Finding ROI In Higher Education

The news is full of stories where students paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college (and beyond) only to find themselves stuck in dead end jobs and unable to pay off the cost of student loans. We have a crisis in the US in higher education. The costs have risen and the benefits have declined.

It has gotten to the point where I believe if you have to personally shoulder the cost of your higher education, you should think twice about the traditional model. If you can get scholarships or if your parents are willing to pay the tuition bills, I still think its a valuable experience, but sadly it is not one that makes sense if you have to make the investment personally.

So what are we going to do about that? We need to find new models. And one new model that is working in NYC is The Flatiron School. The Flatiron School started two years ago and teaches students, both high school grads and college grads, how to become software engineers in a twelve week course that costs $15,000. Scholarships are available for students who cannot afford that investment.

Today The Flatiron School has published an audited report that validates the notion that their model produces graduates who can find high paying jobs. Here is a summary of the report and this is the “money slide” from it:

cost and benefit of flatiron

So for a high school graduate, the tuition at Flatiron can be paid back with six months of after tax income. For a college graduate, you can increase your pay by ~$30k by spending $15k. You get that payback in one year of after tax income.

For the average college grad, it takes roughly three years of all of your after tax income to pay off your college costs. If you go on and do Flatiron, you can pay off everything with two years of after tax income.

Anyway you cut the numbers, The Flatiron School is a great investment. Part of it is that the students learn a valuable skill – software development. Part of it is that the cost of delivering that education are very reasonable. And it isn’t that they do this on the cheap. Here is the work required from a student at The Flatiron School:

educational activity at Flatiron

There’s been a lot of talk that online education is the answer to lowering the costs of higher education. The huge investment in MOOCS that happened a few years ago was based on that notion. The reality is that online education is a part of the answer but not the silver bullet that some thought it would be. I gave a talk at Wharton a couple years ago about this.

The answer to lowering the cost and increasing the benefits of higher education requires a multitude of changes to the current model. And one of them is teaching students skills that are directly related to job requirements. Doing that makes students more employable and more valuable.

This is not a criticism of the liberal arts model, per se. As Steve Jobs said in this interview, learning to code is a liberal art. This is a criticism of administrations and faculties that are rigid in their interpretation of what liberal arts and education should mean. This is a criticism of not evolving and changing with the times. This is a criticism of thinking what worked yesterday will work tomorrow.

And mostly this is a criticism of not making hard choices. Schools that are happy to add courses, faculty, and buildings are not willing to eliminate courses, faculty, and buildings. When you always add and never subtract, you get cost structures that are not sustainable.

The Flatiron School is an example of what can be done with a blank slate. They have figured out how to give students highly relevant and valuable skills at a cost that is both affordable and recoupable very quickly. Adam, Avi, Sara and the entire team has created a model that should be an inspiration for others.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    As an extension of this.Sat with my niece at Channukah and talked about the enormous cost and her dept. Will she go into pediatrics where her true love is–unlikely. She will I bet specialize and part of that decision will be where the money is.

    1. LE

      My wife went through this as well. She had to take a part of the profession that had a good chance of earning the income that she needed (being a single mother at the time) vs. what she wanted to do. She actually had a fellowship in what you could call her passion but had to pass it up because she couldn’t afford to take the time.

      1. awaldstein

        Good input.Programming is one thing, health care another.I think that just like education needs to be rethought from the ground up, how we train and compensate our doctors as well.I don’t have an answer but the problem is in front of us all.

  2. ceonyc

    I don’t believe a four year degree is worth it, but this math is wonky. You have a skewed initial pool. On one side, it’s the pool of all high school seniors. On the other, what does the Flatiron School’s initial pool look like? How many of them already have college educations, to start with? I’d bet 90%+ already have degrees… so the more apt comparison is some kind of technical grad school… ITP for example… not undergrad vs what is a continuing ed program.

    1. ceonyc

      Whoa… I was first to an AVC post. πŸ™‚

      1. ShanaC

        it happens

    2. Michael Robertson

      This is called the selection bias, but it happens for colleges too. A more capable populace attends college which is already ahead of their peers. Colleges claim the resulting delta is from college attendance by in fact college bound would outperform non college bound even without college.The Flatiron numbers are compelling even if not precise. For example, it takes the average college graduate 5.2 to graduate not 4.My foundation did research on the ROI of college and the median (half do better, half do worse) is a meager 2-4%.

      1. PrometheeFeu

        It depends. If Flatiron students are choosing between Flatiron and 4 years at Harvard, the ROI sucks. If they are choosing between Flatiron and a community college, the ROI is amazing. It’s surely somewhere in the middle and exactly where makes all the difference. The numbers above on their own mean very little.

    3. Ana Milicevic

      Yeah, that’s what I’m wondering too. Would have been a better comparison.

    4. Amar

      Agreed!2 years is a small data point to compare against an massive industrial complex with multiple decades of data and output. Not to mention the selection bias involved (the kind of candidates who chose to attend flatiron will most likely succeed in either system)I think the (education) industrial complex is obviously broken btw, this is not a defense of the complex πŸ™‚

    5. Andrew K Kirk

      I have no claim on the school’s success or not, but I too was amazed to see such a skewed application of statistics. Comparing the ~350 Flatiron School students to “first-time, full-time undergraduate students” as the reports show, is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

  3. Aaron Klein

    Yes, yes, yes, yes.I have been preaching this message in my role as an elected community college trustee for the last ten years. And our system here in California (and the nation) still has its head stuck in the sand.Bottom line: there is a RAPID shift underway from students seeking a credential to students seeking KNOWLEDGE. And you don’t need four years and $200,000 to achieve the requisite knowledge to start contributing.Our community colleges, and many other academies like Flatiron, can be a huge engine of economic growth and prosperity for all if we can get our act together and start providing this.

    1. Andrew Kennedy


    2. Duncan Logan

      Aaron,California Community Colleges came and visited RocketU (similar to Flatiron but in SF) and are kicking off a program to test “Boot camps” in partnership with Community Colleges.A key components to our model is to believe that the STUDENT is our product. This is what we effectively sell to the employer at the end of the course. Our focus is to produce the highest quality student and then find them the best job that suits them.I think another item for consideration is “Education as a Service”, Actually remove the notion of learning 100% upfront and consider a career with pockets of learning as you go.

      1. Aaron Klein

        LOVE this. Let me know what I can do to help get a pilot program launched at Sierra College. We’re now hosting Hacker Lab and a host of STEM programs, and this would fit right [email protected]

    3. JamesHRH

      When asked about the benefits of going to MIT, the bartender stated (paraphrasing here):- the other students were awesome- the teachers were awesome- MIT is highly respected brandThe problem with education isn’t what you learn, it is that people value education more for the social aspects than the capabilities it imbues in students.That being said, environment matters. Hanging with highly engaged, super smart, like minded and similarly interested peers can be a life changer for a 19 year old.

  4. pointsnfigures

    While I hate to do strict ROI analysis on education (after all, no one would get an MBA if you did that) I totally agree with your points. I’d go further and say that entrepreneurs will be hamstrung if they try to work within the existing educational system. It’s a public bureaucracy that needs to be dismantled. Don’t ask for permission-just do it.On the flip side, one of the reasons that education costs so much is lack of competition, a government mandated monopoly, and we aren’t increasing supply–at the same time demand for education is increasing. International students are coming to the US in droves. Costs have no where to go but up.We wind up with “credentials” and not necessarily true skill. Flatiron is an example of skill.

    1. Anthony Serina

      People would get MBA’s if you did an ROI calculation, it would just come from a handful of schools. If anything, the ROI’s for a couple of institutions have only gone up.

      1. pointsnfigures

        payback period can be long. also, heavily dependent on the age you are when you do it-and don’t forget to add in and calculate opportunity costs.

        1. Anthony Serina

          Age matters for sure as it will also effect job opportunities. I agree with your there. For a handful of schools though, the long term gain will definitely outweigh the dollar cost plus the opportunity cost. Won’t even be close

    2. Matt Zagaja

      What do you mean by lack of competition? There are over 7000 degree granting higher education institutions in the US and it’s growing every year!

      1. pointsnfigures

        They aren’t building any more Harvards. For profit education models are under attack from people like Senator Dick Durbin(D). Durbin has a vested interest in keeping the federal bureaucracy protected and alive. Look at how hard it is to start a charter school anywhere in America. New Orleans post Katrina revamped their public school system. They use charters and vouchers. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than what it was and it continues to get better.

  5. Emanuel Balarie

    100% agree. @fundseeder shares a similar vision as it pertains to investment managers and trading talent. Most successful money managers learn from others or from on the job experience.

  6. levnaginsky

    Same is true for MBA? I’ve been apprehensive about the prospect of spending $100K+ on this myself as I would be the one shouldering the cost and still have about $30K left to pay off from undergrad

  7. Matt Hames

    On a straight up comparative model, this seems like a no-brainer.People who go to college to learn, come out as critical thinkers who can solve future problems. Now, that isn’t to say that coders can’t do that, or that all liberal arts educated people can be effective problem solvers. But when you look at 10 years out, the numbers tend to favor the college educated, and they tend to favor the liberal arts. Again, none of this is perfect, and if you go to college and walk out 100K in debt, that will impact future earning because all decisions will be made in the present, not with an idea on the future.Full disclosure; I work at a University, so I’m obviously biased. I like that the marketplace offers different options. The world needs more coders, and more people who can solve problems we don’t even know we have. So hopefully there is room for both.Finally: I think learning a computer language should make people bilingual and we should rethink “languages” in high school.

    1. leapy

      Absolutely agree – on your main point and the “Finally:” addendum.Luckily my oldest son attends a school where the teaching staff agree that programming and music should count towards language credits (or the UK equivalent thereof).

  8. Andrew Kennedy

    Great post. Great great post. I have a close friend who works at the Flatiron School. He was their first ever student (student 0) and I have been following them closely. They hit the Ruby wave hard and I am encouraging my friend to expand the focus. Regardless I am a huge fan.

  9. Carlos N Velez/Lacerta Bio

    There is no question that the traditional university model needs to change, and competition is needed. However, we also need, from the employer side, a willingness to change. How many employers who have never heard to Flatiron would even look at a resume of a graduate? For employers, the college degree is a way (albeit a weak one) to reduce their hiring risk. For many employers, graduating top of the class from a school like Flatiron or a community college is simply a non-starter.

