University participates in program to provide aid for non-traditional education

Audrey Zhang

UT-Austin will participate in an experimental U.S. Department of Education program aimed at allowing low-income university students to access non-university professional training courses, such as coding boot camps and online courses.

The Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships program will give $17 million in financial aid to eight universities in order to help students enroll in courses offered by nontraditional providers that partner with the universities. The University is working with TEXAS Extended Campus and the Center for Lifelong Engineering Education to offer new coding boot camps and a 13-week web development certificate program.

The University plans to offer seven courses in 2017, serving between 120 and 200 students who are eligible for financial aid.

Kathleen Mabley, director of marketing at TEXAS Extended Campus, said most of these programs have been limited in the past due to lack of financial aid.

“Prior to this program, students who enrolled in training at ‘non-traditional’ providers were not eligible to apply for or receive federal financial aid,” Mabley said. “These programs are very focused on skill development such as coding or software development. The EQUIP program allows us to increase access to federal financial aid for qualified students who could benefit from programs that are more professionally focused.”

The EQUIP program will provide financial aid to a more diverse range of students, Mabley said.

“As the definition of a student of higher education expands to include more students who may be older than traditional college age, living away from home and/or working part-time, the opportunities for them to achieve their goals need to expand,” Mabley said. “Without aid, these programs are often attended by higher-income students.”

While the program is still experimental, it aims to increase college access, affordability and quality education for students of all backrounds.

“As these innovative programs continue to develop, it will be increasingly important to understand what an outcome-based quality assurance system looks like,” said Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, in an announcement.

Stephen Walls, deputy director of TEXAS Extended Campus, said the EQUIP program will help better meet students’ needs and prepare them for future
employment challenges.

“The opportunity to offer financial aid to students seeking career-focused education and training will provide more pathways for people to achieve their academic and professional goals,” Walls said. “We … look forward to working closely with the Department of Education to build models that support greater access to high-quality educational programs at the University.”