A gift of $100 million a year to Brown

Brown AP Courses

Proposal for a pilot effort in Northern California

April 2015


Foreword. 3

AP Courses in Northern California. 3

Brown in the Classroom… 3

What’s offered. 5

Who will pay?. 5

Where are the target markets?. 5

How much effort is involved?. 5

Scholarships. 5

Local presence. 5

What are the benefits for Brown’s Admissions Department?. 5

Next Steps. 6

People needed: 6


We are students from before birth, and remain students until we die.  Those who are fortunate enough to attend Brown bring their own experiences and relationships with them.  This proposal outlines how Brown can participate in the learning process for high school students, with a goal of exposing students to Brown professors and students, developing and reinforcing a Brown-student relationship well before the admissions process begins.

AP Courses in Northern California

This proposal outlines a plan for Brown to offer AP courses in select schools in Northern California.  These courses would be co-taught by the local AP teacher and Brown professor, assisted by Brown students acting as proctors.  The goals of the program are:

  1. To offer the students a compelling, interesting and informative set of courses.
  2. To expose promising high school students to Brown professors and students.
  3. To give Brown visibility on promising students who may become good candidates to attend Brown.
  4. To support schools which may need teaching resources in inner-city and poorer school districts, and support their local efforts.

The fundamental principles of this program are that (1) it must be financially self-supporting, (2) it offers a first-class educational experience that is rewarding for Brown students and professors as well as students, and (3) that it works in concert with local resources, with full backing of the high schools.


Brown in the Classroom

  • Develop online AP courses which are “Brown-certified”.
  • Promote AP courses to college counselors, parents and teachers.
    • Charge for individual and school certification of courses
    • Tie to Brown credits—i.e. credit prior to attending Brown
    • Identify star performers (big data, long term relationship)
    • “Rich schools” pay, with some scholarships to poorer students
    • “Poor schools” receive scholarships for credit and performance
  • Supplement online courses with exercises and teaching aids, supported by Brown professors and students.
  • Create a new 501c3 institution
    • Affiliated with Brown
    • Brown admin, profs and alums on-board
  • Create a self-sustaining business model (see below)

Business Model

From Freemium to Certified

Create ‘products’ to be tested and sold:

  • “Freemium” model: un-accompanied online teaching with no certificate or Brown professor/student support.  Price: $0
  • “Certified” model: Brown- and high school-certified certificate of completion which counts as high school credit.  Price: $1,000 per course.
  • “Certified + Brown credit” model: Counts towards Brown undergraduate degree, also accredited by the high school.  This would thus represent demonstrated understanding of the material, proctored by Brown professor and assisting students.  Price: $1,500 per successfully completed course for credit.


  • Total costs to implement one course include:
    • One professor giving his/her lectures in a Khan Academy format—real-time (i.e. 40 hours of lecturing take 40 hours to create the video.  In addition, this professor or a grad student would need to manage and monitor Brown “proctors.”  Assume 100 professor hours @ $200/hourà $20,000, and 30 grad student minutes per certified student.
    • Those high school students taking “certified” courses will require Brown student “proctors.”  These proctors would receive $20/hour.  Assume 2 hours per “certified” student, or $40.

Sales and net income

One AP course with 10,000 students:

  • 50% full scholarship
  • 50% paying $1,500 per course
COSTS Cost/hour Total Hours Total Cost
Professor time $200 100 $ 20,000
Grad student time  40 5,000 200,000
Brown student proctors  20 20,000 400,000
Total cost $620,000
INCOME Students Income/student Total income
Total students (paying and non-paying 10,000
Total paying students* 5,000 $ 1,500 $ 7,500,000
Tot. paying students* 250 $ 1,500 $ 375,000
Professor time $200 100 $ 20,000
Grad student time  40 250  10,000
Brown student proctors  20 1,000  20,000
Total cost $ 50,000
INCOME Students Income/student Total income
Total students, paying and non-paying 500
Total paying students 250 $ 1,500 $ 375,000

* net of scholarship-supported students.  Total = 2x the number of paying students; i.e. 500 total, 250 paying

What’s offered

The educational product would consist of the following:

  1. A set of internet lectures using the Khan Academy format on AP subjects, given by a professor at Brown.  These lectures are normally watched by the students online at home (as homework).  To be avoided: videos of lecturing professors (boring and little information content/minute).
  2. A set of exercises and questions which are answered by the students during class time.
  3. A teaching guide for the local AP teacher.  The teacher uses this guide and assists students in class to answer questions and do exercises.
  4. Tests to be proctored by the local AP teacher which are submitted for grading to Brown students assisting the professor (Brown students are paid for this course assistance).  Results are then shared with the AP teacher and Brown (for certification).
  5. If applicable, online textbooks as a part of the educational offering.

Who will pay?

Identify those who have the greatest stakes in the education of students: parents, teachers, guidance counselors, who are  willing and able to pay.  “Rich” schools’ parents pay for their child’s certificate.  Some scholarships offered.  “Poor” schools parents pay, but with a great deal more scholarship assistance.

Where are the target markets?

Around the world.  The “freemium” model can be disseminated on YouTube and used by millions.  The “certificate” model is also freely expandable (same professor, more Brown student proctors).

How much effort is involved?

A Khan Academy format requires very little professor time and effort.  With a virtual “blackboard” and voiceover, the professor can video a series of lectures based on his/her Brown classroom offerings.

High school students in the “certified” program will require support.  This would be provided by Brown students working at the direction of a Brown professor.  These students’ main tasks would include grading courses, answering teachers’ and students’ questions, and monitoring feedback.


Offer scholarships administered by Brown in collaboration with local guidance counsellors.

Local presence

Ensure that local high school teachers play a key role as the local presence for teaching.

What are the benefits for Brown’s Admissions Department?

  1. Provides high school students a “Brown experience” well before they enter into a formal admissions process.
  2. Delivers a “Brown-certified” AP class to students in which the quality of inputs and learning is measured and understood.
  3. In particular, this addresses students in disadvantaged environments by
  4. giving them an opportunity for a top-class university learning experience
  5. supporting their teachers, parents and guidance counsellors
  6. forming relationships for those highly sought-after students once the admissions process begins
  7. Develops a two-way relationship with potential students which allows the student and Brown to develop a deeper understanding of one another.
  8. This makes Brown professors and students active participants in the admissions process, scouting out promising students and signalling Admissions well before the admissions process starts.
  9. This extends Admissions’ role well beyond the 30,000 or so applications it receives every year—in age, geography and income.
  10. Forms deeper relationships with guidance counsellors, high school administrators and key teachers.  All are likely to be advisors to the best students—those that Brown Admissions would love to admit.

Next Steps

This model needs to be “road tested” with a select number of schools in Northern California prior to completing the plan.  We propose the following steps:

  1. “Road test” with 5 high school administrators, a mix of private and public.
  2. Revise and expand the plan with the input from these administrators and from Brown admissions.
  3. Enlist a department within Brown which is willing to support the program.
  4. Create a budget (income and expenses) and timeline.
  5. Start the program.

People needed:

  1. A manager from Admissions who is able to coordinate Brown resources.
  2. Brown alums in Northern California, preferably with connections to high school administrators and the willingness to elicit feedback and work in the process.
  3. A dean from the Brown department that will be participating in this process, as well as
  4. Three students currently at Brown to help define the courses and student proctorships.

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