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'Code Schools' Are Not for Spies

When I first heard a friend mention the existence of code schools, I thought he was referring to a branch of the CIA.  The more I learned about them, however, the more I think they represent a way of catapulting those without a college degree into the middle class ("A New Kind of Jobs Program for Middle America," The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27).

Code schools provide 12-week vocational training in the software-development skills that employers desperately need.  At a typical cost of $13,750, they represent a steal compared to the cost of a four-year college.  Apparently, others share my belief because in 2016, there were nearly 18,000 graduates from 91 code schools in 71 cities.  (There were just a few in 2012 when code schools first sprang up.) That compares with nearly 60,000 graduates with computer-science degress from colleges and universities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a shortfall of 1 million computer-related workers by 2020.  If that figure is accurate, I'd like to see more high schools converted into code schools.  I realize there is a difference between someone with a computer-science degree and a code-school graduate, but the latter can easily expect to earn in the neighborhood of $70,000 to start.  Moreover, student debt is readily handled.

To help prospective students make a decision after they graduate, 17 well established coding schools have formed a coalition to report job placement rates.  These will be verified by an outside auditor. That's an attempt to avoid sanctions that have affected other for-profit schools ("Coding Boot Camps Band Together to Boost Accountability," The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 2).

That's a welcome step, but I believe such coding skills have a place in high school as part of vocational education.  Our competitors abroad have no problem in differentiation among students.  Perhaps the popularity of code schools will be the motivation for making my wish a reality.  We owe it to those students who have neither the aptitude nor the interest to pursue a bachelor's degree.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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