New Test Program Lets You Use Federal Loans To Pay For Intensive Career & Coding Training

If you want to boost your resume by taking one of those intensive “bootcamp” training programs but don’t have the funds to pay for it, a new experimental offering from the Department of Education would allow you to use federal student loans to cover the cost.

The Dept. of Education announced on Wednesday that it had created the Educational Quality Through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment to give consumers who find the four-year college experience out of reach the financial means to obtain training from intensive weeks-long training and bootcamp programs.

Under EQUIP, accredited colleges and universities would partner with non-traditional providers of education, such as intensive “bootcamps” that aim to build skills in particular fields or specific programs that award certificates aligned to employer needs.

“Eligible programs will lead to a degree or certificate, build students’ transferable academic credits, and provide students with the ever-changing skills they need for today’s economy,” Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell wrote in a blog post announcing the program.

By requiring programs participating in EQUIP to partner with accredited colleges, the Department hopes to mitigate issues of abuse that have cropped up in the for-profit college arena. For instance, a program’s continued eligibility to participate in the pilot would be based on the ability to show students benefited from the courses.

The Washington Post reports that education reform advocates were quick to champion the pilot program, saying it opened the door for lower-income consumers to obtain needed training to make them job ready.

“It can’t become a viable alternative to college as we know it today until they’re on a level playing field financially,” Ryan Craig, an investor who works with colleges and universities to develop new educational programs, tells the Post. “We think honestly that [the program] would solve a lot of what ails higher education.”

Still, some education advocates worry that the pilot could be another for-profit college disaster waiting to happen.

“There’s a ton of scamming going on,” Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, said. “All you’ve got to do is get an ad on the subway, and you’re in business.”

In fact, the Post points out that some for-profit college companies have already added bootcamp and intensive training program to their education rosters. Earlier this year, Apollo Education Group – the company behind under-investigation chain University of Phoenix – made an investment in computer coding school Iron Yard.

To quell some of those worries, Mitchell tells the Post that the Dept. is working to develop additional quality assurance approaches that would “identify ways to protect students and taxpayers from risks in an emerging area of post-secondary education.”

[via The Washington Post]