Need-to-know News: Universities Launch Innovative Programs – MircoMaster’s, Boot Camps that May Qualify for Financial Aid via New EQUIP Program

This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.

learning_boot_campMassive open online courses (MOOCs) may soon be eligible for financial aid from the US Department of Education (DOE). So might boot camp-type programs that provide skill development and training in an area of expertise. There are conditions of course, but the pilot program, Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) launched by the DOE is a significant development in higher education. Meanwhile back at some universities like MIT, Rutgers and Northeastern, educators have been busy working on innovative, non-traditional programs that might just qualify.

The shift to embrace non-degree programs or ‘alternative credentialing’ as they are typically labeled, is significant. It indicates an expansion in thinking by government and participating education institutions about what higher education is, how it’s delivered, financed and who it serves. These programs are not a replacement for traditional higher education; they don’t compete with or undermine undergraduate education even though some view it as so. Critics view alternative credentialing as part of the ‘unbundling’ trend of higher education that they deem as undermining the traditional undergraduate degree (Craig & Williams, 2015; Newton, 2015).

Others, myself included don’t see it that way. These programs are a complement to educational offerings of an institution. Boot camps and MOOC-type programs reach a unique segment of the student market—they fill a need for flexible, accessible, just-in-time training that meet student needs for vocational education.

I’ve outlined below the key takeaways of the DOE’s EQUIP program and share three universities’ new and innovative education programs—MIT’s MicroMaster’s, Rutgers Coding Bootcamp and Northeastern’s Data Analytics Bootcamp.

US Department of Education’s Pilot Program: EQUIP
EQUIP launched (officially) on October 14 and is part of the current administrations effort to make higher education more affordable and accessible. According the DOE’s website the pilot is designed to:

“…accelerate and evaluate innovation through partnerships between colleges and universities and non-traditional providers of education in order to equip more Americans with the skills, knowledge, and training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

It appears EQUIP was driven, at least in part, by data indicating the effectiveness of boot camp-style programs. Effectiveness, when reading between the lines means earned income. The DOE quotes data from Georgetown Center for Education and Workforce which estimates that “men with non-degree certificates in computer/information services earned $72,000 per year, which is on average more than 72% of men with more traditional associate’s degrees” (FACT SHEET).

EQUIP is in the pilot phase—it’s an experiment designed to find innovative programs that provide alternative options and pathways to post-secondary education. The criteria are rigorous as “a limited number of outstanding applicants to participate“. The criteria includes: an accredited post-secondary institution must partner with at least one non-traditional provider of education and a third-party Quality Assurance Entity (QAE) to independently review and monitor the quality of the program.

Examples of Alternative Programs
Numerous innovative programs have been launched by higher education institutions over the last few months. Some leverage digital learning vehicles such as the MOOC format, as does MIT’s MicroMaster, while others are delivered entirely face-to-face.

  • MIT_logo_black_redMIT MicroMaster’s:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched two new programs in: A one-year Master’s Degree program in Supply Chain Management (SCM) with two pathways for completion, on-campus and the other obtained through a 50/50 mix of online and on-campus instruction. The second program is the MITx MicroMaster’s, a credential featuring graduate-level work in SCM—fully online. Read more:
  • Level: Northeastern University: The tag line for the boot camp program is “Real Skills. Real Experience. Two Months“. Northeastern created Level a program in data analytics with the help of four companies (listed as ‘industry’ partners of Northeastern’s website). The program is delivered face-to-face in four locations—Boston, Charlotte, Seattle and Silicon Valley. Though not yet eligible for financial aid, the website offers information for students seeking financial assistance. Apparently there are a host of third-party websites and resources that list lenders that offer boot camp loans.
  • rutgers-central-jersey-callout
    Rutgers Logo for its Coding Boot Camp Program

    Rutgers Coding Boot Camp: An on-campus boot camp program offered at its campus location in New Jersey designed for the working professional. It runs for six months, is a total of 250 hours of instruction, offered two evenings a week from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM and Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM.

“…we offer all of our students career support and coaching and provide multiple opportunities for students to meet with prospective employers. In addition, we offer students experiential learning opportunities to further bolster their portfolio”.

Further Reading


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