  10. Andrew Kennedy

    “When you always add and never subtract, you get cost structures that are not sustainable.” #truth

    1. Emily Merkle


  11. Steven Kane

    Great post. Really really important for us all to try to evolve higher ed to not be a road to personal bankruptcy. i would argue the federal government has a huge role to play here – why the heck should banks borrow money from the federal govt at nominal interest rates but college loans are at 5, 6, or 7 percent???also, everyone note – flatiron offers terrific summer and other programs in many cities now, not just NYC

  12. gorbachev

    While I think it’s probably a positive trend that there are alternative ways to learn certain skills, I do not think this sort of thing is as universal or close to education utopia you seem to think.For example, I would not want my doctor or lawyer to have been graduated from a 16-week course, online or not.It may be ok for software developers, although even then they’re not really all that ready…it’ll still take several months of on-the-job training (which the employer HOPEFULLY will provide) for them to be actually productive.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Doctors are outliers. In a blockchain world, there might be less use for a lot of lawyers. Even doctors are not keeping up with a lot of innovation. It’s almost impossible. The way we educate doctors should change. There might be ways to do it a lot better, cheaper and create more doctors.

      1. ShanaC

        why are doctors outliers – at least with surgeons, for some things it is definitely more akin to very complicated plumbing.

        1. Emily Merkle

          doctors put in the hard work. specialists are the real outliers. for the most part.

    2. LE

      I would not want my doctor or lawyer to have been graduated from a 16-week course, online or notNot only a long learning experience (which is necessary) but a vetting and proving ground since you don’t want people in such a critical profession that can’t cut the mustard. Same reason people drop out from Seal Training or the Marines.

  13. Andrew Kennedy

    A lot of comments are missing the point (I feel). The higher ed model/structure we have needs to be restructured; the question is how? The Flatiron School is a model that makes sense and can be a part of the solution (no one is saying it’s THE solution). I personally think that an integrated “apprentice” model that starts in middle school is a much needed feature of the solution. I knew what I wanted to do by my sophmore year of college, but many people do not know by then, which is somewhat crazy-town if they are levering up.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      A problem I see with an apprentice model starting at middle school is I’d struggle to believe that few if any 12 year olds really know what they want to do when they grow. I sure as hell didn’t until midway through college!

      1. Andrew Kennedy

        I agree. 12 is prob too young. idea is that the sooner you can narrow down what you don’t particularly like the better.

  14. LaMarEstaba

    Have you seen that there’s a rise in training people to do quality assurance in NYC?… Having been trained from scratch for QA (not in NYC), I realize how straightforward it is. It’s not that these people are learning easy skills, but more that there’s a clear answer to the question: “What’s valuable?” And those schools are able to focus on only the valuable parts.Colleges are struggling with that, because on one hand they want to offer students a valuable degree, but they also want to preserve the High Academia side.

  15. Ana Milicevic

    I love the Flatiron School model and think that this, combined with strong apprenticeship programs is a good way to think of reforming higher ed. Have been a fan of Drexel’s co-op program (… for a long time and wish more higher ed institutions implemented something similar.I’m curious though – are Flatiron’s students mainly high school grads? I’ve thought of it as a way to learn a new set of skills given an already strong foundation (e.g. a non-CS undergrad).

    1. ShanaC

      no, many are college grads who already have select schooling tagged to them

  16. William Mougayar

    There’s probably another related model, – the “pay as you go” one, which is implemented as a “co-op program”, like the highly popular and effective one at the University of Waterloo. Students alternate between a paid working term, and an education one. It does stretch the graduation horizon, but aside from the real money that students make, they graduate with 4-5 solid work experiences (at big companies or startups), and that helps them a lot to find full employment.

    1. Ana Milicevic

      That’s just like the Drexel co-op I was mentioning. Happy to hear of more places applying it. It’s a great way to connect the academic world with the post-academic one and makes your learnings immediately applicable in practice.

      1. William Mougayar

        Cool. How big in Drexel’s enrollment?

        1. Ana Milicevic

          Good question. Google tells me it’s 25k students all together (to Waterloo’s 30k) but I don’t know how many take part in the co-op program.

          1. William Mougayar

            Thanks Ana.

    2. Matt Kruza

      William, huge supporter of this idea and model. Not sure of the specifics of that program (will check it out), but the co-op model makes sense. Really the only wide-spread universal use of that in the United States is in engineering. practically every college of engineering does something like a 5 year program with between 2-5 3-6 month internships. Makes so much sense. However, to play devil’s is one of the most intellectually challenging career fields.. and one where the number of qualified professionals is less than almost any other major career field. Is this really scalable to other broader fields… even finance/sales/marketing/accounting or “liberal arts” etc? I think somewhat what we are hitting on is that certain degrees just can’t be justified by an ROI and those likely wouldn’t have demand for co-ops?

    3. Matt Kruza

      just checked the link to waterloo. appears their co-op is comprehensive across majors (140). Very impressive. I wonder if it could really scale. Interesting example to explore

      1. William Mougayar

        The budget to “run” this program is $5M annually I was told by the Dean. It’s in part paid by the school’s budget and in part by taking an extra fee from the students (I think it’s about $500 approx).

    4. PhilipSugar

      Drexel is another school that has had a long, long tradition of co-op’s.

    5. Matt Zagaja

      There was once a model where you’d go to a four year college for four years, graduate, get an entry-level job at a corporation, they would then train you in their internal training program, and then you would work there for many years. I am fairly certain that what has occurred is that companies looking to cut costs cut those training programs, did fine for a while, and then became confused when it became difficult to find qualified workers and then decided to try and outsource the costs of training back onto the public or the workers themselves. This is exacerbated by the phenomena of recruiters stealing employees. Why invest $50K in training a new hire when you can push that money into salary and recruiting people that other people have wasted their money training.

    6. Vasudev Ram

      That sounds like a good model. Is it only at Waterloo or also at many other univ’s in Canada?

      1. William Mougayar

        I think Waterloo has perfected that model over the years, and it’s quite an extensive program that spans several schools, and it’s run by a significant staff (I hear 100 people). Not sure about others, but I know McMaster allows that as an option in engineering.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Cool thanks for the info.

    7. Nick Devane

      A lot of my more blue collar friends did this while in highschool, it was particularly popular in the North East. They were the fellas interested in pursuing trade careers as plumbers or carpenters. Half days were spent working in their chosen field and the experience was both an experience and the beginning of a career path. A co-op also allows testing the waters more than a traditional internship where you simply do grunt work. The name of the game is crossing potential careers off the list as quick as possible and then empowering yourself in a given space.How many 18 year olds have a distinct notion of what they want to do with their lives?would love to know the average age of someone entering flatiron

    8. MikeSchinkel

      William, I completely agree with this. I was a co-op and in hindsight was always surprised when others were not in the co-op program.

      1. William Mougayar

        Where- at Waterloo?

        1. MikeSchinkel

          Georgia Tech.

          1. Emily Merkle

            dropped some coin there. you?

          2. MikeSchinkel

            Not at all. When I entered Georgia Tech my first quarter tuition was $325 and I co-oped 16 quarters to pay all my expenses. 7+ years later my last quarter tuition was $525. It was a bargain by any measure. Granted I entered in 1981.

          3. Emily Merkle

            good. lord. they pinged me $25k/year for grad school.

          4. Emily Merkle

            13 years ago

          5. MikeSchinkel

            Industrial Psyche?

          6. Emily Merkle


          7. MikeSchinkel

            They will never get another cent from me, for grad school anyway. Too many bad memories. πŸ˜‰

          8. Emily Merkle

            me toooo…..

    9. JamesHRH

      Waterloo students are becoming known as careerists.I don’t know if it matters, but Waterloo only has one recent notable Founder grad. Ted Livingston.

      1. William Mougayar

        Whaaat!!! There are thousands that go into startups that are burgeoning in Waterloo today, and hundreds of other founders. I don’t have all the names, but there’s Stephen Lake of Thalmic, Ali Asaria of Tulip Retail, founder of Clearpath Robotics, etc…So many startups were founded on campus, as part of the programs, eg the Mechatronics department is full of them. And to top that off, the Velocity accelerator is probably one of the best university accelerators in the world. Sorry, James but your statement is not correct. I’m in Waterloo every other week and seeing first hand what’s going on there.

        1. Angelos Kozambasis

          Three Words: Research In Motion Bilion Dollar company Mike Lazaridis Waterloo Grad.

          1. William Mougayar

            And the list goes on….I’m not sure what James was thinking πŸ™‚

  17. Chris O'Donnell

    Really, this is just a better execution on the tech school model, and probably pretty similar to getting educated at DeVry and similar places, before they realized how lucrative the Pell Grant gravy train could be. Which is not a criticism, it’s just to say it’s not particularly new and inventive. Execution usually is the deciding factor, right?That said, the world will always need historians, socialists, and other traditional liberal arts types of specialists, and for them the traditional 4 year university model will probably continue to be the primary route for a long time.

  18. JimHirshfield

    Yeeeeeeees.But I think one should think twice about spending one’s parent’s money as well. Taking their money is not a gift.

    1. Eric Satz

      I agree. I believe only a handful of the top schools offer an appropriate price-to-value ratio, with value measured beyond starting salary. The second tier of schools cost as much as — and in some cases more than — the first. As my oldest prepares to look at schools, I’m thinking hard about price-to-value. Choosing the “best” school you get into, if it isn’t one of the “best” schools, isn’t necessarily the “best” choice.

      1. Emily Merkle

        disagree slightly. hgher .edu is for .edu – not a hedge against what job you’ll get with what bonus and 401K contribution. true that a career path in .edu can lead to varying avocations with varying average salaries – but that’s post-grad work, not .edu investment. I went to several unis and ended up doing nothing I had ever planned. and continue to do so.

        1. Eric Satz

          If you can afford it, I agree that the purpose of higher education should be to explore. At 18, some of us still want to be cowboys and indians. And my point is that you can explore equally at most schools, which is where price-to-value comes in. I believe very few schools can justify a price of $50-60k per year.

      2. Brook Shepard

        I went to Columbia, graduated in ’98. On the one hand I believe it made me a better-rounded person. On the other, I only applied there because I was comparatively well-rounded to begin with.When I graduated, I ended up driving a yellow cab for a few years.So I’ve got mixed feelings.

