As more employers turn down college degrees as a condition of employment, students are choosing cheaper and faster alternatives to college, like coding boot camps.
Why is this important: The cost of a university education continues to rise and the federal student loan debt stands at $ 1.6 trillion. Students wonder if college is worth it, especially when it may no longer be necessary to get a well-paying job.
What is happening: College enrollment is down about 5% this spring compared to spring 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. That’s almost 730,000 fewer students.
- The pandemic is contributing to the downside as students choose to delay college either because they can’t afford it or because they don’t want to attend classes remotely. But universities were suffering before the pandemic and will continue to struggle after, said Ryan Craig, chief executive of Achieve Partners, a venture capital firm focused on the future of higher education.
- “The underlying crises of affordability, completion and employability continue unabated,” he says.
- So, for many students, training programs or boot camps that can teach technical skills in a matter of months can be a smarter bet than a traditional college or university.
At a time, a number of large employers – including Google, Bank of America, EY, Apple, IBM, and Penguin Random House – no longer require college degrees.
- Training programs are particularly effective in finding jobs in software, IT and healthcare, says Craig. And interest in these programs increased during the pandemic.
- “A lot of companies are realizing that you don’t need a more traditional college education to be a good software engineer,” says Kate Lillemoen, who dropped out of school and enrolled in a boot camp coding with Tech Elevator. “It changes very quickly.” She now has a software job.
But, but, but: There are still millions of jobs that to do require college degrees, and even for jobs that don’t, there is still a hiring bias that favors degree holders.
- On top of that, there aren’t enough training programs to prepare America’s workforce for the jobs of the future, says James Rhyu, CEO of Stride Inc., an education company.
The bottom line: “We need a cultural change,” Rhyu says. “We have generations and generations of parents who are just conditioned to have their child go to college. But our country’s mantra should be, ‘No college is required.'”