UB op-ed: Higher ed technology boot camps

Changing the landscape of career-focused learning
Kelly Walsh is CIO of The College of Westchester in New York.
Kelly Walsh is CIO of The College of Westchester in New York.

The non-degree granting, for-profit sector of higher education has been experiencing success with coding and other technology boot camps since 2012. Encouraged by that success, both public and private degree-granting institutions have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years. As of 2018, these boot camps were on pace to become a $240 million industry graduating around 20,000 students, according to Course Report.

Boot camps provide each graduate with a certificate of completion, and typically provide a choice of focus. While full-stack coding and web development appear to be the most popular options, some schools also offer data analytics, cybersecurity and even financial technology programs.

There has been a growing buzz in recent years about education options that are less costly and time consuming than traditional degree programs, and boot camps represent a successful and growing approach. But are they a good investment for students?

According to a 2018 Course Report survey of 828 qualified graduates from 41 coding schools, coding boot camp costs averaged $12,643, and graduating students’ salaries averaged $64,528, representing a 34% salary lift. In addition, the Course Report survey found that some boot camps offer deferred tuition or income sharing agreements, so a student doesn’t have to pay tuition until they get a job.

Multiple players

The biggest change in the technology boot camp world over the last few years has been the sudden explosion of programs at nationally accredited institutions. Harvard, Columbia Engineering, Berkeley and numerous other high-profile universities are now offering boot camps. While for-profit and public schools have similarities in costs and length of offerings, it’s uncommon for traditional higher ed providers to provide deferred tuition and income sharing options.

Many boot camps have full- or part-time program lengths, and a few have online offerings. Quite a few are priced at about $12,000, but others are a lot more expensive. When exploring the options available from traditional, degree-granting institutions, one may notice that most seem strikingly similar.

Harvard, Rutgers University in New Jersey and Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, for example, offer 12-week full-time or 24-week part-time options for most of the same types of content. Indeed, on closer inspection, even their websites advertising these offerings are similar.

As it turns out, quite a few of these offerings are created and delivered in partnership with Trinity Education Services.Trinity Education Services is a U.S.-based nonprofit that works with local partners such as churches, schools and other nonprofits to help them start their own higher education programs. They have been very successful at partnering with universities to help them deliver technology boot camps. Schools get these programs up and running quickly with predesigned courses ands marketing and recruitment content.

Trinity is not the only player out there.. Coding Dojo, The Software Guild, Revature and Thinkful have also partnered with schools such as Bellevue College in Washington state, Barnard College and the Concordia University system. Other schools have taken their own approaches, but the partnering model is predominant.

Only time will tell how this trend will play out. For now, these successful certificate programs are becoming increasingly accepted as career-focused higher ed alternatives that do not require a two- to four-year commitment, or the traditional higher ed expenses.

Kelly Walsh, CIO of The College of Westchester in New York, is the founder of the EmergingEdTech blog at emergingedtech.com.

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