Liz Eggleston & Course Report on Coding Bootcamps and Diversity

The face of the modern tech industry is not black & white.  In fact, it’s mostly white.  African-Americans make up only 4% of people in software development, application and systems jobs, and Latino/as make up only 5% of these jobs in the US (http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsrace2012.pdf).  A number of organizations like Black Girls Code, CodeNow, and the Level Playing Field Institute are working with young people to help change these statistics by generating interest in computer science and programming in underrepresented communities, and the generation of students with access to these programs will undoubtedly begin to trickle up into the technology field.  But what about students who have long since graduated from high school and are now looking into coding boot camps in their quest to be software engineers and web developers?  These immersive coding bootcamps can charge up to $18,000 for their 12-week programs and are training their students to be proficient in languages like Ruby, JavaScript, and Python- many even guarantee job placement.  What does this mean for the future landscape of the US tech industry?  Coding bootcamps are producing graduates that enter the workforce almost immediately, so their approach to recruiting and retaining students from underrepresented backgrounds may quickly start to define, and potentially diversify, the landscape of the tech industry.  One way to reach out to potential students is through scholarship programs- let’s take a look at the coding boot camps currently offering scholarships specifically to underrepresented minorities:

Dev Bootcamp, one of the first immersive coding schools in the US, offers a “$500 scholarship if you’re female, a veteran of the U.S. Military, or from an ethnic minority group underrepresented in the software engineering field (African American, Chicano/Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander).”  While Launch Academy may not award the highest scholarship, they do take an automatic discount of $500 off tuition if the applicant is part of an ethnic minority group underrepresented in the software engineering field.

Metis, a 12-week Ruby bootcamp based in Boston, cites low representation in tech professions and a “need to reverse these trends and create more avenues for talented individuals from underrepresented demographic groups and communities to help drive our future economic growth” as fuel for their scholarship program.  Students who are part of an underrepresented minority group (including African Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians), Hispanic and Latino Americans, Pacific Islanders, and mainland Puerto Ricans) will be automatically eligible to receive a $2000 scholarship towards tuition.  In our research, the Metis scholarship is the highest amount awarded.

The Nashville Software School offers grants and scholarships for students from underrepresented groups like women and minorities.  The NSS is a non-profit organization and already reduces in-state student fees to $1000, but they cite cases when partner companies subsidize even that tuition.  Founder John Wark is adamant about working with students from diverse backgrounds, citing that many minority groups are underrepresented in the programming world and software development: “We’re not taking advantage of the latent potential of more than half of our potential workforce.  And we’re experiencing a shortage of developers, so anything Nashville Software School can do to open up opportunities to a larger percentage of people who have the potential to be good developers is a good thing in our opinion.”

The Flatiron School policy is more vague, and the school couldn’t be reached for clarification.  While a specific amount is never cited, the Flatiron School’s website ensures that they “have grants and scholarships available for students from underrepresented groups like females and minorities.”

In our research, these are the only schools (there are roughly 70 immersive bootcamps in the US) that offer scholarships, and even these scholarships could use improvement.  The largest scholarship, offered by Metis, is a mere fraction of their $12,500 tuition.  Only the Nashville Software School has successfully crafted a creative tuition model that supports participation by people from communities underrepresented in tech.  As coding bootcamps start to gain traction in the education sector, founders should be focused on making their programs more accessible to all – does a $500 discount accomplish this?

Liz Eggleston is a co-founder and writer for Course Report, an online resource of interviews, application tips, and reviews for potential students considering coding bootcamps.

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