Why Colleges Suck at Making Programmers

August 14, 2018

When creating Codeup, we went out and talked to lots of people in the tech industry both on the employer and employee side. One thing became very clear: colleges are doing a terrible job producing programmers.

Here’s what we found out:

Programming isn’t fun

Undergrad computer science has changed little since the late 1990s when I was in school. One thing that hasn’t changed is the high weed-out rate of students in CS. According to a study out of the Helsinki University of Technology, Finland, between 30 and 50% of CS majors drop out and switch to other majors during their first intro to CS course. The number one reason: lack of motivation. Colleges don’t make CS fun, and that’s a tragedy.

College takes a long time

Many people went back to school hoping to become developers. In the case of an associate’s program, it take 2 years or more. A classic college education is four years. You do not want to know about how much it costs (click here to find out).

College includes things that aren’t necessary to do a programming job

Does one really need a full liberal arts degree with electives to be employable? As the recent crops of college graduates have demonstrated, a college degree doesn’t mean a future.

Lectures are a terrible way to learn coding

Think of programming like learning a new spoken language. Is that best done sitting in classroom or being on the streets of a foreign country talking with the locals? The same thing goes for college where the lecture format still dominates.

Colleges teach what they can sell

Colleges sell degrees, not futures. If a college had to guarantee a future to its graduates, would they offer so many degrees that produce people with no useful skills?

Professors (often) teach what interests them

For those of us who took a class from a research professor, we discovered quickly that our semester long class would be 20% quickly going through course materials and an 80% deep dive on the professor’s personal research interests. It’s great that the professor thinks that pandas are a majestic animal, but the class is Biology, not endangered species 101.

College is slow to keep up

In tech, things move incredibly fast. Here’s the problem with college development: departments start planning their offerings several years before the student is taught the information. By that time, it’s likely the real world has changed so much that the student is being taught information from 3 or 4 years ago. In visiting some CS departments, I have heard from students that their professors were teaching languages that went out of real-world usage decades ago.

So, STEM education is broken. Schools need to align their interests with those of the students. Schools need to make tech accessible. Schools need to put students first, rather than treat them as customers. Students should finish with a future and not a mountain of debt. And so on. Things need to change.

We think there’s a better answer, and we’ve designed it. If schools sold you an education but not a future, we have the answer. Applications are open at Codeup.com.