Silicon Valley Company Offering Free College Degree To Every Adult Living Or Working In Its City

Adrian Ridner says when he and Ben Wilson met in college in the early 2000's and decided to start a business together, they were extremely idealistic about the positive change they would make in the world.

Perhaps, Ridner now believes, they were selling themselves short.

"If you would have told those two kids coming out of Cal Poly that someday they would be helping everyone in their city get a college degree they would have told you, as idealistic as we were, that you were nuts," Ridner said.

That's right.

Through their decade-old company, Mountain View-based, Ridner and Wilson are offering every adult in their city the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree at no cost to the student. It is called the Working Scholars program.

"Anyone who lives or works in Mountain View that doesn't have a bachelor's degree is allowed to enroll," Ridner said.

Ridner and Wilson started to "disrupt" the expensive, exclusive world of higher education. They offer more than one thousand video-based courses, 80 of them eligible for transferable college credit.

The whole idea of the business was to make higher education more accessible to the average individual. But when Ridner and Wilson saw companies using their product to offer cost-free college degrees to their employees, they saw an opportunity

"That's when we had our 'Ah-ha' moment," Ridner said. "If this works for a company, why not our own city?"

Mountain View has been good to them, Ridner says, so they decided to give something back.

Renukah Hunter is certainly happy they did.

Hunter moved to Mountain View a year ago and was finding her career prospects stalled due to lack of a degree. She was not able to afford the thousands of dollars it would take to pay for courses herself, so she jumped at the chance when she learned about the Working Scholars program.

Once, that is, she made sure was no catch.

"I called them and they went into more detail and kept reassuring me because I kept asking, 'Really?'," Hunter said.

So far 80 students have signed up to take part in Working Scholars and a recent information session at Mountain View City Hall was standing room only. Those in attendance learned that through the program, courses at are free and any remaining credits towards a degree from Thomas Edison State University, would be covered by donations through the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce.

Ridner thinks the program could one day enroll as many as 10,000 students. They would be people, he believes, getting something more valuable than just the cost of tuition: they would be getting a brighter future.

"I'm the first one in my family to have a Bachelor's degree and I know what it's been able to do for me."

To learn more or apply for the program go to

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