While coding bootcamps can quickly give you the skills you need to start a new career, there’s no denying that they’re expensive. What do you do when you want to sign up but can’t afford bootcamp costs?
Don’t worry. You have options.
You may be eligible for a scholarship to cover your bootcamp fees. Many bootcamps offer scholarships, and even if you’re not sure you qualify there’s no harm in applying. These will cover most if not all of your tuition without charging you anything - though some may have additional requirements, like expecting a certain level of performance from you as a student. You could lose the financial support if you don’t continue to meet these requirements. As long as you qualify and work hard, it’s free funding.
The GI Bill is designed to help US veterans get into coding. If you have GI benefits and your bootcamp is approved for the GI Bill, your tuition could be covered. There are a number of other tech bootcamp programs made with veterans in mind, be sure to look them up and save yourself some expenses.
Raising tuition money by asking for financial support online is not the most reliable way to fund your education. For one, you will be competing with all the other campaigns also asking for attention and funds - some of which might have similar goals and more sympathetic situations than your own - and secondly, there’s the fact that much of your success depends on your ability to convey your situation in a compelling enough way that others will want to offer you their support.
You might only raise a few hundred dollars. You might only raise enough for bus fare. There’s simply no way of knowing how much you will receive, or how long (weeks, months, years) it will take to reach your goal. If you do manage to successfully raise enough money for bootcamp, you’ll need to provide some kind of proof that you’ve reached your goal, and that yes, you are a real person applying to a real bootcamp.
Crowdfuning is useful if you’re a bit short of what you need and you’re using it as a supplement to other forms of funding. While not guaranteed to bring you any success, crowdfunding is a low-risk option that’s free to try out.
GoFundMe, Fundly, and Plumfund are some crowdfunding websites you can get started on.
Part-time and Flexible Hours
Many bootcamps offer flexible, part-time hours, and some are entirely online. Signing up for one of these is less expensive than a traditional bootcamp, and can allow you to raise funds yourself by working while you study. Even if you don’t much like the job, you’ll be following in the footsteps of thousands of students working to raise money for their education - and just like them, the dissatisfaction of your part-time funding job can help you to stay motivated to do well in bootcamp.
If you’re unhappily employed and looking to start a new career in tech, it may be a good idea to keep your old job for now and do bootcamp on the side. As satisfying as quitting may be, financially speaking it’s safer to keep a steady source of income while putting your efforts into studying during your downtime. Putting in a few hours every night (or morning/afternoon, shift work happens to the best of us) can save you the stress of borrowing money. It’s a slower process but a safer one, especially if you’re worried about a bootcamp-sized gap in your resume. Lots of people will tell you that it’s easier to find a job when you already have one, even if your desired job is in another field.
Learning Code without a Bootcamp
There’s always the option of considering something other than a bootcamp to get your tech career started.
The internet is full of resources to help you learn to code, from online classes, to free books, to video tutorials. Some of these will ask for payment, but rarely will anything cost as much as bootcamp tuition. Most of it is free. The real question to ask yourself is if you need the structure and support of a class, or if you would do better with self-study.
Being a self-taught coder requires a good deal of discipline, motivation, and sheer willpower. You’ll have to work at it, and keep working at it, even when all you really want is to throw your laptop across the room. You can study whatever it is that interests you, move at your own pace, and work on the projects you want to work on. Of course, if you get stuck you’ll have to get very good at looking things up, staying on task, and connecting with other coders online to figure out what’s gone wrong.
You might miss out on some of the skills bootcamps teach in their carefully developed curriculums. However, you might stand out for having a unique portfolio and a deeper understanding of subjects than the average bootcamp graduate. It’s really up to you. Do you do well with self-study and working on your own, or do you need study groups and meet-ups to stay on task? When you get stuck do you want someone there to physically talk to and look over your work, or do you prefer to figure it out yourself, with only google to help?
Not to say that social learners and those who do best with physical real-time assistance can’t do well without a classroom structure, but you’ll have to create your own network of support, which will take time in itself.
Free Online Resources
There are all kinds of courses and classes you can take, most of which are free and entirely online. Many accredited education institutes have online programming courses, and most only ask for payment if you want to officially claim the credential at completing the course. There are countless resources available, like free video tutorials, open bookshelves, and coding problems you can work on to develop your skills.
As so much of coding has to do with the internet, it’s no surprise that there are thriving online coding communities. These are great places if you’re looking to get unstuck. You can network with other developers, find a mentor, and get help when you’re dealing with tricky bugs. Open source projects are excellent places to get experience and get noticed for your work, and reading live code can be a great way to learn.
If you can, try to get a coding buddy. Having another set of eyes to look over your work is always a good thing, and you can learn from each other's processes. Having someone hold you accountable for getting things done is invaluable when you’re lacking the structure and time constraints of a classroom, and it’s a nice bit of moral support to have someone who’s going through the same thing as you.
Almost all workplaces will have you contributing to the main branch of code, or even pair-programming and working together on the same branch. Any experience you can get working on a group project will be a huge help in getting hired.
Hatchways offers a free Team Project as part of our co-op program that helps many self-taught programmers get some teamwork experience.
Income Share Agreements (ISA)
Don’t let the name fool you, an ISA is a kind of a loan, you’re still entering into an agreement to borrow money. However, with an ISA you don’t pay back the amount that you’ve borrowed. Instead you pay back a percentage of your future income for an arbitrary amount of time - the same length of time you had the loan.
