Feds Testing Student Aid for Bootcamps

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For those who want to break into a programming career, a stint at a coding bootcamp can prove essential. But not everybody can afford to attend bootcamps, which can cost thousands of dollars for a full course.

In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Education launched EQUIP (Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships), an effort to provide low-income students with access to different kinds of education and training, including coding bootcamps. Now the agency has announced its next step: partnerships between a handful of educational institutions and “non-traditional providers” that will participate in EQUIP.

Under the program, students will have the ability to apply federal student aid to programs run by those non-traditional providers, which include The Flatiron School (a coding school that serves both low- and high-income students), MakerSquare (a coding and software bootcamp), and Epicodus (a software coding school). These providers are each paired with schools such as Northeastern University, SUNY Empire State College, and the Dallas Community College System.

Traditionally, those participating in bootcamps and other “new” educational models have been ineligible for federal student aid. By pairing these programs with a handful of selected colleges and universities, students will have access to that aid to pursue their coding dreams. The Department of Education, however, emphasizes that this program is an experiment, and that the partnerships will be reviewed by a third-party quality assurance entity (QAE) with the ability to hold all parties accountable.

How do bootcamps match up against a traditional college or university education? Triplebyte (which pairs developers with startups) recently compared the educational paths, using interviews with developers. “The first thing to note about this graph is that bootcamp grads do as well as or better than college grads on practical programming and web system design, and do worse on algorithms and low-level systems,” read the company’s blog posting that accompanied its findings. When it came to “deep knowledge” of programming, though, college graduates had an advantage.

Whether or not you participate in a program like EQUIP, selecting the right bootcamp is a complex task. Anyone thinking of participating in one must not only evaluate the program’s quality, but its strategy for helping you land a job after you graduate.

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