        1. Eric Satz

          columbia serves as high level filter. the fact that you drove a cab after going to columbia makes you potentially more interesting in my eyes. it is a path less traveled by those who graduate from columbia, so I would want to understand how you ended up in the driver’s seat and what you learned. i don’t know you get the same benefit of the doubt if your screen was [insert second tier school name here].

          1. Brook Shepard

            Well my wife – born and raised in working-class Brooklyn – will tell you that I was just playing, and there’s an element of truth there.On the other hand, I legitimately couldn’t find a job I wanted. I’d worked as a stock broker, and at CBS MarketWatch, and both jobs left me cold.So I drove a cab while building a web design practice. I drove 7 night a week for a while, cold-calling for clients in the day. After a month or so, when I’d gotten a client or two, I cut back to 5 nights. And then in another month when I’d gotten a few more clients, I cut back more. After about two years I’d pulled back to one night a week for extra money.Cut to a few years later: license is away in a drawer somewhere, not used in years, and I’ve got 11 employees in midtown.

  19. Dave W Baldwin

    Very good! I know it is impossible to truly do a comparison of ‘pools’, but you have to start somewhere and it is hard to please both sides of the rail (college grad vs. high school dropout).With what I’m putting together, I can achieve that ‘both sides’ but that is because it will be easier for me to do High School and University Students at the same time, yet in different classes.

  20. Eric Satz

    Flatiron is not a new concept but an important one. Currently too hard to find developers outside of the coasts, which is why starting salaries for devs are so high. This will adjust as supply meets demand.That said, I think the “money quote” is this: And mostly this is a criticism of not making hard choices. Schools that are happy to add courses, faculty, and buildings are not willing to eliminate courses, faculty, and buildings. When you always add and never subtract, you get cost structures that are not sustainable.Still believe the future problems of the world will be identified and solved by those with perspectives beyond lines of code.

  21. JimHirshfield

    The Flatiron model works for programming.But it doesn’t work for nursing, medicine, civil engineering, or even computer hardware… to just name a few. I believe your subtext poses the question: how do we apply the Flatiron model to these other disciplines? So I think we’re on the same page.I’m reminded of shop class (wood, metal) from junior high school. Real skills. Do we teach them anymore?

    1. Andrew Kennedy

      shop class = apprenticeship type learning. I think it’s critical really. People learn by doing.

      1. JimHirshfield


      2. ZekeV

        Agree 100%. Also I think that many of the values that are supposedly conveyed in a classic liberal arts education can be equally well, if not better, taught in the context of apprenticing for a trade. Maybe elite universities should be umbrellas where a bunch of different trade schools can hang out together. Boil it down to a student center, dorms, and a networked library.

        1. Andrew Kennedy

          liberal arts education is about ‘critical thinking’ IMO. it’s quite possible to develop keen critical thinking skills before college.

      3. Steven Kuyan

        This is exactly why so many students get CS degrees but so few are able to transition into a FT job. Having a degree won’t get you a job.Thats why Flatiron has such a high placement rate, they focus the majority of their program on projects and real world problems with partner companies.

  22. Supratim Dasgupta

    It would be still better if it were something like 2000 USD instead of 15000. Students bring their own laptops. Courses can be designed by aggregating quality classes & tutorials already on the web.Location can be somewhere supercheap like in Queens,Brooklyn etc. Then the only cost left is trainer. For a batch of 20 students,40K is enough to pay a trainer for 16 weeks & any other administrative costs most of which should be automated anyway.

  23. Erin

    Liberal arts is tremendously important for a healthy, self-aware, grounded, and progressive society, and it should be required education for everyone between 18 and 21 years old, but it shouldn’t cost so much to deliver. It should be a free gift from the government who understands that a citizenship rooted in their knowledge of history and philosophy will result in political stability, and healthier families. Students can then attend flatiron school, not because it’s the only smart alternative to a screwed up higher education system but because they want to make the Internet a better, more beautiful place.

    1. Emily Merkle

      Agree. The Flatiron model is fantastic not just in-context but as a framework. So how to translate into a liberal arts education, undergrad and graduate? Thought about this; think these factors would help: – career/major counseling pre-admission- lowering tuition through operations optimization at uni level- mentorship throughout – earning tuition credits against performance (pay for performance)- tuition forgiveness/leniency on loans in extreme circumstances (illness/situ calling for .edu discontinuation/break)

      1. Joe Cardillo

        Both comments spot on. All or nothing thinking about technical/trade education vs. liberal arts is problematic…as evidenced by six-figure engineers in the bay who build software w/o ethics framework, and on the other side by academics that are disconnected from innovation.

    2. karen_e

      I do like the idea of #1 goal being that we’re creating citizens. #2 goal is that we’re creating workers.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        I love the idea. I just don’t think that’s what is happening.

    3. MikeSchinkel

      I think that is probably the best argument I’ve ever heard for why the government should pay for a liberal arts college for all students.But of course we’d need to rename it to no longer be named “liberal” arts lest the Fox News crowd will disagree with it by virtue of it’s name alone.

    4. ShanaC

      we lost this idea a long time ago. I wish I knew how to bring it back. It is important that we stand on the shoulders of great people – and understand that they are people with foibles and all, and stand taller from it, because to our descendants we need to be great people as well.

    5. Pete Griffiths

      I’m skeptical. This is something that sounds great but is it really true?Firstly, we don’t have a healthy, self aware, grounded and progressive society by any sensible measures I can think of.Secondly, there are many societies other than the USA who do not heavily feature liberal arts as the key to enlightenment but which have societies that are much superior to ours on those very metrics.Thirdly, liberal arts, like everything else, can only be absorbed and their lessons learned when a person is ready to engage with them. And my observation is that what passes for liberal arts, even in elite schools, is subjects that in many cases serves to keep tenured professors working in schools with little or no vocational content. Students pick up general education classes at the last minute and end up taking Brazilian dance, queer theory of drama and rocks for jocks. They don’t take these classes in most cases because they have any interest in them. They take them to tick boxes. And this isn’t a liberal arts education. It isn’t teaching critical thinking. It is a grade grubbing industrial process on the way to graduation.Fourthly, as the kind of real skills that a liberal arts education is supposed to teach can only be really learned when a student is ready (and most aren’t) the shopping list that is paraded is worthless and students would be far better off learning something useful and reading whatever they like because it interests them. At least they would be engaged.Finally, if we look at the output of liberal arts education in the US – the graduating students – it is highly questionable whether they are any more rounded in their education, civically conscious etc than graduates in other countries with very different and much more specialized educational systems. I certainly have seen no evidence that they are.I think we have been hoodwinked by the liberal arts ideology. And it is a luxury we can no longer afford. Literally!

    6. JamesHRH

      Conversely, there is this old joke: if every English major dropped dead tomorrow, would the world notice?

      1. Erin

        If you’re talking about the stereotype of the young, moody, self-aware, sensitive, creative idealist that tends to disapear into fantasyland under stress and laments that their parents don’t understand them, you would think the whole world would throw up their hands in disgust with us, but unbelievably, we are still loved and noticed. Now, if we could just learn that in college instead of waiting till it’s too late to find that out…

  24. PhilipSugar

    One of the big problems is government guaranteeing student loans and making them remain after bankruptcy.This gives schools a huge source of funds they would not have if students had to borrow money in a normal situation. What would a normal underwriter loan a student? For that matter what would a University loan a student if they knew how much they would make when they came out?It is unfathomable to me why there is so much building going on at every University. Big buildings are a millstone around your neck when people can do things in different ways without the huge infrastructure like you suggest.I am all for a liberal arts degree, but not at $50k a year in tuition.Part of college is a transition from living with your parents and having a full time job, part of it is to learn how to learn, part of it is to get to interact with many more people from diverse backgrounds rather than just those from your neighborhood.Again, all great, but not at $50k a year tuition.I realize that the tuition fee generally is like the full price sticker at a a store like Jos Bank. Nobody actually really pays it (unless you have really wealthy parents), but saddling a child up with six figures of loans is just not right.The problem is that since the government will back it, and most people have a hard time understanding what that is going to do to them long term, you have enough people that will sign up for it that you have what we have today.I’ve always said most people confuse what they are able to spend and what they are able to afford, and in this case the student loan program allows them to make a really big mistake on what they can spend.

    1. JimHirshfield


      1. PhilipSugar

        American’s have been programmed by so much advertising to believe that if they can get something they can “afford” it.25% of Luxury Cars are leased because people can’t even get a loan that another 25% need to buy it.News alert: If you have any net debt whatsoever. Any, you cannot afford a luxury car. You need to buy a normal car, heck you probably only can afford a used car.I live in the land of the credit cards. I was talking to an exec asking him if he was worried about all of the new competitors. He said look, people can say they hate us, the stores can hate our fees. But I have the numbers, if you had to have enough money in your bank account to buy that big screen on Black Friday at Walmart, the whole supply chain would break down, because nobody would be able to buy them. We provide a valuable service.

        1. LE

          25% of Luxury Cars are leased because people can’t even get a loan that another 25% need to buy it.Agree. The leasing brain washing “get a better car than you can afford” thing has been going on forever.Although I personally will pay cash, a bank loan with proper down payment makes sense for some people simply because of my theory that it’s ok to pay out over time what you use over time.So for example according to this theory (which I don’t follow I don’t borrow but I think it’s ok for others to do) if you are using something over time it’s ok to pay for it over time. As long as at the end of the period you are even (so you’ve put down enough of a down payment).The problem with my theory is that people will then (sort of what you are saying) decide to put 40k into a new kitchen (which they will use over time so they will finance it let’s even assume 1% interest not 18%) when they don’t have enough of a cushion so they end up getting to leveraged. That gets into the point that you are making which is “afford doesn’t mean simply you can make it happen it means you can afford giving all the particulars of your financial picture”. So they have failed to evaluate the downside of the risk and only look at the upside.But I have the numbers, if you had to have enough money in your bank account to buy that big screen on Black Friday at Walmart, the whole supply chain would break downThis gets into why Christmas doesn’t annoy me. Because there are people out there taking risks that they shouldn’t be taking bringing the cost of all sorts of products down so that they cost me less. By spending money they don’t have.No question our economy has benefited greatly by credit cards and the fact that for everybody the friction is down to purchasing. I use credit cards for literally everything (which are paid off every month obviously) and collect 2% kickback for doing so. Plus I don’t have to carry any cash. If I had to carry cash no question I would spend less money. And less goods and services would be sold. Credit cards have a down side “plasma idiots” but there are many upsides obviously.