So say you had an ISA for three years as a student. Once you’d graduated and gotten a job, you’d then have to pay back a percentage of your income for three years - regardless of however much money that ended up being. It could be less than you borrowed, it could be more - though it’s only likely you’ll pay more if you end up becoming very successful very quickly in the case of a bootcamp. ISAs tend to have upper limits on what you can pay, so if you reach that amount before your time is up, you can stop paying it back.
An ISA is a great option for those held back from traditional loans by financial history, as ISAs are only focused on your potential as a student, and what your future income is projected to be. You can expect a good deal of career support from bootcamps offering ISAs, as it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to succeed, otherwise you won’t be able to pay anything back. Payment won’t be asked for until you have a job that meets a minimum income standard. This can take some of the pressure off, as you don’t have to worry about accumulating interest or meeting monthly payments while job searching, or while working a low paying job that will help you get a better paying one.
Lambda, Springboard, Flatiron School, and HackReactor are just a few of the bootcamps offering ISAs.
Financing through your Bootcamp
Some bootcamps will have their own loan lenders partnering with them. This works to your advantage, as these loans are made specifically for the bootcamp, and the lenders tend to have a better understanding of your needs as a student. They are often short-term loans, tailored specifically for the length of the class, and with the bootcamp working directly with the lending partner any communication breakdowns are much less likely.
Skills Fund and Climb Credit are lending companies partnering with coding bootcamps. You can see which bootcamps they provide specific loans for through their websites and apply to them there. Flatiron School, HackReactor, and Fullstack Academy are just some of the bootcamps they work with.
Deferred payment is where you don’t have to pay anything back until you’ve graduated. An ISA is only one kind of deferred payment, many bootcamps offer similar deals where you don’t have to pay anything until you have an acceptable income.
Bootcamps can offer all sorts of funding options and personal payment plans, some without needing any kind of credit or cosigners on your part. Check to see what funding options are available for your desired bootcamps.
Brainstation, App Academy, and Hatchways offer deferred payment plans.
Some employers will be willing to fund the training and skills development of existing and future employees, meaning they might reimburse your bootcamp tuition if they’re looking to hire you for a specific role.
What you should look for are bootcamps partnering with employers to create curriculums. Employers can ask for students to be trained for specific roles they have in mind, and will look to bootcamp graduates first when hiring. Bootcamps working with multiple employers may have career services to best match students to employers, and make sure they’re learning what they need to be hired for their desired role.
These bootcamps tend to ask for little to no upfront fees, with payment coming out of your wages for a time after you’ve gotten a job. This is a very safe form of deferred payment in that you’ve been taught skills employers have specifically asked for, and these same employers will be looking to you first when hiring. Some bootcamps will even set up interviews for you. Even if you’ll be paying your education fees back out of your wages, chances are very high you’ll be hired right after graduating.
General Assembly, Hatchways, and Fullstack Academy are a few programs collaborating with employers.
If you’re still set on going to a bootcamp and haven’t seen any funding options that appeal to you, it might be time to consider taking out a loan.
Government Student Loans
Depending on where you live and which bootcamp you are applying to, you may be eligible for a government student loan. Not many bootcamps qualify as most aren’t accredited schools, but it’s certainly worth it to see if yours is.
Government student loans are run by the federal or provincial government. It’s a needs-based qualification, so you won’t have to worry about credit score or income requirements preventing you from qualifying. The funds don’t go to you directly, they are first used to pay for your tuition and other student costs, and then any remainder goes to you. You receive the funds while you’re attending school and have no interest or required payments until you graduate. Often there will be an optional grace period of six months after graduation where you don’t have to start paying anything back - however interest will start accumulating in this time.
Safer than private loans, government loans tend to forgive any debt after a sufficient number of years have passed since you’ve been a student. Private loans do not forgive, and they certainly don’t forget. At least not easily. If you qualify, consider applying for a government loan.
Private Student Loans
This is a loan you get from a bank to help pay for your education. The bank will want to see your financial history and may ask for a parent to cosign. Interest is charged as soon as you withdraw funds, so you will have to meet monthly minimum payments as a student. These loans can come in different packages, from a line of credit, to term loans, to a student credit card. Ultimately you are still borrowing money from a bank and there will be interest if you don’t make your payments on time.
Just like the government loan, funds won’t go to you directly, and will first be used to pay for tuition and other student costs before you’ll be given the remainder. There is a bit of leeway here, as the funds can go towards broader uses like childcare and cost of living, so long as it’s all helping you to graduate.
You cannot use a student loan to fund a weekend trip to Vegas. They will find out and they won’t be happy. For that, you’ll have to take out a personal loan.
Unlike student loans, with an old fashioned personal loan the money you borrow can be used for anything. A lender may put down some restrictions, but that’s entirely at their discretion. The money will go to you directly, and you’ll have to start making monthly payments right away. The Interest rates of personal loans tend to be steeper than student loans, so do be careful to make your payments on time. There are many private lending companies you can apply to, and they’ll all have their own unique terms. They will look at your credit score, financial history, and income, and may ask for a cosigner or some kind of collateral before entering into an agreement with you.
It is possible that one loan may not cover all of your expenses. You can take out more than one - but be careful. Stay on top of your payments, watch your interest, and make sure to pay off the loan with the highest interest rates first. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Multiple loans should be a last resort, as falling behind in payments will lower your credit score and have serious ramifications on your ability to do things like rent an apartment, use a credit card, or make any kind of a down payment in future. Plus, you’ll be in debt. Nobody wants that.