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Enstitute

by Kate Meersschaert

October 14, 2013

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Enstitute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is implementing a new low-cost model of higher education. With an apprenticeship-based "Learn by Doing" approach that pairs students with their interests, Enstitute is turning startups and small businesses into classrooms." (from this Venture Beat Article)

UnCollege, Meet Enstitute
Enstitute (formerly E[nstitute]) is a non-profit focused on replacing traditional higher education with a two year internship-focused period of mentored on-the-job training. At a time when many young people are struggling both to pay for college and find jobs once they graduate, Enstitute is an exciting addition to the growing "UnCollege" movement. Founded by two former interns, Kane Sarhan and Shaila Ittycheria, the two-year program selects "Fellows" who go through a modern apprenticeship of sorts, with an emphasis on direct hands-on learning from industry mentors. Mentors and Fellows are matched through a process much like the current system of "bidding" used by medical schools to match residents with hospitals (the Fellows bid on their favorite companies/mentors, while mentors bid on their preferred Fellow). The other percentage of participant time is spent on supplemental learning opportunities as this VentureBeat article describes, "In addition to the apprenticeship, the fellows attend evening events where they hear job tips from inspirational speakers and are offered a supplemental curriculum of online and offline classes."

Killing Debt and the Diploma
Graduates of the program not only receive valuable on-the-job training, exposure to a network of professional contacts and in many cases, a full-time position, but they are also given skills based certification. An Enstitute certificate clearly spells-out skills gained both in preparation for and during this hands-on work experience, while encouraging participants to go a step further and create a digital portfolio. Regardless of the certification process, the real proof of success is in the many stories that are emerging from the program’s initial participants. Many like Jasmine Gao, who was profiled in a New York Times article on Enstitute, not only avoid amassing more college debt, but also save valuable time. Gao was fast-tracked into a data strategy role at NYC-based URL shortening company, Bitly. It seems that programs like Enstitute and learners like Gao, will help ensure that the digital future is less reliant on what Ittycheria describes as an "ineffective system" and more on the alternatives that continue to emerge and challenge the higher ed status quo. Enstitute is helping to institute this change.

Image: from Enstitute site