          1. PhilipSugar

            There are many things where you benefit from the idiot tax. Credit cards is a huge one.

    2. LE

      I realize that the tuition fee generally is like the full price sticker at a a store like Jos Bank.Upvote just for that one. Next in line: Raymore and Flanagan.Seinfeld on Jos. A Bank:… For that matter what would a University loan a student if they knew how much they would make when they came out?Which would be a decent idea. Government loans to universities who loan to students. Students don’t pay, University has to. Unfortunately that would totally gum up the works. Idea behind all of these guarantees is similar to startup investing. OPM means you take chances that you don’t take with your own money. Imagine if VC’s used their own money and stood to lose personally (even bankruptcy) for making mistakes? All the sudden that goofy Zuckerberg look a like wouldn’t have such a halo anymore.Imagine if you, right now with a family to support, had to bet the ranch on a new venture. Would you do it? If you had common sense you wouldn’t. If you were a gambler you might. You have something to lose.not at $50k a year tuitionKeep in mind that that 50k tuition is paid out over time … last I checked was at decent interest rates. So the issue isn’t the 50k tuition. The issue is whether you can earn a living. If you end up being able to earn a living the 50k tuition paid out over time is ok. My wife has a ton of school debt. But she makes a living and can pay it off (wasn’t always the case when I met her I had to give her 2k to meet her rent). Likewise in my first business I had to buy expensive machines and gamble that I’d have enough work to pay off the machines. Through luck and hard work I made the right choice. Now you could argue that I could have filed for bankruptcy but back when I did this that would be the worst thing in the world. So that was never a consideration in my mind.I’ve always said most people confuse what they are able to spend and what they are able to affordI have a tenant right now that runs a fitness studio and is late on his rent. Very clear he is living hand to mouth. The rent isn’t that much. My dad had tenants (business tenants) that would give him a postdated check including the late fee. Meaning they couldn’t come up with the money 2 weeks earlier and avoid the late fee.Look people take gambles all the time. The press always writes about success and usually doesn’t talk about the gamble. And likewise when they talk about failure they usually don’t talk about “bad choices” that someone made.

    3. Duncan Logan

      change the model that the university is only allowed a % of the income of the student during their first 5 yrs of employment. changes the focus.

      1. gorbachev

        That will cause an immediate disappearance of teaching all but the highest paid career tracks in Universities.

        1. Duncan Logan

          Possibly, until competition for those courses leaves people with empty class rooms. Would they start to head into the more niche courses ? Some $$ better than No $$

    4. Nick Ambrose

      This +1000. Once the costs are hidden away & deferred like this to “the future” I think it gives colleges a perfect opportunity to increase prices far more rapidly than can be really justified.What we will be seeing now is that “the rich” can still afford it, the “poor” (if they qualify) get grants to do, so they can afford it too, and the “middle” ends up (yet again) paying full price … does not seem like a very good scheme to me.

      1. PhilipSugar

        +1000 to you as well. Super well said.

      2. Andrew Kennedy

        yup. we are strapping debt (fear) on the backs of the middle class. The exact people the U.S. has relied on to take risks and innovate / move the country forward. it stinks.

    5. MikeSchinkel

      Completely agree about all the university building sprees. Ga Tech always seems to be building new and elaborate buildings. It seems to me there’s a lot ego being stroked by marble-enscrusted monuments, and that the people deciding on the spending are not being forced to be pragmatic.Maybe overly expensive buildings should only be allowed if rich alumni want to fund them?

      1. Emily Merkle

        that is exactly how it works.

        1. PhilipSugar

          No my money can go to students or to putting my name on buildings. Don’t kid yourself.

          1. Emily Merkle

            you’re right. I was suffering from a moment of idealism.

      2. JL Shane

        Unfortunately the big cost to universities is the operating cost of those buildings, which big donors seldom fund. If the new faculty or staff are only able to serve locally-attending students, the costs get spread over too narrow a consumer base, and the costs go up for all (in tandem with other inflationary contributors that other commenters have mentioned).

        1. MikeSchinkel

          I take it you didn’t realize my comments about well-heeled alumni paying for elaborate buildings was more snark regarding their and the University trustee’s egos than a legitimate policy proposal?

    6. ShanaC

      i am for at 50k – I just think most people don’t get true liberal arts degrees. Most people can’t think critically from their degrees, so hence they aren’t worth 50k.Now if they taught how to be a human being and citizen of the world. 50k is well worth the price.(Also I could cry from that line right now. i miss professor sinaiko. some people really are good teachers and are worth 50k to sit and learn from)

      1. PhilipSugar

        $50k per year?

        1. ShanaC

          you should have met professor sinaiko

    7. Michael

      Another problem is it’s really easy as 18 year olds to get federal loans to go to college. I think a majority of young adults out of high school don’t even bother to read the fine print to find out that student loans follows them forever until paid off. They just sign it and money is given to them (I know this because I was once a student).I’m not sure what the college landscape is now but I sincerely hope more colleges offer student loan counseling before they hand out money to eager 18 year olds who don’t know a thing about loans.

      1. PhilipSugar

        That is literally like saying a used car salesperson should tell somebody not to buy a car.Sorry, but what are they supposed to say??? Never going to happen.

        1. Michael

          Of course the school is not going to say anything it’s not in their interest. What I’m saying is the federal government should provide loan counseling before they hand money to an 18 year old. You don’t think the government have an obligation to inform a young adult about the risks of indebtedness for life? At least a car loan you can discharge in bankruptcy if you severely fall behind in payments.

          1. PhilipSugar

            On this we agree completely.

    8. Pete Griffiths

      Absolutely right!!

  25. Matt Zagaja

    I think when people talk about reforming higher education they often become confused and lump Harvard University in with CUNY. I do not think that anyone will confuse the qualitative value of a Flatiron experience with the Yale or MIT experience. However I can see it being attractive to people who are thinking about state schools or community college.

    1. LE

      We live in a world where people constantly are up in arms about how certain groups of people are singled out and profiled based upon their “brand” (race, religion and so on) if you want to call it that. But those same people, many of them at least, don’t want to believe that people are treated better as a result of their school brand and/or are given more opportunity.

  26. Twain Twain

    Marissa Mayer has been the news for saying she wouldn’t hire Gwyneth Paltrow because Paltrow doesn’t have a college degree:*…People pointed out that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg don’t have degrees and their work has been brilliant.College is expensive and some courses tool us for work, creativity and productivity better than others.

    1. JimHirshfield

      I read about that too and find it hard to believe.One does not not hire a celeb based on that criteria.So Mayer may have used that as an excuse, which is a bad excuse… So, stupid either way. Like many things, I’m guessing this is all misinformation.

      1. LE

        If true as presented could be that not hiring Paltrow is necessary in order to keep order within the ranks. Try to be uber fair everyone is treated equal. Or something like that.

        1. JimHirshfield

          You saying yahoo doesn’t hire people without college degrees?

          1. LE

            No I am saying she is trying to make a point by taking such a high visibility person (once again assumption the story and what is being said is true) and saying “no shoes no shirts no dice”. [1][1] From what I read Sean Penn “briefly attended Santa Monica college” I guess he stopped in to take a piss or something.

      2. Twain Twain

        Maybe Yahoo wants to win some Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes in its lifestyle coverage…Marissa Mayer has gained a reputation for being very metrics-oriented and maybe a college degree from an Ivy League institution is a way by which she measures intelligence.It would be consistent with the “A people hire A+ people” philosophy that Apple introduced to Silicon Valley.I can see that a PhD in Mathematics and Comp Sci would be a helpful if Yahoo was going to provide Risk Derivative Analytics to the world, but lifestyle doesn’t fall into that.

        1. ShanaC

          marissa mayer is still having problems.

          1. Emily Merkle


          2. Twain Twain

            Why aren’t you surprised, Emily?Do you think it’s to do with the weakness of Yahoo as a company or to do with her strengths as a CEO?

          3. Emily Merkle

            both. mainly her upon-appointment focus.

          4. Emily Merkle

            and no, not surprised πŸ˜‰

          5. Twain Twain

            If Yahoo manages to do rapid product innovation rather than relying on prior and existing revenue streams (including the ones via acquisition), they’ll have a chance.

          6. ShanaC

            yahoo might not be that company anymore

          7. Twain Twain

            Today’s BI article on Marissa Mayer and it covers our mutual sweet spot of probability and data metrics:* http://uk.businessinsider.c…So here’s the interesting thing: she implemented a system for employee reviews that was similar to what Jack Welch did at GE, and Welch is considered to be a GREAT leader.

  27. JimHirshfield

    Universities are enterprises with ambitions and financial needs similar to large corporations, in many respects. These aren’t all congruent with preparing young people for the workforce.#professorsson

  28. LE

    The news is full of stories where students paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college (and beyond) only to find themselves stuck in dead end jobs and unable to pay off the cost of student loans.Many of those people typically choose “go nowhere”, gut and/or follow your passion type majors. It makes a good news story. While there is no doubt that where there is smoke there is fire (meaning things are more difficult) the “to be sure’s” of those stories, the details are very important as well in understanding the problem.Along the same lines there are still students and parents that haven’t gotten the memo that law isn’t a sure fire ticket to a good career anymore. They are still living in the 70’s and 80’s.

    1. Matt Zagaja

      I think that was just a recent memo πŸ˜‰

      1. BostonBizPerson

        Beware the Y-axis is shortened to exaggerate this chart

  29. rtolmach1

    Re: “Scholarships are available for students who cannot afford that investment.”Given the great ROI, wouldn’t those scholarship funds help more students over time if provided as loans instead of grants?

  30. Joe Siewert

    Check out what Galvanize is doing in this space as well. I’m currently doing their gSchool program in Boulder. It’s a 6 month full-time code school with tuition reimbursement if you don’t find work at 60k or above after.Along with education, Galvanize also does co-working space and a bit of VC. It really creates a great community of entrepreneurs, students and startups. They currently have locations in Denver, Boulder and SF, with more on the way.

  31. Laura Yecies

    I would love to see data as to the percentage of high educational institutions’ budget that goes to anything besides teaching (and directly related costs like labs). My impression from the snippets of data i’ve seen is that it has grown tremendously – if you held that flat the cost of higher ed and therefore the debt loads would obviously be much lower.

