Today marks an unprecedented event for higher education nationwide. The US Department of Education is giving up to $17 million in loans and grants to select, proven nontraditional education programs to offer student federal aid.
Until now, the government only allowed federal financial aid at traditional community colleges, universities and trade schools.
In partnership with nonprofit coding bootcamp Zip Code Wilmington, and Wilmington University, is proud to be one of fewer than 10 groups selected to pilot the new Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) program. Our job will be to assess Zip Code Wilmington’s coding curriculum.
See ED.gov’s official press release here.
This pilot initiative is one indication that the perception of bootcamps, and other non-traditional means of education, is changing.
Still, can you really trust coding bootcamps?
This question has been hotly debated in recent years. The number of bootcamp grads rose from 10,000 in 2015 to a projected 18,000 this year, yet the perception of some coding bootcamps as a means for proper training has been mixed. Skeptics are wary of for-profit unaudited bootcamps with claims of high success rates that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Still, some top employers like Google have reportedly hired bootcamp grads as of late.
“Unfortunately, traditional education is not always accessible to everyone who needs it,” said HackerRank CEO and Cofounder Vivek Ravisankar. “We’re excited to help change that through this partnership, which empowers low-income students with a new education model to improve their lives. This program helps to create opportunities for developers regardless of their backgrounds.”
The goal of this EQUIP initiative is test the fed’s hypothesis that—when paired with an independent auditor and accredited university—training bootcamps can prepare Americans with the skills they need for in-demand jobs affordably. If this pilot goes well, this could mean qualifying bootcamps nationwide could be adopted into the federal student aid system.
Most bootcamps offer a certificate of completion.
Coding challenges, on the other hand, offer a tangible result that bootcamp grads can show to prospective employers.
HackerRank has been the technology powering Zip Code Wilmington’s coding assessments for over a year now. Students solve HackerRank coding challenges both as part of their application to the highly selective program, and to benchmark their skills during the program.
“As these innovative programs continue to develop, it will be increasingly important to understand what an outcomes-based quality assurance system looks like for such programs,” says Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “I am encouraged to see that these colleges, providers, and quality assurance entities have stepped forward to provide models for doing so.”
According to the ED press release last year, the criteria for selected non-accredited training programs was:
Zip Code Wilmington is really unlike most coding bootcamps. First of all, it’s nonprofit. Second of all, its cost is very reasonable. The total tuition is $12,000. However, students pay $2,000 up front, and employers subsidize $10,000 upon hiring a graduate.
More on Zip Code’s selection and results:
“During our 3-month program, our students quit their jobs and work 80 to 100-hours per week,”says Melanie Augustin, Head of School at Zip Code Wilmington. “The EQUIP program will help our students focus on their studies with less financial stress, so they can increase their earning potential and make a better future for themselves and their families.”