Skip to content
Subscriber Only

The Feds Want to Give You Money to Learn to Code. Here's Why That's a Problem

The Obama administration's latest attempt to fix higher education has some critics unimpressed.
97708604
Photographer: Aku Siukosaari/Getty Images/Flickr RF
Updated on

Colleges aren't keeping up with changes in the workforce, leading to millions of underemployed graduates and what employers describe as a yawning gap between the number of openings they're looking to fill and the number of Americans fit to fill them. The combination of relentless tuition hikes, skyrocketing student debt loads, low graduation rates, and stagnant earnings suggests now is a good time to begin tinkering with possible solutions. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education announced a small experiment to do just that. 

Up to 1,500 students would be able to use as much as $17 million in federal student loans and grants to pay for academic programs at eight traditional colleges developed and taught by noncolleges (such as coding schools) under a limited trial. Government regulations usually limit federal student aid to accredited colleges, which are prohibited from using that money to pay for programs mostly taught by other entities. In this case, the Education Department is using a provision in federal law to relax the rules in a bid to determine whether coding academies and low-cost education providers can teach Americans the skills they need to land high-paying jobs after graduation.