  32. Nelson Bostrom

    One of the key questions that is always left out in these discussions is “why is the cost of tuition at 4 year universities going up?” Is it wages to professors and staff? Building improvements? Funding research? Competitive applicants from foreign countries? I’d love to see a full assessment as to why the cost of education is skyrocketing.

      1. Nelson Bostrom

        Interesting. I’d love to see a detailed dissection of a particular university. Anytime students from my college or law school call me, I ask them to send me a summary and long form of the school’s financials.

  33. a_emme

    No disrespect, but this is misleading. Flatiron, AFAIK is specialized… where as a college education can vary. You can’t compare the cost and salary of a fine arts major to a business analyst. From this analogy a wall street trader or someone successful in real estate does better than both Flatiron and higher ed.A 4 year degree allows you to do more than what you learn in a (for lack of better terms) vocational school like Flatiron. I’m not knocking it, please don’t get me wrong.. But I think a little transparency is needed. A 4 year degree allows you to move to other fields / careers once you get tired of reading/writing to a database and transforming text.Apples and orange man

    1. Russell

      bam! Welcome to the AVC pub!

      1. ShanaC

        you guys know each other?

        1. Russell

          I wanted to continue @fredwilson ‘s tradition of welcoming newcomers … Fred has a rock solid educational reputation in my book due to his work with public schools and CSNYC, but in this case I agree with @a_emme:disqus the numbers cited are misleading due to the short time period they track. You can make nearly any investment look like it has a good track record if you can cherry pick the time period. Over the longer term, the critical thinking and life skills of a liberal arts provide the flexibility to adapt to a rapidly changing world. I’m sure Fred already knows this, but wanted to vote up another voice in the bar

          1. ShanaC


    2. Supratim Dasgupta

      Yeah. agree, a 16 week course can never replace the 4 year holistic education. I did a bachelors and masters of 6 years in computer science. I would say one can easily fit the whole thing in 3 yrs and remaining 3 yrs was just fluff. But no lesser than 3 yrs is required to be able to grasp the whole thing. e.g. we learnt discrete mathematics which i use on a day to day basis in my programming. Am sure the 16 week program has very less maths, which will never lead to a complete mastery of programming. Thats why i said..2K is good for the program not 15k which i believe is steep.

  34. Rob Underwood

    I am a big fan of what the Flatiron School is doing. I am also generally in agreement with many of the points of your post Fred given my own personal experience. Looking back I’d say I’ve gotten as much if not more value from the $6,000 I paid to get my MCSE and some basic network engineering skills in 1997 than I did from the $100K my parents paid to send me to Colby. (That Colby afforded me an opportunity to study in Japan and learn Japanese has also, it should be said, had a huge impact on my life and economic prospects).I do worry though that if we focus education on just ROI, we miss the need, in my view, for education to help foster a well-informed citizenry. I don’t know that this burden should fall entirely on the shoulders of college. Nor perhaps should it cost $200k. It may actually be a failing of K-12 that college should need not have to remediate.But I worry about the “low information voter” phenomena — the slur both right and left like to throw at each other. We face really complex issues in the US and globally right now, and it’s important that we have a society of people, again IMO, that are not only productive financially (i.e., they have jobs that provide well for them), but also have a rich understanding of civics, history, math, science, etc.I think facts matter and that people need facts in their heads. I reject that it’s good enough that people can just google everything and their brain can just process facts in real time from Google. I think epiphany and the great ideas that happen in showers are the result of sub-conscious pattern matching – the result of the mind processing in the background while we sleep, exercise, etc. The mind needs to be fed information and facts. And I think US citizens should be able to locate all 50 states on the map. I think everyone should know the basic arch of their country’s history, and the history of the world. I think any more science and math people can learn is great.Again, maybe this is all stuff we should be doing more in K-12, and the problem is that we’re asking people to pay $200K to get the remedial “liberal arts” education they should expect in K-12 (certainly knowing where the states are is an example). But I worry we lose the wider purpose of education is we focus only on ROI. Of course, making sure that both college and career (vocational) bound students in HS were learning marketable skills in K-12 would also be great, as that might give college bound students more perspective and confidence in making the college or not decision.

    1. PhilipSugar

      I think the problem is the cost. Searching the web the cost of colleges has gone up 5 times faster than inflation. It seems the average cost in 1985 of tuition was $12k in adjusted 2014 dollars.Going to Colby really did have a huge impact on your life. As I said in my comments you learned how to learn, you interacted with people that lived outside your neighborhood and outside your country. You were able to transition from living with your parents to living out in the world.All of that was really valuable. It isn’t just about how do I get a job as quickly as possible out of high school.But the problem is when you have students that graduate with crushing debt.

    2. PrometheeFeu

      The “low information voter” problem cannot be solved by education. It is caused by the low (quasi-nill) reward for being a “high information voter” and the high psychological cost of challenging your own biases and preconceptions. As long as voters do not have to suffer the consequences of their own individual actions, they will respond to the actual incentives they face: conforming to their social circles and conforming their pre-existing beliefs. Admitting that you are wrong hurts. Why would you hurt yourself if there is nothing to be gained?

  35. Blane Cordes

    I view coding as the modern day plumber or electrician, its a trade, that you can make a lot of money with currently if you are good. Coding bootcamps similar to a trade school, so at 18 go to trade school and become an electrician, join the union etc. or go for a 4 year degree to figure out what you want to do with your life. As a finance/accounting major now an engineer I think the real change just needs to be self guided learning and learning by doing. I think the college model of studying finance for 3 years then interning and getting a job is backwards, I think interning should happen first, to see if you are interested in and enjoy the real world work, then if you are dedicate the hours to gaining the knowledge and necessary skills. It would be cool if I spent my first 2 years of college working in 8 different industries, I feel that would have given me a better foundation and grasp on the real world. Then once I knew what I wanted to pursue I could leverage all of the amazing open source curriculum now available and work with my “mentor” aka college professor to get a real career going.

    1. JamesHRH

      That being said, accounting is a trade. As is being a teacher (with little supply shortage income upside). And nursing. And Pharmacy is close.The first problem with post-secondary education in the USA is that 90% of College graduates get a 4 year degree that gives them fewer skills that the Flat Iron 16 week course.The fact that most of those skills are trade skills would be the second problem.

      1. Blane Cordes

        Yea I think the effectiveness of the Flatiron School is the intenseness of it and applying the concepts learned to building a real world app. The culture of being surrounded by 30 passionate people all pursuing the same mission of learning to code creates a better environment to learn. Cramming for a college exam doesn’t provide the same value, especially if its for a subject you have no interest in. Id much rather fetch coffee for someone for a few months to see the real world job, then begin to learn and focus with 30 other people that also became interested in the subject because of real exposure.

  36. BillMcNeely

    Do they take take the GI Bill?

    1. ShanaC


  37. goldwerger

    Fred, take a look at these 2 charts from Conrad Hackett of Pew Research, which pretty much show the problem, and solution… Eyal

  38. LE

    To be fair part of the problem with a Flatiron model (whether it be to learn to code or another “in demand now” profession) is that it doesn’t give you a leg to stand on when you need to fork to “plan b”.Additionally, given the fact that you will earn a higher than typical income today as a result of doing something that is “hot now” you will then adjust your lifestyle to fit that income. So when you get laid off or when supply increases and you aren’t as valuable you will be up the creek without a paddle. And you know this type of thing happens. People’s lifestyle rises to fit the income they are earning. And once they are earning that income “keep up with the Joneses” prevents them from spending money rationally as if the money might stop one day.

  39. Socrates

    It’s good to be a Gamma… Reducing education to direct employment opportunities or income is a fool’s excuse. I shudder to think what a world of bootcamped software developers would look like.

    1. ShanaC

      sometimes it is hard to tell when you are ironic, socrates. I saw your jokes in the republic – you also don’t think everyone should be making decisions. or you do – you tend towards irony. So you might not be shuddering…

  40. Brook Shepard

    Fred,I run an agency; most of our clients are schools. My wife is a principal at a public high school in Brooklyn. All day & night, most of what we talk about is education.Everyone agrees that the education system here in NYC is (maybe doing a good job) lurching through a change, upending curriculums to get students the basic software skills needed for employment.Of course you (and others) are working on this. There’s, there’s NYC.Gov’s Software Engineering Pilot Program, etc…I know you speak to city principals about CSNYC, and I wonder if you could speak to why a school leader would choose CSNYC over the city’s program? I mean, they’re the ones choosing these new models.Is CNCYC Vs. Software Engineering Pilot a binary choice? Or more like President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy?

  41. Nick Devane

    In my mind this stings the middle class the most, particularly the lower middle class.As someone who attended the third most expensive school in America and applied from the lowest income bracket, the school did a phenomenal job of structuring my financial aid in grants, scholarships and loans.The resulting balance, and monthly payments, are manageable, despite my parents not paying for my education. If I worked in a traditional career, I’d probably even be able to pay them consistently :)The hellish stories I hear about come from my more middle class friends. Their financial aid package is constructed as a function of the parents income. The parents commonly make the regular payment while the student attends the university, but expect their child to pick up the loan payments after graduation.This scenario is the most crippling from what I can tell. The recent grad is left putting half their $38-45k base salary towards student loans.

    1. Nick Devane

      If we attended flatiron though, we’d be chilling.At this point, we would have paid off our student loan balance and be three years into making more money each year than our liberal arts education has provided in twice the time.

    2. ShanaC

      the question is what rate should they pay off – also does it bother no one that new salaries ave not risen in 2 decades

  42. mikenolan99

    My son Jack was in the first cohort of students at the Flat Iron School. His story must be typical… an Associates degree within a year of graduating High School, thanks to PSEO classes taken as a HS senior. Then transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he quickly tired of 100+ student classrooms, taught by teacher’s assistants with little or no relevance for today’s job market.He dropped out, enrolled at Flat Iron (thanks Seth for the blog post) and the rest is amazing.Upon graduating he was hired by Code 42, a fantastic Minnesota Start-Up. He’s worked for two years as a developer, and absolutely loves his job and career outlook.Dr. Mom and University employee Dad would love to see him finish his degree, and he is picking away at it three online credits at a time, but seems to be in no hurry… and that is OK.

