Report Aims to Pin Down What the Coding Bootcamp Market Really Looks Like

There’s a not-so-secret issue with coding bootcamps: accurate data on the industry is sparse.“Despite the impact this emerging industry has made on higher education over the past 6 years, the size and scope of the sector and its impact remain unclear,” a new report published in RTI International finds. “Until now, the only data on these programs and outcomes of attendees have come from industry affiliated groups.” One of those groups is Course Report, which gathers data (usually from the companies themselves) and offers reviews of coding bootcamps. Other groups, such as the nonprofit Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, have formed to establish best practices for outcomes reporting in the bootcamp industry, but these also rely on self-reported data and work directly with bootcamp providers and affiliates. Until now, the only data on these programs and outcomes of attendees have come from industry affiliated groups.The study, released this week, aims to provide more clarity around what the bootcamp market looks like today. Researchers examined 1,387 online and in-person programs across 48 countries, including 44 U.S. states.The study found that more than half of these bootcamps are career-preparation programs, while 35 percent are shorter courses that are less focused on helping participants switch careers. Five percent are university-affiliated programs, such as extension school bootcamps that Trilogy Education offers, or a recent partnership between Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Fullstack Academy. Around the globe, the majority (81 percent) of these programs are focused on computer science, and a large portion (59 percent) teach web development. Seventeen percent teach data science and engineering, and only 2 percent teach information technology or security. The study found that most coding bootcamp programs available are located in the U.S. and Canada. The majority of these (73 percent) are offered only in-person, while 15 percent are offered completely online, and the remaining offer both options. Most programs offer fewer than 15 programs, with the exception of General Assembly, a giant in the field that offers 115 programs. Authors of the report broke down what kinds of financial-aid options that coding bootcamps offer. “Further limiting efforts to track their growth and effectiveness, bootcamps are unaccredited and therefore are not subject to the same governmental regulations or oversight as other postsecondary institutions—nor are they eligible for monetary support,” the report says. Students at coding bootcamps are likely to find a range of financial aid including scholarships, private loans or funding through “an affiliation with state or local government grants.”Income-share agreements, a tuition financing model where students pay back a portion of their salary after graduation instead of paying tuition upfront, is another option that some bootcamps offer. But the report found that less than 1 percent of programs do this so far. “Although income-based repayment programs among bootcamps have received considerable media attention, they were so rare among bootcamp programs… that we did not include those data,” the report says. Sticking to the Status QuoSome bootcamp providers have suggested that their programs could open up pathways to high-paying technology careers for students with nontraditional backgrounds, as well as more women and people of color. However data in the study shows that hasn’t been the case. In today’s climate, perhaps the most pressing question centers around access.Only 1 percent of coding bootcamp graduates are black, according to the report, “reflecting a similar proportion of black employees at major tech companies like Facebook and Google.” For reference, about 12 percent of the U.S. population is black. Fifty-nine percent of programs were considered by the researchers to have “competitive admissions,” often requiring existing coding skills or degree requirements to gain entry.Around 20 percent of the career prep programs are aimed specifically at women, but few (9 percent) are tailoring their outreach to racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in tech. In addition, the report points out that few programs share their student demographics, making it difficult to compare target student populations to who bootcamps actually enroll. “This foundational work has raised many more questions than it has answered,” the report concludes. “In today’s climate, perhaps the most pressing question centers around access.”