While Outlier’s sole founding vision is to drive massive social impact by tackling education accessibility and student debt, we are indeed a for-profit, venture-backed company. This is by design: while founding Outlier, after a ton of research and discussions with foundations, it became clear to our team that developing a market-based solution (rather than relying on charity) to increase educational access is actually a faster and more durable solution for an urgent and tenacious social problem.
For organizations focused on improving education, self-sufficiency matters, and here’s one big reason why: non-profit donations have a tendency to dry up during economic downturns, which is precisely when society needs to increase access to education to invest in a more prosperous future.
That said, it’s important that we acknowledge that in the world of higher-ed, the term “for-profit” carries with it additional baggage: many “For-profit Colleges” of yesteryear took advantage of their students with little regard for their actual education and success. This was a dark chapter in the history of higher-ed, and very much contributed to the problem we’re working so hard to solve.
Outlier’s goal is student-centric and aimed at providing access, not profit, and solving such a massive societal problem will certainly generate plenty of value. You can see this ethos in action in initiatives like Outlier’s purposefully low pricing, and unprecedented-in-higher-education refund policy: our courses are free if a student does all the work and still doesn’t pass—that’s our failure, and students shouldn’t pay for that. We’re putting our money where our mouth is.
TLDR: Yes, we’re for-profit, because we believe it is the faster and most sustainable way to make the biggest social impact.
When you are curious about an organization’s intentions, whether for-profit or non-profit, the easiest way to see their intentions is by their actions. We invite you to judge us by our actions.