School++ programming school teaches children and adults for free since 2014. Recently we opened an online education for adults from all over Ukraine 🇺🇦. Often we are asked where we get money from, who gets profit from teaching for free, and how come we haven’t burned out yet.

Roman Shmelev, founder and methodologist of School++, answers those questions, while telling the story of switch to free education, motivation of students and teachers, and purpose for school existence.

Roman Shmelev, School++ programming school founder.

👀 We were paid first. Being free of charge is our conscious choice.

We started the school in 2012, in order to give everyone willing a chance to learn programming in Kropyvnytskyi (there were no other schools in the city at the moment). We launched groups of 10-12 people twice a year. Income from our courses was enough to pay the rent and buy some nice candies. The school was a volunteering in our spare time, so we couldn’t take more groups, we wouldn’t be able to pay enough attention to each student. Quitting our work didn’t make any sense since programming is more profitable than education 😉

Eventually we noticed students’ passivity, many of them weren’t motivated by having to pay for studying, instead they relaxed too much.

“I have already paid you, but you want me to study too?” 🙂

In a meanwhile, we got a little mentor community, formed by our graduates. It was time to move to a bigger building, but the school income wasn’t enough for it.

Paid studying lost the meaning for us:

  1. money influenced students’ motivation in a “wrong way”
  2. school income wasn’t even enough to pay the new building rent
  3. since we are developers, our salary was enough to fund the school for some time.

After moving to a new place we started teaching for free. We solved the problem with students’ motivation by implementing a strict format and pre-qualification. Along with a free of charge studying we came out with a new economy model, unique for our city and even magical in a way.

✨ We exist thanks to you and donations from people like you.

Despite the fact that all the teachers in our school are volunteers, holding the school costs us a pretty penny (the up-to-date information about our income and expenses).

Now our budget is filled for 25% by our grateful graduates’ donations. Approximately the same amount is covered by some of our local IT-companies that believe in us and our value for society (their motivation is that simple, we don’t have any obligations to them). Remaining 50 thousands I pay from my own salary each moth for now.

Our goal is to make financial support from our graduates cover 100% of basic costs: rent, staff salary, and routine expenses. Extra budget would be spent on social projects, accelerating our growth, and helping more people 🚀

Before, we didn’t understand how to explain this model to our students correctly, but now we realize that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and we are trying to be as transparent as possible. We are registered as a social organization KOWO, this proves our pure intentions at legal level 🙂

🌈 What we get from the school if not money

Our mentors teach for free because they like helping people. They feel useful, meet new interesting people, and grow as professionals, since you need to be fluent in your area to teach others.

Most of the mentors are School++ graduates, they like the idea of selfless help and decided to pass it to next generations of students. Of course, it is important for the mentors to see the result of how a person changed his life and is grateful for that is priceless 💖

Having no obstacle like money 💰 between students and knowledge lets us gather the most motivated ones. Teaching such students is pleasure 🤗

By uniting people with such values, we create a professional growth atmosphere, the one that we love so much. A lot of interesting ideas and collaborative projects born in an atmosphere like this. There were times when our “citizens” declined relocation to other cities to stay in our community.

We are happy that free of charge studying makes the community grow, and we don’t believe that paid courses could make such an impact and create this relationships level.

🏆 Quality level of learning has become higher

Being free of charge has improved the studying quality a lot! Students know that we don’t want to hold them for the sake of money, fail their exams for a bribe, or be irresponsible, because why would we spend so much time for the school then?

Trust and desire to get the result and not money helps us focus on truly important things like improving the learning program. We have adapted a Stanford Computer Science course like this, and we consider their course as the best in the world. We created our own platform, other courses and a unique learning format, and we improve all the elements in our system all the time.

💪 With our example we show others that you can live different

There are not many free schools in Ukraine, and even less as independent as School++. Reproducing our approach is not an easy task, you are going to need a strongly motivated team, that knows the meaning of all that. Such uniqueness gives us strength, being the first in this and giving people a new point of view on what education should be like. Our main challenge is to explain people that helping others is ok!

We have been teaching for free for 6 years, and we don’t burn out because we are supported by new people who believe in us. By now, over 100 people started volunteering in School++, these people are still helping others outside the school. Thanks to them our city becomes kinder and more comfortable (and now the whole Ukraine!). How many people are there, who still don’t know about School++, but it could help them!

If you want School++ to continue doing its mission, support us on or come to volunteer 😉