The Marcy Lab School seeks to address two major challenges:
The dearth of talent in the global tech sector
The decreasing ability of traditional higher education institutions to provide a high quality education at an affordable cost.
The tech talent pipeline problem
According to recent projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the software publishing and computer systems design industries rank among our country’s fastest growing employers. With a median salary of $101,790, employment of software developers is projected to grow by 31% over the next ten years. According to The App Association, there are currently over 223,000 unfilled positions in software development, nationwide. The Computer Science advocacy group, Code.org, expects this number to grow to over 1 million by 2020.
According to the US Census Bureau, Americans identifying as Black or Hispanic comprise over 30 percent of the population. That number is projected to grow to over 40 percent by 2040. By contrast, employment of Blacks and Latinos at the world’s largest tech firms hover at or below 5 percent; this figure is even lower when only surveying for technical and/or leadership positions.
The higher education problem
Higher education institutions are failing to support students through graduation. In addition, rapidly increasing tuition costs are forcing students to take on tremendous debt burdens. Of the nearly 1.5 million students who chose to enroll in a four-year college or university in 2010, only 60 percent were able to obtain a degree within six years. Forty percent were able to do so within four. Meanwhile, the national community college graduation rate, hovers at around 25 percent. These figures are all at least 10 percentage points lower for Black and Latino students.
Over the past thirty years, the cost of attendance has more than doubled (after adjustments for inflation). Meanwhile, outstanding student debt upon graduation has more than tripled while inflation adjusted salaries for bachelor’s degree graduates has decreased by 4%.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, of all students who took out federal student loans in 2003, over 27 percent had defaulted within 12 years. The Black and Latino 12-year student loan default rate for the same cohort was 35 and 49 percent, respectively.
A unique opportunity exists at the intersection of these convergent problems. Companies, large and small, are now opening technical roles to non-traditional candidates, even those without a four-year degree. Thus, for the first time there exists the possibility to provide recent high school graduates with an alternative option for post-secondary education that provides them direct access to employment opportunities in some of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy without the debt burden of a four-year degree.
Young adults from underserved communities and underrepresented backgrounds stand to benefit the most from such an opportunity, as they are disproportionately represented among those who are underserved by our higher education system. As opposed to the vocational training programs of old, adapted versions of newer learning models could provide students with skills that can be leveraged in a number of different career pathways and place graduates on the fast track to entrepreneurship. Moreover, as calls diversification of our tech workforce increase, an alternative education model, tailored to meet the needs of students from underrepresented backgrounds, could produce qualified candidates at a rate unrivaled by traditional four-year institutions.