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French Billionaire Opens Tuition-Free School in Silicon Valley

French Billionaire Opens Tuition-Free School in Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 10:45 AM

A French high-school dropout turned technology billionaire is exporting his unconventional software engineering school to Silicon Valley to train future computer programmers -- for free.

Xavier Niel, who got started running electronic sex-chats and is the founder Paris-based Internet company Iliad SA, is opening a branch of his tuition-free Parisian school, 42, in Fremont, California. Universities are too costly, too elitist and aren’t catering properly to the needs of technology companies, Niel has argued.

“Studies in the United States are very expensive, blocking the way for many individuals to receive an education, find a well-paid job, and live the American dream,” according to a statement from 42 Tuesday. 

U.S. tech companies have long complained that there aren’t enough qualified American workers to fill the industry’s job gaps. Companies from Alphabet Inc., to Facebook Inc. to Uber Technologies Inc. are fighting to hire software engineers with the right mix of personality, culture and coding chops. Niel’s school aims to help give more students the opportunity to get a debt-free education in highly desirable skills -- “based solely on their talent and motivation,” according to the statement, rather than financial status or education degree.

Based on the model Niel launched in France in 2013, the U.S.-based non-profit will grow to 10,000 students within the next five years, the school said, allowing the institution to train information technology talent in large numbers.

With the 42 model, based on peer-to-peer learning, students at the 200,000-square-foot Fremont campus, pay no tuition, come and go freely day and night and have neither teachers nor lectures. They’re assigned to programming projects for some of the school’s research partners, and are able to use more than 1,000 top-of-the-line iMac computers connected to high-speed broadband networks and large-capacity storage servers.

The unorthodox teaching methods are already drawing recruiters in France, where the school has 2,500 students. Ametix, a consulting firm, has said it wants to hire all future graduates from the French campus. Software companies including Dassault Systemes have also expressed interest, according to the school’s representatives.

Niel, 48 and France’s eighth-richest man according to data compiled by Bloomberg, is pumping $100 million of his own money to build the U.S. branch of the school, whose name, or number, is a nod to Douglas Adams’s science-fiction series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Niel also invested about 100 million euros ($113 million) in the school in the 17th arrondissement of the French capital, where the first class will graduate in September. Classes in Fremont will get underway in November.


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A French high-school dropout turned technology billionaire is exporting his unconventional software engineering school to Silicon Valley to train future computer programmers -- for free.
42, Silicon Valley, free, education
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2016-45-18
Wednesday, 18 May 2016 10:45 AM
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