UT Austin Plans Joint Software Education Program with MakerSquare

The project is one of seven that the U.S. Education Department is allowing as part of a non-traditional education experiment.

by Ralph K.M. Hauritz, Austin American-Statesman / August 18, 2016 0

(TNS)  — The University of Texas and MakerSquare, a software-oriented career school in Austin, have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in an experimental project that will allow low-income students in nontraditional programs to obtain Pell Grants and other forms of federal financial aid.

MakerSquare will provide the curriculum and instruction for a 13-week boot camp in web development intended to prepare participants for jobs as mid-level software engineers. Students will register through UT's extended campus unit and will receive a university certificate for completing the course, officials said. UT officials expect seven courses to be offered during the first year, in 2017, serving a total of 120 to 200 students.

Seven other colleges, including Dallas Community College, have also been chosen to participate with nontraditional private-sector education providers in the project, dubbed EQUIP, for Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships. The partnerships still must firm up their programs and apply to the Education Department for final approval, according to a statement Tuesday by the department.

The project is a response to the proliferation of nontraditional education providers, such as coding and online schools, that sit outside traditional higher education institutions. Students in such programs cannot obtain federal financial aid, and as a result the offerings tend to attract higher-income students.

This project could help shape future policy reforms regarding the allocation of roughly $150 billion a year that the government doles out in financial aid, according to a White House blog post.

Students in the eight partnerships will have access to $17 million in financial aid, officials said. Tuition for the UT-MakerSquare program is expected to run $13,000 to $14,000 per student, not counting any aid for which a student might qualify, said Kathleen Mabley, a UT spokeswoman.

"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," said Stephen Walls, deputy director of UT's Texas Extended Campus.

Each of the eight partnerships will have independent quality monitoring. In the case of UT and MakerSquare, San Francisco-based Entangled Solutions LLC will monitor student work, job-placement rates, earnings growth and student satisfaction. Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico LLP, an accounting and consulting firm in Tewksbury, Mass., will audit data, particularly for employment outcomes.

MakerSquare, which also offers classes in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, is part of a network of nontraditional schools known as Reactor Core LLC.

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