classrooms and the schools themselves have a teacher-student ratio of around 1 to 10. This sounds like an ideal answer to the many problems ailing the country’s public school systems. However, unlike Bridge International Academies, which aims to provide low cost private education, this is not the goal of this ed outfit—Altschool tuition will cost parents over $20,000 per student, per year. Ouch.

Altschool does offer financial aid and reports that around 40 percent of its students are on some form of tuition assistance. The organization also notes that although parents will have to dole out over $20,000 for their children to attend its schools, that cost is an estimated 10 to 15 percent cheaper than other private schools located in the Bay Area.

According to Kim-Mai Cutler of TechCrunch, the ultimate goal for Altschool is to get to “a point where the price is marginally more than what it costs to educate a child in the public system.”

And how realistic is that? Well, nationally per-pupil spending for public schools is just over $10,000, but in some states that amount is over $15,000.