Commentary: Codeup’s New Institute Aims to Reinvent College

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Codeup students hard at work in the main classroom in the Weston Centre. Photo by Kara Gomez.

Codeup students hard at work in the main classroom in the Weston Centre. Photo by Kara Gomez.

We live in a global, technology-driven economy and workforce where, in the words of Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and famous investor, “software is eating the world.”

Don’t believe me? Below is a sample of the world’s largest and fastest growing companies by category:

Bookseller – Amazon
Video service – Netflix
Music – Apple’s iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora
Marketing platform – Google and Groupon
Telecommunications – Skype
Recruiting company – LinkedIn

What do all of these businesses have in common? They are software companies. And the list doesn’t stop with these more obvious examples. Many companies in traditional industries, such as banking and insurance, also see themselves as evolving technology companies.

However, in the midst of this age of technological progress, I regularly hear from executives of startups and corporations that we, as a society, are not creating high-skill technology talent with the necessary job-ready abilities at a scale to drive productivity and innovation.

And I’m concerned that this problem likely will not be solved in the current, traditional education environment.

The ability for someone to pursue higher education in any field is becoming a challenge, particularly because of financial barriers. Rising costs of college tuition either prevent college attendance entirely or lead to significant student loan debt.

How are we going to solve these challenges?

I’ve recently joined the team at Codeup, a computer programming school for mid-career changers and veterans in downtown San Antonio, as vice president of education to tackle these challenges. Our answer to the pressing higher education challenges is Codeup Institute.

Through Insitute, we aim to revolutionize higher education access, success, and career readiness in computer science.

Codeup Institute – It’s not college. It’s Institute.

Codeup Institute is a two-year, automated software engineering apprenticeship powered by a self-directed, peer-to-peer learning model for recent high school graduates. Codeup Institute’s mission is straightforward: graduate talented software engineers and technologists with the knowledge, experience, and skills to excel in the Digital Age.

Its education model, “Empowered Education,” fuses three fundamental learning concepts: a challenge-based curriculum, peer-to-peer learning, and a student-driven education. Adapted from the internationally renowned Ecole 42 in Paris, France, Codeup Institute eliminates the high costs associated with instructors and student-purchased textbooks while adding the value that accrues from a rigorous, peer-to-peer learning environment.

Codeup Institute students spend two years in-person at our downtown campus intensely focused on learning top-notch programming skills. Through an approach that blends a comprehensive computer science foundation with applied, industry-related skills (mobile and web development), Codeup Institute will bridge the gap between higher education and industry needs.

Codeup instructors lead a class. Photo by Kara Gomez.

Codeup instructors lead a class. Photo by Kara Gomez.

From the first day of class, students will be assigned programming challenges of escalating difficulty and will solve them using open-source online resources, their fellow students, and Codeup Institute’s knowledgeable mentors. While nearly everything a student needs to learn about programming can be found on the Internet, at no cost, motivation is the single greatest barrier to pushing through the content and acquiring the necessary skills and theoretical foundation needed in technology careers. As such, the concept of peer-facilitated learning is fundamental at Insitute.

The atmosphere of authentic teamwork and collaboration develops essential soft skills, such as grit and creative problem-solving acumen, which contribute to professional success. As a support network, 23 programmers (to date) from companies across San Antonio have signed on to invest their time and passion for coding as mentors for Institute.

Tuition is $10,000 a year ($1,250 a year for students from a household income of less than $40,000); 100% financing is available for all students who qualify. As a first-generation college graduate with student loans, I feel that financial accessibility for those historically unable to enter/complete college is an incredibly impactful component of Codeup Institute. I wholeheartedly believe in Codeup Institute’s value to establish higher education access and success as the norm, not the exception, and it starts by tackling the cost of higher education.

Lessons from the Past, Plans for the Future

I’m working with Jason Straughan, Chris Turner and Michael Girdley, the three co-founders of Codeup computer programming bootcamp. Codeup results are impressive: 96% of graduates are employed within six months. The average graduate is making $45,000 right out of the program, on a trajectory to earn the nationwide mean for a web developer of $90,000. On average, graduates increase their earnings by $13,000 as a result of the program.

Codeup Institute will not only increase social and economic mobility of San Antonio’s most valuable resource – its people – but be an economic engine for the city by producing employable software engineers.

According to the University of California, Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti in “The New Geography of Jobs,” each high-skill technology job creates five other jobs outside the technology industry. Also, according to “The Hidden STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Economy” by the Brookings Institution, “More STEM-oriented metropolitan economies perform strongly on a wide variety of economic indicators, from innovation to employment. Job growth, employment rates, patenting, wages, and exports are all higher in more STEM-based economies.”

If you’re an individual, government, or business looking for a meaningful, strong return on investment, look no further than the field of computer science.

What would cause Google to open an office – not in Austin, New York, or Chicago – but in San Antonio? What would it take for a company like Dropbox, Netflix, or Twitter to settle into downtown San Antonio and start offering high-paying jobs to our community members?

Simple: Access to technology talent.

Codeup Institute, as an innovative educational model, intends to generate that talent.

 

*Featured/top image: Codeup students hard at work in the main classroom in the Weston Centre. Photo by Kara Gomez.

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