Troubled by the high cost of post-secondary education and the mountains of debt many students must saddle themselves with to attend college, Thomas Golisano has a solution. He is starting his own school.
Golisano, the billionaire founder of Paychex Inc., a noted philanthropist and a native Rochesterian, says he plans to cover a major share of the school’s operating costs through an endowment funded by his charitable arm, the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation.
Christened the Golisano Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship, the school plans to charge students $8,900 a year in tuition, a sum Golisano says will cover only 25 percent of its overhead costs. Students will pay tuition in two installments. Offering a four-installment plan would involve “too much extra bookkeeping,” Golisano says. Scholarships will be offered.
He plans to locate the school—planned to begin classes in September 2023—in a 126,000-square-foot former Paychex building in Brighton.
“I was very concerned about negotiation with my former employer … mainly because would there be some shareholders that think I got too good of a deal,” Golisano jokes, assuring that he did not.
The business school will offer a two-year certificate program that Golisano, who himself holds an associate’s degree in business management, describes as “a highly concentrated business-related curriculum in an experiential learning environment.”
Aiming to recruit high school seniors, young working professionals, veterans who joined the armed services right out of high school and children of family business owners, Golisano promises a “very concentrated curriculum of all business courses.” Only a smattering of “on the edge liberal arts” courses like psychology or sales management that might help students hone business skills would be offered, he says.
“The idea,” explains Golisano, is to offer “a very broad education in a very short time frame compared to other methods.” He expects to graduate some 250 students a year with total attendance in the 500-student range.
The institute plans to scrap the traditional two-months-off school calendar, offering a year-round schedule of four quarters, each of which will consist of 11 weeks of classes with two weeks of vacation. Classes are planned to run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The half-day class schedule is designed to give students time to pursue internships or part-time jobs.
A feature that Golisano is calling auditorium day is planned in which area CEOs and company executives will speak and interact with students in the school cafeteria each Wednesday.
No dormitories are planned, but the school expects to offer some form of housing aid to students who would otherwise face overly long commutes.
Golisano says the “four quad” model allows students to pack substantially more coursework into a two-year span than might be offered in some four-year bachelor of arts or bachelor of sciences programs.
The stepped-up schedule means “we’re asking them to work harder and longer,” Golisano allows. “But I think some of them, most of them, would prefer that rather than taking four years to accomplish what they can accomplish in two years, assuming they’re happy with a straight business curriculum (with) very little liberal arts involved.”
While individual Golisano Institute courses will be accredited, allowing students to transfer credits toward a four-year B.A. or B.S. program, the school itself will not be accredited, a decision that in part stems from Golisano’s belief that in traditional curricula liberal arts are overrepresented.
“New York mandates so many liberal arts courses for accredited colleges and universities (that) it’s almost, in my opinion, a negative,” Golisano says. “People are paying a lot of money sometimes for courses that they don’t think are important for their future.”
Liberal arts and technical schools including the University of Rochester, Roberts Wesleyan University, Nazareth College and Monroe Community College are on board and supportive, Golisano says. Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher University officials are serving on a Golisano Institute advisory board.
“It’s not a competition,” says Golisano. “They have all been very, very helpful.”
Only minor renovations are needed to convert the former Paychex facility to classroom use, Golisano says. Work is expected to be completed by February or March, leaving plenty of time for the school’s planned fall 2023 opening date. Faculty and officials like a president and provost have yet to be recruited.