As a veteran, there are several programs intended to fund your bootcamp tuition – some even cover housing! Whether you have many GI Bill benefits, just one day of GI Bill benefits, or even have zero days left of your GI Bill, there's a program that will pay for your tuition. Maggi Molina of Operation Code and Alicia Boddy of Code Platoon talk us through the three best options for veterans that are interested in learning to code after serving in the military: GI Bill vs VET TEC vs VRRAP!
|GI Bill||VET TEC||VRRAP|
|Allows In-Person Training||✅||✅||✅|
|Allows Remote Training||🚫||✅||✅|
|How many GI Bill Credits used?||Varies||1 credit||Zero|
|Student eligibility requirements||Must have GI Bill credits||Must have 1 day of GI Bill remaining||Must have lost job due to COVID-19|
|Application Link||Apply for GI Bill||Apply for VET TEC||Apply for VRRAP|
The G.I. Bill is a benefit available to veterans, and it pays tuition and housing at colleges and universities. Since 2015, coding bootcamps have successfully applied to be eligible to provide the G.I. Bill so veterans can use their G.I. Bill towards coding bootcamp tuition. This means that the G.I. Bill will cover a bootcamp student’s tuition plus a living allowance based on where they live. For example, in Chicago, that's about $2,000 a month and in Seattle, it's $2,700. Since coding bootcamps are intensive programs, this means that veterans don't have to worry about their living allowance because it's covered by the G.I. Bill.
What is the process for a student to use the G.I. Bill to cover tuition and housing at a coding bootcamp?
Maggie: It’s relatively easy. For all three of these veteran programs, veterans simply use an online application to apply. The veteran gets a certificate of eligibility from the VA that says which program they qualify for and how much they have in benefits.
Maggie: We're up to about 35 or 40 coding bootcamps that accept the G.I. Bill.
How likely is it for the G.I. Bill to be funded or even expanded over the next year, especially for coding bootcamps?
Maggie: There's no concern that funding for the Forever G.I. Bill will run out because it's a benefit that you keep once you’ve earned.
A little bit of background on the Forever GI Bill: The G.I. Bill first started in 1944. Until 2019, we changed the G.I. Bill in response to every conflict (ie. there was a Korean G.I. Bill and a Vietnam G.I. Bill). The Forever GI Bill removes the time-limit on a veteran’s benefits.
GI Bill benefits aren’t going away any time soon and I don't see code schools walking away from accepting the G.I. Bill either. In fact, what we've seen is an expansion – more and more code schools are applying for it and letting veterans use those benefits.
Can somebody use the G.I. Bill for an online bootcamp or does the program have to be in person?
Maggie: The rule is that the G.I. Bill is only to be used for in-person programs, but there is an exemption right now because of COVID-19. That exemption extends through June 2022. Even though the G.I. Bill exemption for online programs expires in June 2022, there are new funding programs, VET TEC and VRRAP, that allow veterans to use benefits for remote programs.
What is VET TEC?
Alicia: VET TEC is a really exciting pilot program through the VA which pays for a veteran’s full coding bootcamp training – full tuition and housing allowance, whether that's in-person or remote learning. The VA really recognizes the need to meet veterans where they are and help them find careers in high tech fields.
VET TEC originally started with $15 million dollars, and since it was successful early on, the budget was raised to $45 million dollars per year.
Since VET TEC is so popular, funding has been running out every year. This program allows veterans to attend coding bootcamps, not only in-person, but also remotely. Unlike the G.I. Bill, students can train remotely using VET TEC and also receive that housing allowance.
What is the general process for a student to use VET TEC for a coding bootcamp? Is it similar to the G.I. Bill?
Alicia: As long you have one day of G.I. Bill credit remaining on the first day of your class, you qualify for VET TEC. With VET TEC, you will not consume any of your G.I. Bill — you just need G.I. Bill eligibility remaining in order to be approved for VET TEC.
The VET TEC application is similar to the G.I. Bill – students fill out an online application with the VA. When you fill out the application, the VA will send you a certificate of eligibility, similar to what you would get with the G.I. Bill. Then you take that certificate to one of the approved coding bootcamps and the bootcamp can enroll you from there.
Who is VET TEC best for?
Alicia: VET TEC is a great option for veterans who are saving their G.I. Bill for something different in the future or for students who have used a lot of their G.I. Bill in previous education endeavors and now find themselves with a small balance of G.I. Bill that they can't do much with.
VET TEC is also the better option for a veteran who wants to attend an online coding bootcamp or a bootcamp remotely.
Update: An important reminder that your living stipend will depend on your location and whether you're taking the bootcamp online vs in-person. More info here.
Which bootcamps are approved to accept VET TEC?
Alicia: Right now, we have about 25 schools that are approved across 17 states. Coding bootcamps and other training institutions do have to apply to the VA to be approved as a VET TEC provider.
