Amazon donation to CMU CS Academy

Amazon donated $2 million to the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science Academy (CMU CS Academy). The donation will support the CMU CS Academy as it expands to provide free computer science education, according to one of its founders.

Two professors from Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science (SCS) founded the program, David Kosbie and Mark Stehlik. Launched with the financial support of SCS and other donors, the CMU CS Academy has made its mission to create an "online, interactive high school computer science curriculum that is entirely free," according to its website.

In an interview, Kosbie said that the Academy has served 60,000 students so far. In addition, he said a majority of the CMU CS Academy's students "are from Title I schools, which is to say underrepresented and under-resourced schools," referring to a federal program for schools with many students from low-income families. Kosbie said they "stalwartly stand on'' the content remaining free. However, he explained, "our cost exceeded our revenues."

The donation from Amazon put the Academy's finances "in the black," according to Kosbie. It has also given the Academy room to expand. "We now have a Spanish language version we've built, so with the Amazon funds, we're prepared to go into Central and South America," Kosbie said.

Amazon has continued to meet with the CMU CS Academy after their donation as well. "It's not like they said 'here's your check, good luck,'" Kosbie affirmed. "We very much welcome these meetings and their input and guidance."

The Academy is poised to expand greatly over the next few years. As the Academy began, Andrew Moore, then the Dean of SCS, gave the CMU CS Academy the goal of one day serving one million students, according to Kosbie.

"We have every intention of reaching a million students, of reaching that goal, and doing it, say, within the next four or five years," Kosbie said.

The CMU CS Academy has looked for more funding sources as well. In a separate interview, Stehlik said, "the path to the future is not relying on CMU's largess." He added that the Academy has been taking other steps to secure funds like soliciting alumni donations.

Amazon's donation has also felt validating for Kosbie. "It feels like we're doing the right thing for the right reasons," Kosbie said. "It only affirms what we already knew."