School can be a pretty inefficient, and very expensive, way to learn. That’s why a new crop of sharply focused, boot-camp like training programs hold out so much promise. CNBC asked me to explore the world of alternative higher education recently — mostly computer coding crash courses. Nothing will replace college, but these programs provide a compelling alternative.
Schools like Flatiron in New York City seem tailor-made for young adults like Sharnie Ivery, from Brooklyn. Less than two years ago, Ivery, 23, was miserable in a dead-end retail sales job. He’d already dabbled in computer programming, so he tried a few college courses, but he already knew the material he was being forced to study.
“The pace was really slow,” he said.
So he dropped out. Then he got into Flatiron. The school usually charges $15,000 for a three-month course, but Ivery was selected for a special program sponsored by New York City which gave him five-month’ training for free.
“Honestly, I find schools work one of the least efficient ways for someone to learn anything,” he said. “Flatiron was very focused on programming. That’s exactly what I wanted to learn and that’s exactly what I did there. The work was super difficult but at the same time there was a support system. We all helped each other.”
Flash forward five months. Just as Ivery’s Flatiron program was ending, he attended a job fair was immediately hired as developer at BounceExchange, a web software company.
“The skills I had lined up exactly with what the company was looking for,” he said. “For me, I’d say getting a job was really easy.”
“Honestly, you can’t compare college to Flatiron. I learned so much at Flatiron. In college the only thing I did was was read text books and listen to professors talk for hours.”
Here’s the lead of my CNBC story. You can read the rest at CNBC.com
It seemed like a classic utopian vision. Free prestigious university classes delivered online, open to anyone, offering the potential to slay the college debt monster.
Instead, so-called Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) proved how little students often learn from online classes. Dropout rates as high as 90 percent were reported, and it seemed that traditional higher ed’s stranglehold as the gateway to higher-paying jobs was even tighter.
But new models of higher education alternatives are rising from those ashes that really can challenge—or neatly supplement—a college degree. MOOCs have morphed into hybrid programs with a more human touch, and ultrafocused, skills-based training courses in fields like computer programming are proving to be real contenders, offering 90 percent-plus job placement rates.