May 12, 2023

Black Founder Secures $29M For Community College Startup, Backing From OpenAI CEO And Discord Founder

Tade Oyerinde is empowering students to complete their first two years of college without taking on any debt through his community college startup Campus.

As per Forbes, Campus has secured $29 million in a Series A funding round led by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Discord founder Jason Citron to expand the college.

Other investors in the round include Figma founder Dylan Field; former head of Stripe Lachy Groom; Bloomberg Beta; Founders Fund; Rethink Education; Reach Capital and Precursor Ventures.

Students and professors are struggling

In 2018, Oyerinde conceived the idea for Campus after meeting an adjunct professor who was so broke he had to sleep on the floor of his UCLA office. Oyerinde envisioned a higher education model that addressed the financial hardships faced by both students and professors.

“You have these amazing professors, but they earn so little and they’re suffering,” Oyerinde told Forbes. “And the students, the quality that they’re getting at a local community college isn’t always the best. So how can we help resolve both those concerns?”

Combining the gig economy concept with online learning, Oyerinde launched Campus launched in beta last year.

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Campus is reportedly the first fully accredited, nationally focused community college built on a network of adjunct professors from prestigious universities.

Based in New York, the startup currently serves 800 students across 30 states and employs around 150 professors from renowned institutions such as Princeton, Spelman, and Vanderbilt.

The financial burden of higher education

According to Education Data, attending a four-year state college averages $26,000 a year, and a staggering $55,000 per year for private institutions. This burden is particularly heavy for people of color, as studies show that the median Black student borrower still owes 95% of their original loan 20 years after starting college.

In contrast, Campus offers tuition fees of approximately $7,000 per year, which can be fully covered by federal Pell grants for eligible students. Campus also compensates its adjunct professors around $8,000 per class, nearly double the national average.

By minimizing financial strain, Campus aims to make higher education accessible to all.

A smooth transition to 4-year colleges

Although other online colleges cater primarily to working professionals, Campus focuses on a younger student population, with an average age of 20. The college provides laptops, Wi-Fi, and comprehensive support services to enhance the learning experience.

By enabling students to complete their first two years of college at a significantly lower cost and with adjunct professors from top institutions, Campus facilitates a smoother transfer process to four-year institutions.

Oyerinde revealed to Forbes that over 1,500 students applied to Campus in Q1 of this year alone. However, he emphasized the importance of focusing on the current student and staff body before pursuing expansion.

“Our core focus is on building a solid foundation over the next year so we can meet the growing demand,” he said. “It’s really important to us that we have a solid foundation in place before thinking about scale.”

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Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)