Campus, a community college startup, receives $23M Series A extension led by Founders Fund


Tade Oyerinde, Campus founder and CEO
Image Credits: Tade Oyerinde, Campus founder and CEO

Although many students in the United States enter community colleges intending to transfer to four-year universities, only 16% of those students receive bachelor’s degrees within six years. But Campus, an online alternative to traditional community colleges, has an approach that aims to change that. 

Many adjunct professors at the nation’s top universities, including UCLA, Princeton and NYU, earn such low salaries that a quarter of them qualify for some form of government assistance. At the same time, the cost of education has been skyrocketing.

“I got obsessed with the idea of giving everybody access to these amazing professors” at a price that most students can afford, said Campus founder Tade Oyerinde.

Investors seem to be obsessed, too: The company announced Tuesday that it raised a $23 million Series A extension round, led by Founders Fund, with 8VC participating. 

Campus has hired adjunct professors who are also currently teaching at colleges like Vanderbilt, Princeton and NYU, paying them $8,000 a course, which is much higher than the national average. The cost of attending Campus is $7,200 a year; it’s fully covered for students who qualify for federal Pell Grants, allowing about 40% of the college’s students to study for free.

All students are provided with a laptop, Wi-Fi and access to tutors. They’re paired with coaches who are tasked with making sure that everyone stays on track. Enrollment has been growing fast, according to Oyerinde. Students want to be a part of something modern and new, he said, and they think of Campus as a trampoline into a four-year program.

Last year, Campus raised a $29 million Series A, led by Sam Altman and Discord founder Jason Citron. Solo VC Lachy Groom, Bloomberg Beta, Founders Fund, Reach Capital and Precursor Venture also participated. Earlier this year, the company caught Shaquille O’Neal’s eye, and the basketball star topped up that round.

Most of the capital from Campus’ first Series A installment went toward purchasing a physical college in Sacramento. While most students study online and are based throughout the country, the community college now offers in-person courses in phlebotomy, medical assistance and cosmetology.

Shaquille O’Neal talks investing in edtech and startups that are going to ‘change people’s lives’

Tech-like margins

The capital from the Founders Fund-led Series A extension, which Campus is announcing on Tuesday, will be used to fuel growth. 

The firm boosted its stake in Campus — Founders Fund’s first edtech bet — due to the company’s scalable tech platform, said partner Trae Stephens.

“I think the structure is kind of a hack,” he said. “You can get the cost low enough that there are no out-of-pocket costs. That’s very hard to do when there are overhead costs attached.” 

Perhaps this is why VCs have historically avoided backing traditional academic institutions. 

For now, each class has on average 75 students and three teacher assistants. While Oyerinde didn’t say whether professor to student ratios will increase as enrollment numbers grow, he emphasized that Campus’ margins look like those of a tech business.

The company is very mindful of for-profit colleges’ dark past. In 2019, University of Phoenix, a private university, agreed to pay a $50 million fine and forgive $140 million in student fees, following a five-year investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into the company’s misleading claims about job opportunities available to its students.

“Campus is not going to saddle students with tons of debt. I don’t think this is good for the U.S. economy,” Stephens said. “We’re going to do this in a way that aligns with the goals of the Federal Pell grants.”

Oyerinde says the company is squarely focused on making sure that the cost of education is low (or nothing) and that students graduate.

Campus faces a surprising challenge: finding the coaches. While attracting professors (with a long waitlist) and students is simple, the company needs coaches who encourage students to stick with their education.

“If we need engineers or marketing people, that’s easy,” Oyerinde said. “But there’s not a pool of people who’ve done this particular role of building deep relationships, motivating people consistently for multiple years on end.”

It’s a good time to invest in early-stage edtech, investors say

More TechCrunch

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares