Short-term coding programs cannot compare to benefits of college degrees

Xing Liu

A college degree was once considered to be the best investment one can make, but many wonder if this is the case anymore. According to, the tuition and fees in public four-year institutions has increased 225 percent since 1984-85. The increase over the most recent five years, from 2009-10, was 17 percent. It is not uncommon that students carry tens of thousands of dollars in loans when they graduate.

Adam Enbar was among those students until he met with Avi Flombaum, who dropped out of college to write software for a hedge fund. The two founded Flatiron School, a New York City-based school that teaches students coding skills. Compared with a whopping $40,856 or $72,024 tuition for in-state and out-of-state students respectively at the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT over the course of four years, the Flatiron School only requires 4 months of coding training with $15,000 tuition for a nationally top ranking computer science program. According to the school, 99 percent of students get a job with an average starting salary of $70,000 a year.

In terms of short term intensive skill coding training, Flatiron School is not alone. MakerSquare, a 12-week immersive coding program in Austin and San Francisco aim to turn beginners into software engineers. According to MakerSquare, the program has a 96% job placement rate.

Students who are enrolled in those schools often feel classes in four-year colleges only teach theories and algorithms, without any tangible skillsets. Many companies want the new hires to be able to solve problems and deliver results.

However, it would be shortsighted not to argue that a college education contributes to one’s personal success as robustly as a short-term coding program if not more.

The 120 hours of coursework required to attain a bachelor degree incorporates classes that focus heavily on critical thinking, writing, analysis and teamwork. Bachelor degrees also require coursework in areas other than one’s specialized focus, which builds a well-rounded education. These skills are the foundation for being successful in any line of work. Being able to clearly communicate instructions, understand the meaning behind the numbers and create healthy working relationships have always been the basic, implicit requirement for those who aspire to be successful in any field.

If students take advantage of the numerous opportunities existing on college campuses, the undergraduate experience also helps people build relationships with future colleagues through undergraduate research projects, network with industry experts at frequent career fairs and gain internships that can lead to successful careers.

In addition, it also demonstrates a person’s determination, persistence and discipline in working towards one goal. Four years of hard work shows a person can not only set high goals for themselves but accomplish difficult tasks.

While universities can always do more to help their graduates succeed, what universities can offer far outweighs the benefits of short-term coding schools. This also translates to pay: although the question of if a college degree is worth it has become more complicated, Americans with four-year college degrees still made 98 percent more per hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. For the students without undergraduate degrees at short-term coding schools are surely there for the paycheck on the other side of graduation, it appears that students in similar programs at UT are actually better off in the long-term.

As Anthony Carnevale from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce puts it, “the only thing worse than going to college is not going to college.”

Liu is a second year advertising graduate student.