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MakerSquare Austin Selected by White House for Groundbreaking Higher Education Pilot Program

Owen Poindexter

MakerSquare Austin Selected by White House for Groundbreaking Higher Education Pilot Program's Image

We are excited to announce that MakerSquare Austin has been selected by the federal government to participate in EQUIP, a program that will allow low-income students to use federal aid toward our immersive JavaScript course. EQUIP creates partnerships between public universities and non-traditional programs such as ours. In concert with the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), which offers one of the most highly reputed Computer Science programs in the country, we are forging new pathways to excellent technology jobs. Two divisions within the university, the Center for Lifelong Engineering Education and TEXAS Extended Campus, were instrumental in building this fruitful partnership. Nontraditional students will be able to apply for grants and loans to a 16-week course at MakerSquare Austin, which will be offered to them at a reduced tuition. Under EQUIP, each partnership works with a third-party quality assurance entity (QAE) to ensure that students are receiving an excellent education.

“These partnerships will allow students—particularly low-income students—to access federal student aid for the first time to enroll in programs offered by non-traditional training providers, in partnership with colleges and universities, including coding bootcamps, online courses, and employer organizations,” the Department of Education explains in a press release.

Grants and loans have been a central force in shaping the modern university system. Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 created today’s federal aid system, dramatically increasing access to higher education for millions of lower and middle income students. Since then, the economy has seen seismic shifts, and new educational models, namely the coding bootcamp, have emerged to meet today’s demand for software engineers.

The EQUIP program is the next iteration on the design of using federal aid to provide access to key educational pathways. It does so by using the established system of grants and loans, while making regulatory adjustments to allow these funds to be used toward immersive programs such as ours. The final piece of the puzzle is to assign QAEs to evaluate the results of these partnerships, and we are excited to be working with both Entangled Solutions and Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico, LLP in this capacity. EQUIP provides an opportunity to explore new avenues for evaluating educational programs.

Quality assurance and transparency have long been issues in the coding bootcamp sector and in higher education generally. That’s why, earlier this year, we released the Standard Student Outcomes Methodology (SSOM), a protocol for capturing and reporting documented student outcomes. Every enrolled student is tracked by the SSOM, and we have our results independently verified by a third party. Transparency is a central pillar of an emerging paradigm in education focused on student outcomes.

"As these innovative programs continue to develop, it will be increasingly important to understand what an outcomes-based quality assurance system looks like for such programs,” says Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “I am encouraged to see that these colleges, providers, and quality assurance entities have stepped forward to provide models for doing so."

The prominent role of coding bootcamps in EQUIP bolsters what industry observers have known for years: this is a powerful educational model that has been uniquely effective in quickly addressing market needs. The stellar outcomes of our graduates show that coding bootcamps are a viable alternative or complement to a traditional computer science education.  Demand for technical skills is still on the rise, and coding bootcamps are proving an essential component of the tech education landscape. We are encouraged by the recognition of coding bootcamps generally and our program in particular from policymakers who are looking to prepare the next generation of Americans for a shifting economy.

Change is afoot in higher education, and we are leading the way. Over four years, we have used data, a spirit of experimentation and a focus on long-term outcomes to create a groundbreaking program that has already changed thousands of careers. We look forward to a future where our innovations are replicated and expanded on across higher education.

See what our program is achieving already: explore our verified student outcomes.