Federal Dollars for Coding Academies? Proceed with Caution

Federal Dollars for Coding Academies? Proceed with Caution

RE-FACTOR THIS: Progressive think tank The Century Foundation (TCF) offers thoughtful caution to the US Department of Education as it considers extending federal aid eligibility to coding bootcamps, whose students are not currently eligible for federal Pell Grants or student loans. The DoE's intent is to make these "trade schools for the digital age" accessible to low-income and minority students, and in doing so give them a roadmap to high-paying, high-tech jobs.

But TCF's Robert Shireman makes a compelling case for moving slowly and carefully in the hopes of avoiding an onslaught of overpriced, poor quality programs like some that have marred the for-profit college sector. Specifically, the DoE should take steps to protect students from potential pop-up coding shops chasing low-income students flush with federal dollars. Just as for-profit colleges must abide by the 90-10 rule, programming academies should be required to ensure a portion of their students are paying their own way. As for the DoE's desire for standardized assessments? TCF prefers instead to have every graduates' project work—an authentic demonstration of their coding skills and creativity—made publicly available for both potential students and employers to assess. Now that's a smart, practical idea if ever we've heard one.

It is worth remembering that the for-profit college scandal, which is still in the process of being cleaned up, began as a noble effort to allow companies to gain access to federal funds only if they ran innovative training programs that led to good jobs.

With that in mind, policy makers would be wise to heed TCF's sound advice. Have your own suggestions? Send them straight to the DoE.

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