Thinkful, a seven-year-old software-coding school, is rolling out an alternative-tuition model in the Twin Cities and two other communities.

Thinkful, which offers online classes and mentors, has introduced the “Thinkful Living Stipend” to students based in the Twin Cities, Atlanta and Denver who enroll in Thinkful’s engineering immersion program.

Students receive $1,500 monthly living stipends to cover expenses such as rent, groceries, and transportation throughout the five month duration of the schooling. There is no up-front tuition payment. Instead, students finance their educations by paying 15 percent of their post-graduation salary over four years. The amount is capped at $40,000 and repayment starts as soon graduates earn at least $40,000.

The traditional full time web development bootcamp course is $16,000. The “flexible web development bootcamp is $9,500 for 6 months.

“We find a lot of students have the talent and ambition to attend Thinkful but can’t afford it,” said CEO Darrell Silver, who founded the company in New York City. “And we have built enough of a track record of student outcomes and jobs. Last year we placed 413 and this year we’ll do about twice as many. We ‘re in a place where we can open the program to people who can’t afford the tuition up front.”

Silver said the company has had success in the Twin Cities, including 22 students today,  as well as 10 local educator-mentors and several participating employers.

“There’s a lot of talent in Minneapolis,” he said.

Thinkful is one of a number of alternative programs that offers a pathway to a software-design career.

Silver, 38, a career programmer and business owner, said Thinkful has placed 1,000 in jobs so far through its full-time programs of up to six months.

“We give the them a certificate of completion and we get them a job,” he said. “In Minneapolis, graduates on average make $75,000. We see that tech community growing.

“We have a lot of students who didn’t enjoy college. We don’t replace 4-year college. Our average student is 30 years old. We think of Thinkful as a way to your next job."

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