  43. Alex3917

    Keep in mind that signing up for a MOOC is for many/most people a way of just bookmarking something they want to do eventually, rather than a serious commitment to follow through right now. I’ve signed up for dozens of MOOCs that I’ve never even made any real attempt to finish. But I also got a job as a developer after going through Udacity.

  44. John Saddington

    This report was a huge encouragement as I work for another “hack school” that helps teach people software program (we’re a bit further south though!): The Iron YardThanks for spreading the word about these alternatives!

  45. KME

    Fred,I don’t normally comment on your posts, but I felt I should offer my viewpoint on this topic. I completed a 4-year degree with a focus in International Business at a competitive undergraduate business school and completed a 12-week program at a coding bootcamp in New York City.First, I would like to state that I agree with you that we have a crisis in higher education here in the US. It was only a decade ago that I was a wide-eyed freshman stepping onto a campus of 30,000 plus students, eager to experience college, but what exactly do we as a culture define as the college experience here in the US?From my personal experience and the opinions offered to me by my peers, that experience entails a laundry list of items besides an education. If you surveyed high-school students from all across our nation, you would be surprised, or maybe not, to find that things like sports, parties, and the weather factor into their choice of university as much as the quality of education. Before I proceed any further, let us keep in mind that we are discussing the workings of 17 and 18 year-old minds. For many, this is the biggest decision of their young lives.So, when that high-school senior chooses to enroll with a non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) focus and as a result more than likely graduates with no “hard-skills”, who is to blame? Is their anyone to blame or are we as a society ok with allowing children and/or young adults to make these decisions because we live in a free society? You may be thinking, “But doesn’t this young person’s parent have to agree to pay their tuition?”.Yes, but are our parents always the most rational about making decisions for their children? If both the young person and their parents make an emotional decision versus a rational one, what protections do we have in place to prevent that family from spending $100k+ to send their child to school only to have that student come back with the same set of skills and depth of knowledge of those skills that they had 4 years earlier?Now you may think, “But what’s in-demand today, may not be in-demand tomorrow, so how does a student or family predict what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ study.” There is no way to always predict what specific skill will be in-demand, but shouldn’t the skills you pay $100k+ for be transferrable? Learning how to solve problems, how to think critically, how to reason with logic, and how to communicate the solutions to those problems are necessary to any profession, but seem to only be taught in a few buildings on most college campuses.Sure, the argument can be made that the prestigious universities teach all things well. However, the argument can also be made that they accept students who already posses extraordinary intelligence and have networks of alumnus in positions to help funnel those students into high-paying positions after graduation. Thus, reflecting an institution where even the non-STEM focused students seem to graduate with hard-skills, when in fact they have similar skill sets as the students graduating from the same majors at less prestigious universities.I’m sorry for dragging on, but this brings me to my point about the coding bootcamps and a more sustainable model of higher-education. The Flatiron School has a special grant program which is fantastic and I applaud them for working with NYC to enroll students of all backgrounds, it deserves all of our praises. However, their normal program is an upfront pay-to-learn program the same as any college or university. The program I enrolled in and completed had a different payment system.The way it works is that a student will go through an admissions process of tests, pre-coursework, and interviews over the course of a few weeks. Prior to any tests and interviews, the prospective student is given a list of learning materials from which to prepare. If the student completes all of the above they will be offered a seat in the class. The student will pay a deposit to “reserve” that seat, but then will not pay any tuition beyond that until 2 weeks after finding a job in a related field (you sign a contract stating you will earnestly pursue a job in a related field). If they do not find a job in the related field within a year from graduation, the student owes no tuition to the school. If/when they do find a job the student will pay 18% of their first-year’s salary over a 6-month period to the school.So, to summarize, if a student finds a job with a salary of $75,000, approximately the average salary stated above, that student will pay out $13,500 back to the program over the next 6 months. Now, I’m not making a comparison of $15k to $13.5k, what I’m comparing is the motivation of both student and school in the educational process.The school who only succeeds if their students do, is a school that cannot afford to graduate students without in-demand skills. Now you may be thinking, “But then universities will force students into certain majors,” not true. What it would force universities to do is to remove the 2-year “recap” of requirements that most universities force undergraduates to cover on such topics as American History, Biology, American Literature, etc…A student having graduated from 13 years of “lower-education” should already have a grasp on these topics. These classes would become electives and in their place would be a “minor-like” curriculum for any of the 4 STEM fields. It would be beneficial to both the university and the student to graduate with even a single skill in any of those fields.Students can still graduate as English majors, but while they’re writing their first novel they will be able to contribute to the workforce and earn a living because they possess a skill that an employer readily needs. Of similar importance, they will be able to immediately begin paying down the tuition that they owe to the university without having incurred tons of debt only to have graduated and realize that they needed more school in order to actually earn a living.I can speak from experience that having gone through the coding bootcamp has enabled me to earn an above-average salary and an amazing opportunity in an exciting industry. However, in order to actually succeed it is necessary that I continually teach myself new concepts everyday, many of which I would have learned from an experience as a Computer Science student earning a 4-year undergraduate degree. Universities are not the whole problem, we as a society share in the blame and until we force ourselves and the system to change we will continue to sell ourselves and our children’s educations short. I hope this at least creates some discussion as to how just offering another opportunity to go to school is not a solution to the higher-education crisis in this country.- E

    1. ShanaC

      a) come back more oftenb) i actually tought myself to code, but not well enough to say bootcamp – could I get through a bootcamp – probably.your point about comp sci curriculums actually points out that these camps versus actual comp sci programs are very different. Actual comp sci programs, depending on the school, are closer to applied math. These schools don’t really go into those areas very much at all. (and I’d actually prefer to learn those areas than get through bootcamp)As to your point about American History and Job market – I still do not know when and how and why we’ve made the decision to make college degrees the job market decider. They shouldn’t be. The closest reason why is because you can’t use IQ tests as part of a job search campaign, so people use the presence of degrees instead.Also, why 18%? What if I end up with a job unrelated? So many questions.

    2. Andrew Kennedy

      I didn’t get through the whole post, but I like what I was reading a lot. tl;dr is a real thing even if people (like me) really want to engage and read your post. I agree that it is societal.

  46. ShanaC

    I don’t think this is just a higher education thing, or just an education thing. Its a crisis of how to do business thing.One of the reasons coding is hot is because startups are hot – but coding was hot in 1999. There are still plenty of STEM graduates (particularly if you are a computational biologist or need to work in a complex lab system where it takes time to get to commercial production) who are out of work.One of the reasons college degrees are less valuable is there are less unions. Colleges became something they weren’t supposed to be. High schools also became something they weren’t suppose to be. There are also less types of jobs across the spectrum that could be unionized, and the way we work has changed. 40 hour work weeks are now not a norm, and the idea of paid overtime is actually a rarity because most jobs aren’t classified in a way that would call for paid overtime. Even if you make 100k, your hourly is way lower now than it was 20-30 years ago because you work more hours.the 1099ization for middle market jobs are the best example of this. Not for things like building ikea furniture, but finding someone to write you a will if you are an average joe and need something slightly more custom than basic will package online. Many large companies have lots of 1099s around, lots of extremely cheap or unpaid interns for what was entry level jobs, or just jobs they don’t want to have as part of the organization (tax reasons? culture reasons? reason reasons? some of these companies are huge, and it isn’t like there isn’t work to do among multiple departments that the person could be shared or something) he labor costs are low because the decision was made to offset labor risk to the individual, and there is no good way to re-offset back unless you are really large yourself, or find an organization to represent your riskYou even see this in startups. One of the reasons bigger startups have huge burn rates is not just because they are profligate – it is because the SAAS model is also a variation of the no hire here model. When you buy SAAS, you also are buying consulting work around the SAAS product, unless the contract is structured poorly/company didn’t do the math right. That consulting work is always stuck under marketing costs because they fall under “keeping customer around” It would be fairer to say this is a function of not wanting to hire too on behalf of the buyer.I actually think everyone should code for liberal art reasons – but the reason why flatiron school appears like a bargain is it can screen students to make itself look good compared to every college student. We also don’t know what outcomes will look like 10 years out for flatiron school – similar trade schools couldn’t continue screening and ended up with super poor outcomes.

    1. Emily Merkle

      agree with coding for LI reasons. said it before: it helps kids think in a way that is different than foreign language, critical thinking, logic, etc.

      1. ShanaC

        yes, but we should separate that out from college, or what is a liberal education, or labor force issues

        1. Emily Merkle

          well….I wonder is there any necessary distinction between a liberal education and otherwise? education is education. if we do a better job through high school the point becomes less significant. as for labor force = job training; yes, separate.

  47. JaredMermey

    Many of the schools teaching coding (modern day hard skill in demand) like flatiron, bitfountain, GA, etc. remind me of BOCES. We can learn a skill based profession in a short manner of time for a relatively cheap price. Currently, because of engineering supply-demand these are high priced skills that allows one to pay back their investment quite quickly. It will be interesting to see whether the skills learned in these classes will allow for high paying jobs in the very long run, which will ultimately determine how much the schools referenced disrupt higher learning. Though, to be sure, the short term success seems pretty good :)(And even at traditional schools these skills are in demand by students…se Harvard intro to CS class that has gotten quite a but of press)

  48. MikeSchinkel

    Fred,I completely agree that colleges have allowed themselves to price out of the market and they greatly need to rethink their cost bases and how they are deliver education.That said, I really struggle to believe that short-term nouveau trade schools can compare with what a student gains from a four-year educational experience. I’m thinking back to my college experience at Georgia Tech and I would say the college experience is very important for developing the level of maturity most students need to be able to operate in the real world.And looking back, the most important thing I gained from college was the life-long relationships I developed during shared and often challenging experiences at college. And those relationships don’t develop to the same level over just 12 weeks and typically not without living on campus.So I’m not arguing that college is a good investment given the current costs, but instead arguing that as a society we really need to figure out how to make 4 years schools affordable rather than present trade schools as the alternative.

  49. ErikSchwartz

    There are two kinds of colleges/universities in America.There are colleges/universities that teach you skills.There are colleges/universities that teach you skills and give you a “rolodex” of the people who run the country.

    1. ShanaC

      and often they are part of the same set because those schools can pay professors.

    2. Pete Griffiths

      What about the ones that don’t teach you skills or offer a rolodex?

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Yeah, I suppose there’s a lot of those in the US now too.

