The race in tech: why coding bootcamps are a hurdle

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Photo Credit: Jeb Milling | Daily Texan Staff

“Computer Science? That sounds like a lot of work, but you’re going to end up making a lot of money, right?”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I wouldn’t have to major in anything at all. As technological literacy becomes essential to a widening array of professions, technological skills have become nearly synonymous with employment and making money.

This narrative has led to the mass creation of “coding bootcamps” or “coding schools” across the country. While I support increased access to educational resources —  especially in computer science — the growth of coding-only schools is troubling. Many of these schools require students to pay thousands of dollars for programs that lack guidelines and have insufficient instruction.

Coding Bootcamps are short programs, usually eight to 12 weeks, offered by for-profit groups that seek to teach students computer programming rapidly. These programs gained popularity in the past decade, and there are a half-dozen code schools operating in Austin itself.

The University, partnered with a private company named Trilogy Education Services, Inc., currently offers part-time and full-time boot camps that teach coding and data analytics. UT hopes the expansion of these programs will bolster its already strong computer science presence in the country. This focus should be met with apprehension, as the reliability of coding bootcamps is doubtful at best.

The predominant problem with these institutions is that they market their services on the basis that they guarantee you a job when they do little to ensure employment upon graduation. Glittering brochures detail an exciting life in tech that can be achieved just by attending these short programs. But UT-affiliated coding schools, like Trilogy, don’t publish job placement data. The success rate of these institutions is virtually unknown. All they provide is anecdotal evidence of a handful of successful individuals.

Many of the UT sponsored programs can be upwards of $10,000. When students are planning on spending this large sum on a short program, they should know exactly what they’re getting for the money. Anecdotes may provide personal insight, but they don’t provide adequate information for students.

While most bootcamps claim that they provide career counseling, many fail to follow up with students after they exit the program. Reviews of Trilogy’s services claim its career counseling was unhelpful and unorganized. The lack of adequate career preparation raises concerns about whether UT and Trilogy are practicing honest marketing.

Students pay thousands of dollars for coding bootcamps, and this high price can damage their financial security. Most coding bootcamps do not receive accreditation like traditional colleges and universities, so students who attend them are not eligible for student loans. Instead, students have to take out loans from private lenders to attend, accepting thousands of dollars in rapidly growing debt. Student loans for coding bootcamps typically cannot help pay for other supplies, such as computer equipment. All of these factors leave students economically vulnerable.

There should be greater support for economic mobilization through technology, but the opportunity to further technological literacy shouldn’t only be available through bootcamps. UT should pursue better ways to introduce technology to the community.

Krishnan is a computer science freshman from Plano.