3 signs you’ll soon be attending a coding bootcamp at your college

It all started as an alternative to the traditional college education. Now they’ve caught the eyes of deans across the country.

Coding bootcamps have been a trending topic in higher education as their focus on job readiness and generous starting salaries has garnered the attention of both college students and career switchers — but those aren’t the only groups that have taken notice.

Colleges are seeing the success of coding bootcamps as well, and are now looking to leverage their ability to get students skilled-up on technical subjects.

Coding bootcamps are the fast-track education option for those interested in becoming a web developer. Originally created to fill the demand for skilled web developers in today’s tech economy, what was once a niche industry has proliferated the general higher education space as a whole, and can now be seen as a competitor to universities. Coding bootcamps are now helping address other in-demand technical careers as well, such as data science and analytics.

In 2015, Course Report reported that the coding bootcamp market grew by 2.4x, to an estimated 16,056 graduates. To put that in context, it’s estimated that there were 48,700 computer science undergrads in 2014.

As traditional degree-granting universities begin understanding the value that coding bootcamps are providing by specifically teaching to the skills demanded by the economy, education will be changing in big ways in 2016.

Here are three things colleges are doing about coding bootcamps right now…

Partnerships between bootcamps and universities

Colleges are now forming partnerships with coding bootcamps to provide students with a more technical education.

Lynn University, the liberal arts school out of Boca Raton, Florida, is now allowing their students to partake in approved General Assembly courses for course credits. For example, Lynn University is issuing a semester’s worth of credits for students who complete a 16-week program at General Assembly, a skills bootcamp that raised $70 million last September. Lynn University’s first group of students are already underway with their courses at General Assembly.

The allure of bootcamp-style training associated with a university that employers recognize may appeal to some students.

“It’s important that our students are well prepared in the skills that are demanded by the job market,” says Gregg Cox, the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Lynn University. “Even if some of our students don’t become coders, in today’s world, being technical will help in any career.”

Lynn University isn’t the first school to partner with a coding bootcamp. Last year, Concordia University out of Saint Paul, Minnesota partnered with the coding bootcamp The Software Craftsmanship Guild. In 2013, Galvanize, a bootcamp that offers web development data science in eight cities across the United States, partnered with the University of New Haven to offer a master’s degree in data science.

Universities are now launching their own bootcamps

Within the last three months, colleges such as Northeastern, Rutgers and the University of Central Florida have decided not to partner with bootcamps. Instead, they’ve chosen to launch their own, in-house bootcamp schools.

Northeastern’s Level program is an eight-week bootcamp that teaches students core data analytics skills. The school is currently in its second cohort in Boston, and recently launched in Seattle, Charlotte and Silicon Valley.

“The thing that differentiates a university is that it implies quality,” says Nick Ducoff, Level Founding Director and Northeastern’s VP of New Ventures. Northeastern is a top 50 university that is the first of its kind to offer this immersive style of learning. Students can rest assured that our bootcamps will be held to the high standards of our university.”

Rutgers University announced its own coding bootcamp last October, which is set to start on April 25th; the University of Central Florida will launch its 24-week coding bootcamp at the end of March.

Will colleges partner with bootcamps, develop their own programs or find a different alternative?

Wharton alums Edward Lando and Abhi Ramesh developed a bootcamp-style course for their alma mater after seeing a need to provide coding skills to undergrad and MBA students. Their coding bootcamp specifically fits into the summer breaks of UPenn students, which offers a viable alternative to the traditional summer internship. Students will become programmers and gain a better understanding of the skills required to land a career in tech.

The recent activity of college bootcamps is an interesting one, as not all of these programs offer college credits.

Course credit or not, the allure of bootcamp-style training associated with a university that employers recognize may appeal to some students. Colleges are equipped with the resources to provide a coding bootcamp education, but it will be interesting to see what outcomes these university bootcamps expect from their students, as they’ll now be competing with the ranks of established coding bootcamps like Hack Reactor, Dev Bootcamp and Bloc.

Support from the U.S. Department of Education

On October 14, 2015, the Obama Administration announced a pilot program called EQUIP; Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships.

If a college applies and is approved for participation in the EQUIP initiative, they will be granted the opportunity to partner with a coding bootcamp or MOOC (Massively Open Online Course, such as Coursera or Udacity) and provide the enrolling student with financial aid and college credit — two things coding bootcamps can’t do.

This pilot could be a huge game changer in bootcamp education, as both federal aid and course credit have been near impossible for bootcamps to get approval for. This has led to each program having to establish their own scholarships and focus strictly on job outcomes, not credentials.

As of October 14, 2015, colleges can now apply for EQUIP. If a university is approved, it will allow them to curate programs of study from one or more providers of post-secondary education and training.

There have not been any announcements of approved schools under the EQUIP pilot. Yet. To receive priority consideration, secondary institutions were required to apply by Dec 14, 2015. Granted that it will take time for the Department of Education to vet applications, an announcement should be expected sometime this year.

With universities now keenly aware of the coding bootcamp movement, it will be interesting to see how each college approaches the more technical, skills-based education that has made coding bootcamps so successful.

Will colleges partner with bootcamps, develop their own programs or find a different alternative as students demand more applicable skills for STEM jobs?

With a few schools taking the initiative so far, the space is young and worth keeping an eye on — by both students and college administrators.

The speed at which universities decide to integrate a bootcamp education into their offering will depend on a variety of factors, such as faculty buy-in and department approval. Non-accredited college bootcamps may be the first step in helping get bootcamps in the door. Even though colleges are still the gold standard for higher education, it’s important to respect how recognized coding bootcamps have proven their ability to efficiently maximize the time and energy of students to net financially viable careers.

Soon the coding bootcamp narrative will no longer just be “should I attend a coding bootcamp?” With the involvement of colleges, prospective students will begin asking “which college’s bootcamp program fits with my higher education needs?”