        1. Pete Griffiths


    3. Rob Underwood

      I worked in Deloitte’s strategy practice for 5 years and the only undergraduate schools they recruited from then (and I’m guessing now) were most, but not all, of the Ivies plus schools like Northwestern, MIT, Stanford, and about 6-7 of the NESCAC/Little Ivy types (e.g., Williams).As an experienced hire I did not go through that gate. When I asked one day after hearing of a recruiter traveling to Maine to do a career fair at Bowdoin, with its graduating class of just 350 or so, why they didn’t recruit at Colby (my alma mater) or Bates too given how close both schools are to Bowdoin, she said “Because they are not prestigious enough.”If you do go (or send your children) to a traditional 4 year college beware of the guidance counselor folk wisdom adage of “where you go to undergraduate school doesn’t matter.” If you’re doing a start-up that may be well be true, but if you’re going into consulting, banking, or a couple of other “old school” careers, where you go to school most certainly will make a big difference in your earning prospects, and you’ll want to have gone to a “rolodex” school if you’re shelling out $200K or else risk a truly lame ROI.(I wrote a bit about this topic a couple years ago here – http://brooklynrob.blogspot

      1. ErikSchwartz

        It matters for start ups too.Getting a VC or tier one angel meeting in the valley as a 21 year old recent grad is much easier with Stanford background because they have already funded some of your classmates so getting the warm intro is easy.

        1. Supratim Dasgupta

          Interestingly neither of the two most successful startup founders AirBnB and UBER went to any Ivy school. If VC are doing that they are also repenting with 90% fail rate!God Bless them.

          1. Matt Zagaja

            Nathan Blecharczyk, one of the AirBnb founders, went to Harvard. I would note that RISD isn’t exactly slumming it in the academic world and neither is UCLA.

          2. Supratim Dasgupta

            Ok, I stand corrected. Somehow when I think of AirBnB only Brian Chesky comes to my mind ;-)Agree with RISD and UCLA but again most ‘easy’ investments are going to Stanford.

          3. JamesHRH

            quick Matt, find a reference form any AirBnB founder that says something like “I directly took this learning from Harvard, and applied it to the Air BnB situation.”

          4. Matt Zagaja

            Do you really believe it’s a big leap to suggest that a CTO who was the only engineer in a company, and that studied computer science used something (or more than something) from his classes at Harvard when building his product?

          5. ErikSchwartz

            AirBnB’s co-founder went to Harvard.

          6. Supratim Dasgupta

            Ok, I stand corrected. Somehow when I think of AirBnB only Brian Chesky comes to my mind πŸ˜‰

  50. Jan Schultink

    Separate higher education from scientific research

    1. ShanaC

      how do you train scientists then since there is a trade/art part to it

      1. Emily Merkle

        I trained as a social scientist. very same basis as a physicist. minus the physics.

      2. Jan Schultink

        People who want to become a scientist can go through the expensive (current) education system, others don’t have to

    2. Pete Griffiths

      I have long believed in this.

    3. Andrew Kennedy

      oooooh…. just saw this now. Do you recall the piece of legislation?…this changed many things. Of course, WW2 was a major driver as well, but the above was the nail.

  51. Pete Griffiths

    I am skeptical of the 4 year liberal arts degree.In the UK degrees are much more specialized and take 3 years. So when I took my first degree it was in Economics and that meant that all I studied for 3 years was economics. No Brazilian dance, no feminist theories of literature, no rocks for jocks. Just economics.It is common for people to argue that the UK education must result in graduates who are less rounded than US graduates with a liberal arts education. But strangely enough, that has not been my experience. I have never met two young people, say mid to late twenties, and been struck by how much more broadly educated the American is. Why is this? I suspect that it stems from two things. Firstly, a broad curricula is only of benefit to those students who are engaged in it. But many students aren’t engaged. They struggle through a myriad of disconnected general education courses that are supposed to edify but have little organic relationship. They may happen on something interesting, which is great, but there is a huge amount of waste. And funnily enough, the ‘specialized’ UK students don’t just study their subject. Engineers read literature, go to film societies and take an interest in other subjects. And the fact that they are doing this in their own time because they are interested and motivated means that they are engaged so it does stick.To a large degree you have to judge processes by their results. I contend that the US liberal arts degree is wasteful and doesn’t result in outcomes that are any better than the more specialized UK process.Ironically, Fred’s admonition that he has nothing against liberal arts if they learn something vocationally useful is blasphemy to most advocates of liberal arts because for them the point of liberal arts is not to vocationally train but to edify and to teach high level skills that can later be applied in any vocational direction. So they will hate his idea and I think he’s trying to square the circle. There just is an inherent contradiction between vocational programs and liberal arts. And liberal arts have become a luxury that in an era of exploding costs of education most people can’t and shouldn’t afford. Learn liberal arts on your own time while you’re studying something useful or have a job already.

    1. haremonious

      Americans have had college advertised to them as: party first, study later. I’m afraid your assertion that American students are less engaged may have a lot of truth to it.

    2. Andrew Kennedy

      I am skeptical of the 3 year law degree. skepticism all-round

      1. Pete Griffiths

        For highly vocational topics any US citizen who takes the US educational route it might be helpful to know there are much more cost effective ways of getting the job done.Let’s indeed take law as an example (works the same way for medicine).In the US you take a first college degree (4 years).Then when you have been taught all sorts of fascinating stuff but have decided you would actually like to be a lawyer you then and only then take a law degree (3 years).So let’s assume you go top schools.Average total cost of undergraduate school is approx $75K pa = 300KAverage total cost of law school is approx $85k pa = 255ktotal cost = 555kNow let’s try going overseas.Lets assume a top school eg Cambridgecost pa approx 25k sterling and the degree is for 3 years onlytotal cost = 75k sterling = $117k for an overseas studentBut of course there is also the opportunity cost of the extra 4 yearslets assume an average salary of $150K for a graduate of an elite schooltotal opportunity cost = $600KNow let’s ignore interest on the higher amount of debt incurred.Hence total cost of doing law in US = 555K + 600K = 1,155,000Total cost in UK = $117KThis difference is completely nuts.The point is that if you already know that you want to be a lawyer there are already MUCH cheaper options.And btw it is exactly the same for medicine. You can save hundreds of thousands of dollars studying overseas.Ironically, engineering, which is highly vocational, allows US students to go right into their chosen field. But not law, and not medicine.So if you want to take skepticism about the ‘3 year law degree’ I’m on your side. It’s a racket.

    3. Matt Zagaja

      “To a large degree you have to judge processes by their results. I contend that the US liberal arts degree is wasteful and doesn’t result in outcomes that are any better than the more specialized UK process.”United States GDP 2012: 16,244,600United Kingdom GDP 2012: 2,475,782Umm ok then.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Was that the point being made? No.Are the facts you cite remotely relevant? No.I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are joking in best holiday spirit.

        1. Matt Zagaja

          Sorry, I shouldn’t have been so terse. I think GDP is relevant but obviously it’s going to incorporate and measure many other inputs. Ultimately my hypothesis is that our economy in the United States is doing much better than many other places, and that there is some kind of causal connection to our liberal arts college education system. This is not to say that when you slice and dice things there are components that are not working or failing people, and we could be succeeding in spite of ourselves, but if collectively we’re not going to look at GDP as a sign of success of our education system, then what measures should we look at?

          1. Emily Merkle

            literacysocialismcreative expressionathleticismlogic/critical thinkingtechnological agilityleadership

          2. Pete Griffiths

            OK.Here’s where I disagree with you.Prior to WWII the UK was the largest economy in the world with a substantial empire. The people in the UK were regularly told how exceptional they were and how great their institutions were. Their success wasn’t a fluke it was attributable to their individual, collective, social, cultural and institutional excellence. In fact, the overriding factor in the freakish success of a small island was the fact that the UK was the first nation to have an industrial revolution.Post WWII the US emerged as the world’s leading power. The people in the US are regularly told how exceptional they are and how great their institutions are. Recognizing a pattern here. In fact, the overriding factor in the massive economic dominance of the US for the first decades after WWII was attributable to the fact that the US was the first large country to have an industrial revolution.It has taken people in the UK decades to even begin to unwind the attitudes of superiority that their first industrial revolution bestowed on them. People in the US are still basking in their superiority even as the world changes around them and for the first time in US history really large countries with massive markets develop around them creating a whole new level of competition. Competition by the way that is presently decimating the middle class. When an ‘exceptional’ nation faces this kind of change it avoids the underlying reality and clings to its superiority.Liberal arts isn’t why the US has a successful economy. Far from it. It is a luxury – one of many luxuries – that was affordable in an age when our lead was so massive that we could live with all sorts of inefficiencies and waste.Our education is an input into many dimensions of our society. Vocational schools play a large part not just in the US but in other countries. If you want to see an example of where trade schools deliver huge social economic benefit look no further than Germany. But the irony of the liberal arts is that they provide no such direct benefit, the graduates still have to be trained to do something useful, and our society doesn’t even have the enlightened citizenry that one might hope such an education would deliver. One of the problems liberal arts graduates are facing right now is that because companies are no longer prepared to spend the money training them, they can’t get work.Our attitudes to education are deeply interlinked with past economic leadership for reasons that have little to do with our exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is a tired old saw that politicians like to use to feed the gullible. And the fact that the US has a bigger economy than the UK has precious to do with liberal arts.

  52. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Amen. Just on a gut level I can’t help but believe that our education and credentialing model is about to be disrupted in a big way.Maybe it won’t ever reach nursing or medicine or being an airline pilot. But I find that side of the discussion unimportant. What’s important is the areas it _will_ reach.

    1. Emily Merkle


  53. haremonious

    The question that comes to my mind: are trade schools (like Flatiron) really “higher education” institutions?Trade schools have always existed for the purpose of teaching practical skills. There just happens to be a new practical skill: coding. I don’t think this should necessarily displace a true “higher education” experience though. Perhaps there could be a mix of the two.The 4-year university experience isn’t necessarily a bad model, just that the costs are out of control. Hypothetically a new entrant (i.e. new university) could just come in and compete on cost. But “brand” is too important in the education market. New entrants are pretty much powerless without a brand that takes decades, if not centuries, to build. So to me the real problem is: how can a new university, operating much more cost-effectively, fast-track its brand?

