Risk vs reward: 2022 to signal the end of the Shell game with bootcamps

Expectations surrounding post-secondary education have traditionally been a significant barrier to entry. Prospective students face high costs, large loans and career delays to focus on full-time learning, the main concern being the cost, which makes it inaccessible to many.

Digital learning is the fastest growing education market, with a 900% growth since 2000, yet the cost of college continues to rise, to go past inflation AND family income over the past few decades.

With COVID-19 negatively impacting in-person learning rates, students are questioning whether post-secondary education is worth the risk and cost.

Since the creation of Nucamp in 2017, our mission has been to make education accessible to everyone. Those who really want to make education accessible must be serious about making education affordable.

However, what we saw of the coding bootcamp space was largely something else. In an effort to overcome the cost barrier, coding bootcamps have introduced Revenue Sharing Agreements (ISAs), in which students trade a percentage of their future earnings over 3 to 5 years for a coding bootcamp of 14 to 20 weeks.

This removes the initial cost risk from the barrier, however, the high risk remains even if it is spread over time. If a job doesn’t work out, they still have to pay it back. ISAs are in a legal gray area that is too open to interpretation and they have been criticized for being predatory and unjust.

Part of the effort to attract students to high-cost bootcamps with ISAs is the strategy of advertising high placement rates, on the theory that a likely placement will make it easier to pay off the tuition loan through of an ISA. These statistics, however, fell under meticulous examination and investigation during the last years.

In light of recent reviews and lawsuits, we will see more regulatory powers put the graduation and placement rates claimed by bootcamps under the microscope, which will reduce the appeal of ISAs. This will strongly encourage bootcamps to be more specific and upfront about what they are claiming or face potentially serious consequences.

Although Nucamp does not promise jobs, we report whether graduates are using the skills they have learned in the workplace within 6 months. These professional skill rates and graduation rates, based on surveys of graduates, are updated daily and have been publicly available on our website since April 2021.

Another alternative to solve the problem of accessibility is the adoption of the Revature Model apprenticeships in the United States, where students are placed in minimum-wage technology training programs and then, upon graduation, are placed in jobs with a salary below average where they have the opportunity to “pay back” their education. However, if the graduate quits before their two-year contract expires, they may have to pay $36,500. The high demand for low-cost skilled labor makes these contact-related graduates attractive hires and will therefore be a growing trend in 2022.

Like ISAs, the Revature model essentially shifts risk, like a shell game, where students must guess risk versus reward.

The volume of learning offered compared to ten years ago is significant, with new government support and new investors aiming to bring learnings to the technology. The apprenticeship model shifts the risk of expensive education from the student/employee to the employer, in exchange for below-average pay and on-the-job training. Graduates of high-quality, low-cost bootcamps such as Nucamp will be very attractive to those employers looking to recruit already qualified individuals to reduce their risk.

Featured image: Julia M Cameron, Pexels.

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