With an influx of career conscious students attracted to the convenience and flexibility offered by online learning, online coding bootcamps are on our radar. One of the final obstacles for students eager to enroll in career-building coding bootcamps is the cost of tuition. For many, this barrier has now been removed. Bloc, one of the leading online coding bootcamps, has partnered with Affirm, to provide students with manageable financing plans. Students who enroll in Bloc’s Full Stack Web Developer Track or Designer Track can apply for a loan through Affirm to ease the financial burden and open the doors to a new career. We caught up with Riley End, business development and operations lead at Bloc, to get the details.
Tell us about Bloc’s new relationship with financing partner Affirm!
We’re very excited about our partnership with Affirm as it is the first time students of Bloc have been able to to finance their program with a loan. The partnership was driven primarily by student demand for both our Full Stack Web Developer Track and the ability to finance it over time.
So in conjunction with the expansion of Bloc’s program offering, you felt it was necessary to add more financing options for people who were interested in it?
Exactly. We launched our Full Stack Web Developer Track in late February this year. All five of our courses up to that point cost $4,999 if a student paid upfront or $5,500 over the course of 6 monthly payments (these are still the payment options for our five courses).
Our Full Stack Web Developer Track combines select elements of our Frontend Web Development Course and our Rails Web Development Course to create a comprehensive, full stack apprenticeship for individuals seeking a career in web development. The cost of this program is $9,500 upfront. It was originally also offered at $10,000 if you wanted to choose a payment plan, which consisted of 10 payments of $1,000 over 10 months.
We launched this program and it immediately took off as our primary career track offering. Most students that enrolled were opting to take the $10,000 payment plan option over 10 months. Individuals that enroll in Bloc’s Career Tracks do so because they want to jump-start a new career but they don’t have the luxury of being able to quit their job for 12-plus weeks. So our model is 100% online, you can select the pace (full-time or part-time equivalents), and it’s taught through one on one mentorship but it lets students keep their current jobs.
We partnered with Affirm to make monthly payments lower for our Career Track students. Affirm offers loans with terms of 12, 15 and 18 months with an APR range of 6% to 20%.
Previously, the lowest monthly payment you could have for a Bloc career track was $1,000. Now through this partnership with Affirm, you can take a $9,500 course and pay as low as $553 a month for 18 months.
So a student pays monthly as they take the course? This isn’t deferred payment?
Correct. You receive the loan on the first day of your program and then you pay monthly throughout the duration of your loan term. That is actually unique to this partnership because a lot of the companies we spoke to in this process have worked primarily with in-person bootcamps, so most of the repayment plans in the industry are deferred until graduation. But that is not the case with this partnership, Bloc and Affirm partnered so students can learn skills to launch a new career, without quitting their current job and without delaying debt repayment. Affirm was great to do some restructuring to get these financing options in place for Bloc students.
Do students make a time commitment to finish the Career Track Program in a certain period of time or are they able to take it on their own schedule?
There is a time/pace commitment that each student has to make. For our Career Track Programs, you have the option of three different paces. The first is 24 weeks, the second is 36 weeks and the last one is 72 weeks. Students are expected to finish the course within the duration that they choose.
Why is Affirm confident in investing in these Bloc students?
It’s smart of Affirm to invest in people that are investing in themselves. It’s an opportunity for them to work with people that really are betting on themselves and have the drive to launch a new career.
How is the Affirm partnership different (if at all) from collaborations with other lending partners like LendLayer, Climb, etc?
Our partnership with Affirm is similar to other collaborations between educators and financing partners in that our goal is to reduce the upfront cost barrier for our students by providing lower monthly loan payments. We are in the business of delivering desired outcomes for our students, not the financing business. This partnership lets us remain focused on our core product and allows Affirm to do the same.
Along with the new financing option, is Bloc doing other things to ensure that these students are able to make that transition into a career?
Absolutely - my number one task right now is spearheading our Career Support Program at Bloc. It’s our holistic approach to helping our Career Track students successfully manage the job search process during and after their course, so that they can get the job that they want.
It ranges from working with students to build out personal portfolio projects to building their online brand strategy. We take them through our job preparation curriculum within the course so they can learn the interview process, walk through resume templates with their mentor, perform mock technical interviews, learn how to negotiate salaries and deal with the adversity that comes with the highs and lows of the job search process.
Most importantly, we have a career support team; myself and our program coordinators that provide one-on-one individualized support for each student. We want to understand their goals and tailor a search process for those students. We’ll figure out the profile of the company they want to work for, the reasons for that preference, the employment criteria at that company, and then help them with the actual outreach process.
Like other bootcamps, we do have an employer network that we use to provide introductions to our students. That’s primarily in major markets but we’re quickly building that out in areas around the country as well.
With the announcement of TechHire, is Bloc investigating other sources for tuition assistance? Perhaps scholarships or other partners that might be able to help widen your audience and user base?
Absolutely. This industry is still in its infancy but we think that the Bloc platform is uniquely positioned to address so many segments of people that want to get into tech jobs because we are online; we can be anywhere. We’ve seen that the one-on-one mentorship experience gets the job really well.
The TechHire Initiative is phenomenal and while it is largely being served by in-person bootcamps at the moment, we’re looking forward to being able to participate in those initiatives at some point going forward. Even though Bloc’s core platform is online, we’re still delivering great outcomes and I think we can have a greater reach than to just those students that are able to sit in the classroom for a specified period of time in a specified location.
The other topic of conversation in the bootcamp industry is obviously the GI Bill and helping veterans get access to federal funds to learn these skills to get jobs. There’s a massive shortage of tech talent in this country. We’re aware of that and we’re putting our shoulder behind some initiatives.
We’ve spent a lot of time refining an apprenticeship model at Bloc and want to see it proliferate to a greater audience.