From K-12 systems to the university, educational systems in America are under massive structural stress. COVID-19 has created considerable learning gaps, we have a shortage of qualified and engaged teachers, and the traditional credentials for students, especially outside of elite higher education, seem to cost more and mean less. Employers can no longer rely on the completion of a degree at many institutions to signal notable proficiency, let alone character; nor can students expect that a degree will lead to a good job.
Amidst all this, exploitative entrepreneurs have entered the fray to profit from what is effectively subprime educational lending: expensive tuition covered by student debt from people who struggle to complete their degree or find careers. Americans owe $1.75T in student loans.
Among many possibilities in this sector, we’re interested in ventures building alternative services for learning and degree completion, as well as new “stamps” that certify skill development, character, reliability, and attitude—not just selectivity. Such new offerings could help create pathways to social opportunity, alleviate debt and social pressure, and reward responsibility and creativity. These approaches could become widely accessible and reshape the landscape of education, formation, and career opportunity.
In today’s commercially-driven world people are more likely to be seen and referred to as 'consumers' than anything else. Instead of being met with resistance, this shift has often meant that individuals have formed their identity through a composite of brands, and product purchasing can be guided more by the desire to make a statement about one’s identity and values than strict utility. As a result, the lines between social movement, capitalism, and community are increasingly blurry (see: Nike, Whole Foods, and Patagonia).
Given this reality (which is with us for both better and worse), we’d like to support entrepreneurs with a vision for building brands with a counter-culturally virtuous and optimistic view of the world, spreading hope and beauty, eliminating stigma, and most fundamentally, redirecting our identity away from materialistic consumption and toward lasting contentment.