Bridging the Gap: Can Student Aid Help More Learners Acquire Skills for the New Economy?



When our co-founders launched General Assembly in 2011, they didn’t set out to start an education company – let alone, an entirely new category of education. To put things in perspective, at the end of 2013, GA had served just over 5,000 students. By the end of this year, over 20,000 students will have completed our programs in technology, business, data, and design.

Our growth reflects the shared commitment of students working to keep pace with a rapidly evolving workplace and the changing nature of work, including the rise of hybrid jobs. We’re inspired by the success of our alumni and committed to playing a role in closing, not just the skills gap—but the diversity gap—through programs like our Opportunity Fund, a philanthropic fund that supports scholarships for underrepresented groups in technology.

Today, the promise of accelerated learning programs like General Assembly has sparked bipartisan interest from the Obama Administration and members of Congress. The President’s TechHire Initiative challenged communities around the country to create new pathways for traditionally underserved groups into the millions tech-related jobs that remain unfilled. Policymakers are now considering the outcomes that matter for programs like ours, and asking for proposals and partnerships that can increase access for students by allowing them to use federal aid for nontraditional programs.

It is within this context that General Assembly commissioned research on the history of student aid, and policy efforts to improve access to and affordability of higher education, in general. In our new white paper, Bridging the Gap: Can Student Aid Help More Learners Acquire Skills for the New Economy, we share our findings – with the goal of helping stakeholders understand the historical context and think responsibly about the best ways to increase access.

This paper is not intended to provide answers, but pose questions. It is meant to empower our community with a better understanding of issues being debated in Washington and across state capitals. Bridging the Gap should inform conversations about the role of government in accelerating our shared mission to empower more people to pursue the work they love. We hope to spark a conversation about our potential to reach more students in a thoughtful and quality-driven way.

Download the White Paper