  54. Ro Gupta

    Thankfully some institutions are starting to catch on. From Princeton president’s latest letter to alumni:…”The quality of a liberal arts university today depends greatly on the strength of its engineering programs, which serve as windows upon human experience and as models of problem-driven, rigorous inquiry in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

  55. rtolmach1

    Re: “Scholarships are available for students who cannot afford that investment.”Given the great ROI, wouldn’t those scholarship funds go further and help more students if provided as loans?

  56. Steve Lincoln

    Lots of good points in this post. Higher education must become more affordable and cost-effective.The only point that I didn’t see made is that it doesn’t seem a good idea to try to measure the value of a college education SOLELY by its ROI or the immediate income(starting salary) to which it leads. Sure, that is an important part of th e value of an eduction. But, we can think of many other intangible benefits that also result from a good education, such as becoming a better citizen, a more informed person, or a more well-rounded person who brings more skills or knowledge to bear in life, or even in the workplace (beyond just the starting salary used a the critical metric here).It’s a complex analysis — especially as the nature of education, and the options available, change rapidly. And we will have to think broadly and creatively about what works and what doesn’t, and why.

  57. PrometheeFeu

    What is the rate of admission at Flatiron? What is the average SATs/IQ of their incoming students? Another story in higher education is sending kids to college who have very little to gain from college. (The returns to education are likely correlated to student IQ) So if you compare a school that skims the top of the pack to the average college, you will of course see a much better ROI. I would love to see the ROI of schools with comparable student bodies. (similar IQ/SAT scores)

  58. stevenwillmott

    To get the stats straight: what courses are covered in 4 year college? All or just CS? Since if it’s all there’s a clear natural bias since coding is a high demand area. Code schools are great, and you can even have a debate about the “value” of some courses (and how they are taught), but it ought to be clear if we’re comparing like with like.Another question asked below is on the entrant pool. How many of Flatiron entrants already have another degree? how many have already held jobs? (The website says “from investment bankers and spinal surgeons to cartoonists and sky-diving instructors. Flatiron”). Sounds pretty different to the school leavers signing up for college courses.Let’s even leave out that it looks like a comparison between a school at the top of it’s game and averages across all colleges.Don’t get me wrong – Flatiron looks great, and traditional University models need a lot of work – but statistics need to be clear on what comparison is actually being made -> otherwise they just make the whole argument look fundamentally untrustworthy.

  59. Michael Smith

    I’ve always thought that the biggest problem with paying for education is simply sticker shock. Those who are gaining an education are insulated from its price; especially for the first 18 years. I went to public school all my life so my educational costs (~19k per year) were paid for by my parents taxes. So my family went 18 years without directly paying for my education. Then college comes along which is at a minimum 20k. If we actually paid for our education directly it would be less of a perceived issue.

  60. Nick deWilde

    This is a fantastic example of how stripping a bulky product of features (outdated majors, facilities, etc.) can give customers more of what they want (a great career launch).

    1. Andrew Kennedy

      i like, +1

  61. Pete Griffiths

    Here’s something to consider.How many people would employ an electrician who had been on a 12 week course?Or a plumber? Or a carpenter?It takes years to train people in these trades, How come we can ‘train’ someone in CS in 12 weeks? What sort of level of expertise do they really have? I’m not saying that they can’t get well paid work. But that has to reflect the fact that there are still a lot of simple tasks out there and demand is outstripping supply despite the relatively low level of skill.

  62. JL Shane

    New models for higher ed and lifelong learning also need support from employers. Many in software require bachelor’s as a minimum qualification. Job postings for Union Square portfolio companies for software engineers reflect this. Some require bachelor’s degrees (e.g. Heyzap, Disqus, Foursquare, CircleUp, and Duolingo) and some do not (e.g. Cloudflare, Coinbase, and Etsy). This is not a slam on USV companies, just one example of how the market is still in transition. To get value, as Flatiron claims, will mean alternative certification/training programs must have networks to place students post graduation. The best programs will start developing hiring/recruiting networks of their own. But for alternative certifications to work at scale even in areas like coding, IT/HR hiring practices on degree requirements will need to change.

  63. andrewjude

    In the US why does it take people longer to graduate? Most people in the UK fly through a three year degree or just fail completely. Very few take much longer than three years to finish…

  64. Rick

    We need totally free education for all via the internet! All the models people speak about eventually get paid for, at least in part, by the tax payer. So give them what they are paying for..Forget brick and mortar and do the world a great service by bringing great education into everyone’s home for free. Then charge for testing if they want to have the sheepskin.

  65. Sean Hull

    Flatiron school is clearly doing great things, and we should applaud their contributions.That said I think this comparison is a little distorted.First, if you want to compare software development, then compare *ONLY* to 4 year college grads going for computer science degrees, not all graduates broadly.Second, the costs of higher education are also very skewed. If you cut out private schools, considering instead State Universities, for example the cost is roughly $6k/yr.I completely agree with you Fred that the return on investment should be carefully considered. There are huge opportunity costs of carrying large amounts of debt after graduation.

  66. lisa hickey

    I’m coming in late, so this post also addresses some of the thinking in your next post ‘College and Entrepreneurship’.Looking at this big picture, I think there are 3 forces at work here:1) College used to make life better for those who got a degree. Now, for increasing numbers of people, it might actually make life worse because they are paying off debt on top of not being able to get a job they wanted.2) We are now bringing up the “non-linear generation”. It used to be pretty standard that the path was birth, play, school, college, work, marriage, kids, death. A tad oversimplified, of course, but a majority of people saw that path to be some version of their life story. But one of the best things about the today’s world is that birth and death have to stay in that order and anything else in between can be sliced and diced in any way it needs to. So what if you thought of college as a series of 2 year programs that you could take whenever you wanted? Or more educational programs that are structured around solving real world problems? Or any other iteration that made sense to give you the skills you need to succeed today.3) To me, the reason online courses don’t aren’t as effective as they could be is because people learn online all the time and it’s called the internet. You can learn tons of things without having structured classes, something that simply wasn’t possible a generation ago. Figuring out what it is you need to learn and then figuring out how to apply that learning immediately to what you are doing can make you smarter than taking a class. So you then have to weigh the cost of whether it is the learning that is valuable or the degree is valuable. And online schools haven’t been able to add that value of the degree that better known educational institutions can add.A real life example of how those forces all work practically — my oldest daughter was enrolled at MIT to get an MBA, and after her first year she dropped out to start a company with 2 fellow MIT engineers. Here and I talked for a long time about the pros and cons of going back to MIT to finish her degree. Her reasons for not (and she still might) were: a) she learns more from board members than teachers. b) She learns more from solving real problems than theoretical ones c) She is earning money instead of spending it. d) she needs to move quickly now that she is growing a company, and it may just be a case of the timing not working out. Is the degree itself worth jeopardizing the business? Probably not. Can she still figure out how to get the degree later if she thinks she needs it? Probably. No one of those would be reason not to go back, but the combination is a pretty powerful argument.

  67. marko calvo-cruz

    “It has gotten to the point where I believe if you have to personally shoulder the cost of your higher education, you should think twice about the traditional model.”I think most people should think twice about the traditional model, or at least question what they hope to obtain from their college education.I’m a sophomore in college & my mom is on disabilities, dad basically dead-beat. I attend for a grand total of ~$10K and even under these circumstances, I am resentful of the fact I feel like a prisoner in my school when I’d much rather be out working with startups, where I feel I belong and where my time would probably be better suited.I identify myself as entrepreneurial and feel shunned by my college (a small liberal arts). It’s no wonder to me that many people who can afford to, leave college to start start-ups. Classroom education can very much be poison to someone who wants to go out into the world and take a leap of faith on a crazy idea.I can go in depth about why I feel schools are ill suited to handle the entrepreneur but the bottom line is this- i’ve spoken to many faculty ranging from professors to the President of Academic Affairs about trying to start things and I don’t think they have a clue what to do with someone like me.The only way college benefits the risk-taker is by providing a safe environment for four years for a student to experiment. It’s the first time where there isn’t pressure for a college student to get straight As. Whether that’s enough, well it depends who you ask. (Also supposedly it’s a good place to find a cofounder, but I’ve had no such luck in my school at finding anyone remotely interested in doing something outside of drinking, frats, videogames, and homework).”There’s been a lot of talk that online education is the answer to lowering the costs of higher education. “I think MOOCs are misperceived. Their main appeal isn’t reducing costs (though valuable), it’s improving outcomes. The way content is being delivered to students is transforming entirely.-The role of the teacher transforms from content deliverer & mentor to mentor.-Students can now learn the material at home and do their homework in class, collaboratively.-The best instructors rise to the top while the rest get lost in the masses.-Everybody gets an equal opportunity at learning from these best instructors in the world, so long as you have an internet connection and the time to learn.The problem with people who solely rely on MOOCs for an education is that they’re left without a distinguished credential, leaving them susceptible to either (A) entrepreneurship, which may not be the right path for everyone (especially if you don’t have the resources to start a company) or (B) the progressive thinking of employers.I apologize about the length of the post. Hope it’s worthwhile.

  68. Stephen Purpura

    The education obtained in 4 years of college is worth some amount of money. It can even be worth 4 years and more than $200k. But it is not worth that much to many people. I am a vocal proponent of the value of Ivy education *for some people* because I was able to use the experience to persuade some of the greatest minds in the world to to help me amplify my thinking. This helped me invent the technology, develop the relationships, and prepare me to found my incredibly success business (dual offices in Seattle and, right now, in Flatiron in NYC).I am not a good case study. But I see many people who have similar experiences because they are in my network. And most of them did not come from privileged backgrounds. What we have in common is an insatiable lust for learning and the will & ability to position ourselves to economically facilitate this.We need to think of education as life long learning. You need to learn different skills at different stages. Some people may do all of their learning in one chunk and others might not. The Flatiron school is an example of this. It’s students will likely be life long learners. We should develop that methodology as the norm instead of the situation that exists today.

  69. Manuel Morato

    They are already inspiring others. We started a very similar concept down in Mexico, inspired by Flatiron and by Hacker School. We have the same (or worse) mismatch between what’s being taught in college and real world skills demanded by different industries. This is especially true in degrees that have to do with computers, technology and programming/coding. They (universities and colleges) just can’t keep up with rapid technological change because they’re too slow, clumsy, and bureaucratic. Plus, they have a very old-school culture and work ethic that doesn’t resonate and fails to inspire present day Millenial students.But yes, we’re taking note and building our own version of building an alternative to traditional college education (in tech) in Mexico. – πŸ™‚