Saturday, November 11, 2006

How To Make Money, Teaching One Day Classes

Steven Schragis Story

The idea for One Day University came to its founder, Steven Schragis, in October 2004, after he visited his daughter, a freshman at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. The school offered parents 20-to-30-minute samples of each class. “Everyone loved it and made the same joke: Wouldn’t it be better to be going to college again instead of paying for it, but with no tests and no need to stay up and study?” recalled Mr. Schragis, 50, the former national director of the Learning Annex.

A few months later he went to see the Broadway show “Avenue Q,” which features a song called “I Wish I Could Go Back to College.” “I watched the whole audience tear up over that sentiment,” he said, and a business was born. The company is very much for-profit; classes range from $189 to $239.

While his son and daughter were skeptical that anyone would voluntarily listen to a professor just for the fun of it — “that’s how most people under 25 to 30 feel,” he noted — so far they have been proved wrong. Classes have taken place in Morristown, N.J., and Cambridge, Mass., and another one is scheduled on Nov. 18 at Doral Arrowwood.

Then the troupe heads to Hartford; Boca Raton, Fla.; and Newton, Mass. Each one has sold out, and they have grossed close to half a million dollars since September, said Mr. Schragis, who hopes to expand to 12 cities by the end of 2006.

Bob Larson, 54, owner of Berman Larson Kane, a staffing company in Paramus, N.J., attended the One Day University last month in Morristown and plans to return. “I have two children in college, and when we were touring schools I remember thinking that I’d much rather be going to college than paying for it.”

He especially enjoyed “The Second Nuclear Age,” which surprised him. “It was like college — you wound up taking the history of modern art because you had to and it turns out to be your favorite course. For a brief moment I felt like I was in my 20s again.”

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