How a New York school is disrupting education to prepare Black, Latino students for six-figure tech jobs

College can be difficult and expensive for all students, but for many young people of color, these challenges can seem insurmountable. The Marcy Lab School in Brooklyn, New York, however, has created a different approach – a one-year program to help students find lucrative technical jobs that usually go to college graduates with four-year degrees.

Maya Bhattacharjee-Marcantonio, founder of The Marcy Lab, said, “The story that’s not often told is what happens when young people get to college, and what we’ve learned is that college doesn’t to serve our students.”

Create an alternative 4-year degree

Collaboration with entrepreneurs

Marcy Lab School collaborators Reuben Ogbanna and Bhattacharjee-Marcantonio share ideas on a whiteboard.

Tara McCurrie, CNBC

The partners worked with the local community to design a program to prepare students for mobile jobs. They started with technology and the support of several foundations, including Tiger Global Impact Ventures, the Charles Hayden Foundation and the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. They also have many companies that support, train and hire graduates, including JP Morgan Chase, WW International Same to you Squarespace.

“The years spent with our students has made them see that they are not only students who are motivated but can be a true recruitment pipeline for their organizations,” said Ogbonna.

The program is also about community building and self-affirmation. Aneika Nanton, who is a student currently completing an internship with WW International as part of the program.

The school, still in its early stages, has an 80% completion rate. The average graduate earns a starting salary of $106,500.

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“There are a lot of students going to colleges that have graduation rates that are in the 30s or 40s. [percentiles]who have an average salary for graduates that is above the minimum wage,” said Ogbonna.

“We think the Marcy Lab School can reach thousands of students here in New York City, and it can have an impact across the country,” Ogbonna said.

Passing degree requirements

Devonte Duncan is in a freshman class of nine students at Marcy Lab School in Brooklyn, New York.

Tara McCurrie, CNBC

A growing number of organizations are embracing the concept of outsourcing as the answer to finding the talent they need. But the number of jobs requiring a four-year degree has actually increased. Last year, 57 percent of job postings for software developers/engineers required a bachelor’s degree, up from 51 percent five years ago, according to a survey by the research firm Burning Glass Institute.

“When it comes to recruiting, he’s very interested in sticking to what’s most comfortable,” said Matt Sigelman, the center’s president.

Former attendee Marcy Devante Duncan said his mother was upset when she first heard her son had given up his undergraduate degree to attend the alternative school. The difficulty of being able to enroll in the classes he needed to earn an engineering degree at a public university — and worries about taking on debt — made him eager to find another option. Duncan, who was one of the first nine graduates of the Marcy Lab School, now earns $140,000 annually as a software engineer at Squarespace.

“I was able to convince her that, you know, it was the right decision,” Duncan said. Once you see this salary, he said, “It’s hard not to believe.”

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