Are Tech Bootcamps Replacing College?

Recent years have seen dramatic growth in bootcamps along with a decline in the value of college

Coding bootcamp graduates increased 11x from 2013 to 2019.  From 2010 to 2017, full time college enrollment declined by 9%.  Meanwhile from 2013 to 2019 the percentage of young adults age 18-29 who said they regard college as “very important” collapsed from 74% to 41%.

Meanwhile, recent research by the St. Louis Fed shows that the college income premium is declining and the college wealth premium is non-existent for recent graduates,

Recent research shows that the college premium may or may not be very strong depending on birth year, family, and other inherited characteristics. When looking at the wealth premium instead of just the income premium, the college premium was weak for all races and ethnicities in the 1980s cohorts, whereas the college premium exists for cohorts in earlier decades.

Basically they find that in recent decades the college wealth premium is indistinguishable from zero and even the college income premium is steadily declining.

Separately, the ROI for an undergraduate degree is positive only in STEM fields (if one factors in opportunity cost of the time and money invested in a four year degree).  Thus when one considers a declining income premium across the board, a non-existent wealth premium, and negative ROI outside of STEM, young adults are right to lower their expectation that college is “very important,” especially if they can go into a three month coding boot camp and obtain a good paying job without college.

Moreover, while coding bootcamps are most familiar, other “New Collar” job skills are being taught in the bootcamp model, all of which are growing at a rapid pace,

Bootcamps teaching UX/UI Design, Data Science, Product Management, Digital Marketing, and Sales expected to graduate 4,058 Students and Grow by 64% in 2016, according to our latest Course Report research.

While a career in data science would benefit from university training in statistics, for the others communication skills and analytical reasoning skills are more important than a university degree.

While certainly the college experience is here to stay, recent trends show a dramatic rise in the importance of bootcamps along with a remarkable decline in the perceived value of college.  Will these trends accelerate in the coming decades?

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