Beset by the high cost of higher education and the enormous debt that many students must carry to go to college, Thomas Golisano has a solution. He is running his own school.
Golisano, the billionaire founder of Paychex Inc., a prominent philanthropist and Rochester native, said he plans to pay for the school through an endowment funded by his charity, the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation most of the operating costs.
Named the Golisano School of Business and Entrepreneurship, the school plans to charge students $8,900 a year in tuition, which Golisano says covers just 25 percent of its administrative costs. Students will pay tuition fees in two installments. Offering a four installment plan would involve “too much additional bookkeeping,” Golisano said. Scholarships will be offered.
He plans to site the school, which is scheduled to start in September 2023, in a 126,000-square-foot former Paychex building in Brighton.
“I’m very concerned about the negotiations with my former employer … mainly because some shareholders will think my deal is too good,” Golisano joked, assuring he didn’t.
The business school will offer a two-year certificate program, which Golisano himself holds an associate degree in business administration, which he describes as “a highly focused business-related program in an experiential learning environment.”
Golisano aims to recruit high school graduates, young working professionals, veterans who join the armed forces after high school, and the children of family business owners, and promises to offer “a very intensive program of all business courses”. There are only a few “edge liberal arts” courses, such as psychology or sales management, that help students hone their business skills, he said.
“The idea is to provide a very broad education in a very short period of time compared to other approaches,” explains Golisano. He expects to graduate about 250 students a year with a total attendance in the 500-student range.
The institute plans to do away with the traditional two-month holiday school calendar and offer a four-quarter full-year schedule, each of which will include 11 weeks of classes and two weeks of holidays. Lessons are scheduled to run from 8 am to 1 pm. The half-day schedule is designed to allow students time for internships or part-time jobs.
One feature plan that Golisano calls “Auditorium Days” is that every Wednesday, the district’s CEOs and company executives will be in the school cafeteria to talk and interact with students.
There is no dormitory program, but the school hopes to provide some form of housing assistance for students whose commutes are too long.
Golisano said the “four-four” model allows students to complete more coursework in two years than some four-year liberal arts or bachelor’s degree programs.
The tightened schedule means “we’re asking them to work harder,” Golisano allowed. “But I think some of them, most of them, would prefer to do that rather than take four years to do what they could do in two years, assuming they’re comfortable with a straight business course (which involves very little) liberal arts).”
While individual programs at Golisano College will be accredited, allowing students to transfer credits into a four-year BA or BS program, the school itself will not be accredited, a decision driven in part by Golisano’s belief that the traditional curriculum is overrepresented in Chinese.
“New York prescribes so many liberal arts programs for accredited colleges and universities, it’s almost negative in my opinion,” Golisano said. “People sometimes pay a lot for courses they don’t think are important to their future.”
Golisano said liberal arts colleges and technical schools, including the University of Rochester, Roberts Wesleyan University, Nazareth College and Monroe Community College, are involved and provide support. Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher University officials serve on the Golisano Institute’s advisory board.
“It’s not a game,” Golisano said. “They were all very, very helpful.”
Golisano said the former Paychex facility could be converted for classroom use with only minor renovations. Work is expected to be completed in February or March, allowing ample time for the school’s planned fall 2023 start date. Faculty members and officials like the president and provost have not been recruited.
Will Astor is a senior writer at Rochester Lighthouse. Parllay welcomes comments from readers who follow us Comment Policy This includes using their full, real name.