Education Department pilots financial aid for MOOC partnerships

Officials say it will 'create more robust opportunities' for students

A new pilot program will allow select hybrid programs between universities and unaccredited providers to receive federal financial aid, the Education Department announced Wednesday.

The Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) program loosens restrictions on institutions working with "alternative education providers" such as coding bootcamps and MOOC developers, making them eligible for Title IV federal financial aid. 

School must submit letters of intention by Dec. 14, 2015 to the Education Department in order to be considered.

Details of the plan

Under EQUIP, colleges may outsource more than half of their content and instruction to unaccredited agencies.

"This is a way for campuses to be able to innovate without using their own resources and to build a partnership that will create more robust opportunities," Education Department Under Secretary Ted Mitchell told EdSurge.

Some colleges and companies already offer such hybrid programs, but this will expand access, Mitchell says.

Regulating quality

Independent, third-party "Quality Assurance Entities," (QAEs) chosen by the schools, will evaluate the programs. The schools' accrediting agencies must also approve.

The groups will monitor four elements, as determined by the Education Department:

  • Student learning and outcomes claims;
  • Assessments to evaluate such claims;
  • Graduates' employment and salaries; and
  • Financial stability of partnered company.

The QAEs are to supplement, "not substitute" accrediting agencies, Mitchell says.

How 'coding boot camps' are succeeding where universities have failed

Ten coding bootcamps have already joined to create the New Economy Skills Training Association in order to set student outcome reporting standards. Its guideline draft focuses on job placement, tuition, and completion rates.


But the move has some parties worried new predatory for-profits will emerge and capitalize on the funds.

"It is worth remembering that the for-profit college scandal, which is still in the process of being cleaned up, began as a noble effort to allow companies to gain access to federal funds only if they ran innovative training programs that led to good jobs," says Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. "We must be careful that, in opening federal aid to coding boot camps, we do not let that happen again."  

Even some bootcamp providers say they are worried about "a big land grab and gold rush by companies to open up new bootcamps," in the words of Clint Schmidt, COO at Bloc (Wan, EdSurge, 10/14).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague