Coding schools are known to be intensive—their students often are trying to make a career switch, so feelings of anxiety or burnout can become especially evident. It doesn’t help that the goal is to graduate students with in-demand skills in sometimes as little as eight weeks.
Do the schools themselves have a role to play in helping students manage stress?
Lambda School says yes. The San Francisco-based online coding academy announced this week that it is working with Modern Health, a mental health benefits company, to provide its roughly 3,000 students with free access to meditation resources, an online wellness program, and tools for booking sessions with a therapist. Lambda, which has raised $48 million from investors including Y Combinator, GV, and Ashton Kutcher, claims this is the “first time a school of this kind” is offering such benefits, and promises the cost of the program will not transfer to students.
Lambda School founder Austen Allred says the idea for the new services came from seeing students openly discuss their problems with ADHD, depression, PTSD, OCD, and other wellness concerns, in a 400-member Slack channel for mental health. Allred says many students can’t afford mental health services on their own, particularly if they’re not working full-time or come from a lower-income background.
Before the new benefits began, some students said they were concerned that talking about mental health would affect their standing at the school, says Allred. But seeing that the service was also offered to Lambda’s 150 employees reassured the students, says Allred.
Started in 2016, the school operates on the basis of “income-share” agreements, or ISAs, where students pay nothing upfront but agree to pay 17% of their salary, once they start making at least $50,000 a year, for 24 months. Because the ISAs are capped, no student will pay more than $30,000 for their education. Lambda students are trained either full-time for nine months or part-time for 18 months to become software engineers. The school is also tinkering with creating a curriculum for nursing.
Lambda is a completely remote school, but Allred says it has a “tight community.” There’s an alumni network, and students use Slack, the office chat app, for day-to-day interactions with one another. Lambda says it has already seen more than 500 students land jobs post-graduation.
The offering of mental health services helps Lambda stand out from a competitive coding school landscape. The move also reflects the trend of increasing attention that companies that are bringing to mental health, spurring the rise of perks ranging from meditation rooms to unlimited paid vacation.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people experience a mental or neurological challenge at some point in their lives.