America isn’t the land of opportunity unless you can get a job after college to earn a visa. That makes picking a city in which to attend a university a critical decision for international students. Some services can charge families thousands of dollars to guide them through the U.S. college selection process. But Ranku does it for free dollars and fifty-free cents.
Ranku is a higher-education search engine. Enter your desired degree, school, or interest, and it shows legitimate programs and their tuition costs. Scammy for-profit schools are filtered out. “Schools have low digital competency,” says Ranku co-founder Kim Taylor. Her startup gives them a hand with transparency.
Dive into a school or program’s profile and you can see its acceptance rate, prerequisite test scores or GPA, location, whether it’s offered online, and if the online program features live classes, taped sessions, mobile apps and support. Once they find the right program, Ranku users can apply right away.
Most uniquely, Ranku helps international students choose a path that will help them remain in the United States by showing what employers recruit from the school.
“If you want to stay in America, you might only have three months after graduation to get a visa, so knowing the companies that are physically located nearby your school is important,” says Taylor. “You’re thinking about this the moment you apply.”
Ranku can give itself away to students because it charges universities for analytics and to jazz up their profiles. Schools and entire state systems pay a licensing fee plus a fee for Ranku to drive an increase in applications. In exchange they’ll get some promotion in the Ranku platform, plus a look at what programs potential students are looking for.
For example, an engineering school could learn from Ranku that people are searching for an education in machine learning, a hot computer science specialization. Ranku can tell the school they could expect 900 more applications per year by adding curriculum around machine learning. Similar application-boosting services can cost colleges up to 60 percent of a referred student’s tuition.
While Ranku’s core service is still finding people the right school, its business and focus has changed since Ranku launched in 2013 and took funding from Mark Cuban, Microsoft Ventures and Lerer Hippeau Ventures. Taylor tells me “Sometimes your customers tell you what your business is.”
Ranku now encompasses traditional education as well as reputable online programs, and isn’t trying to earn a tuition cut anymore.
Ranku is still indexing schools, and will be going up against well-established competitors, such as Big Future and College Confidential. While its site might not always seem the most feature-packed, it serves a specific purpose. By focusing on helping international students, and ditching smarmy marketing for transparency, Ranku could get more kids to the school of their dreams.