One unique feature of VET TEC is that schools actually have the option to be a Preferred Partner. Preferred Partners make an extra vow to the VA to get students placed in jobs.
What is a VET TEC Preferred Partner and how is that tied to job placement?
Alicia: Preferred Partners focus on finding meaningful employment for students. VET TEC pays out tuition to Preferred Partner bootcamp in three different installments: the bootcamp receives 25% of tuition when students start the class, then the second 25% of tuition when a student graduates the class, and the final 50% of tuition when a student finds meaningful employment within six months of graduation.
So there's a lot of incentive to help our students find jobs and careers using the skills that they've been trained in. It’s a really unique program in that sense – there’s a lot of focus on finding meaningful employment and making sure that bootccamps aren’t just training, but we're also getting veterans into these high-tech jobs.
Does VET TEC have outcomes or placement data for its bootcamp students yet?
Alicia: We do! Since we're in year four of this pilot, we're starting to see some great data. About 2,500 bootcamp students have graduated through VET TEC. On average, students are employed in 67 days. Their average starting salary is $59,000 a year.
As providers, we're really, really proud of those outcomes. At Code Platoon, 65 students have graduated through VET TEC and another 16 will graduate in early 2022. 50 of those VET TEC graduates have found meaningful employment, which is about a 77% placement rate. In fact, our January 2021 cohort had a 100% tech job placement rate!
VET TEC is working for a lot of providers, and certainly from a Code Platoon perspective, we're seeing a lot of success with our students who are getting trained and then finding jobs within six months.
Was that January 2021 cohort at Code Platoon all learning remotely? Is there a difference between in-person job placement versus remote job placement at Code Platoon?
Alicia: The majority of our training since March 2020 has been purely remote and we are seeing great success – equal to if not better than when we were training in-person.
Our remote students are receiving the same training and we're able to place our remote students in careers at the same rate, if not better than our placement rates with in-person students.
VET TECH is in the fourth year of a 5-year VET TEC pilot program. How likely is VET TEC to be funded in 2022 and beyond?
Alicia: Funding has plagued VET TEC since the beginning. With VET TEC, the VA met veterans’ demand for programs like this.
VET TEC is funded with $45 million every October 1st, and we’re working very closely with our representatives to try to expand the budget while we're in this pilot program phase. We're also collectively working with providers and the VA to make VET TEC a permanent program. There's a lot of momentum in Washington, D.C. to make this permanent and really allow for more students to participate.
Historically, we have run out of budget in the Spring of every calendar year. If you're a veteran, please apply for VET TEC! Your application helps us show the demand and the need for permanency of VET TEC.
VRRAP is the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program. It was passed in March of 2021 as part of the economic stimulus package in response to COVID-19. VRRAP builds off of VET TEC, but there are a few big differences:
Which coding bootcamps are eligible for VRRAP?
Maggie: There's about 8,000 separate certificate programs at over 700–800 schools. Of those, about 20 to 25 code schools qualify for VRRAP. To be a VRRAP provider, a program has to either have VET TEC approval or G.I. Bill approval, and then use one of those approvals to get VRRAP approval.
Can a student learn remotely through VRRAP or is it limited to in-person programs?
Maggie: Like VET TEC, VRRAP also covers remote bootcamps.
What is the process for a veteran who wants to use VRRAP?
Maggie: The process for a veteran to get approved for any of these programs is to go to the VA website and complete the online application.
Who is VRRAP for?
Maggie: VRRAP is for veterans who no longer have a G.I. Bill benefit, which is a significant expansion and different from G.I. Bill and VET TEC. VRRAP is a fantastic funding option for veterans who lost their job due to the pandemic and want to transition into a new career.
How hard is it for veterans to prove that they lost their job due to the pandemic?
Maggie: From what I've heard anecdotally, it's not hard. That said, we've seen so few students using VRRAP that I don't think we have a good sense of any barriers to entry.
What is the “best” funding option for a veteran who wants to go to a coding bootcamp?
Alicia: When VET TEC is funded, VET TEC is your best option. If you have exhausted your GI Bill benefits, VRRAP is your best option. Between VET TEC and VRRAP, we hope to cover the majority of our students. When VET TEC doesn't have funding, the G.I. Bill can also be a great option — it’s just a little more limited because it’s not approved for remote learning.
If you've found a coding that you want to attend, then ask them to explain the different benefit programs. At Code Platoon, we see a lot of students come through that have various ideas of how they want to attend our program. We can be a great resource to help them navigate all of these benefits that are here for them.
The Veteran Readiness and Employment program is less common – who is that intended for?
Alicia: Vocational Rehab, also known as VR&E, is a program for students who have a qualifying disability, so it’s more specific. You will be assigned a counselor and then you can get approved to attend a coding bootcamp.
How hard is it for a school to get approved by the VA for any of these veterans funding programs? What advice do you have for bootcamps that want to get approved?
Maggie: The good news for any bootcamps that want to get approved for one of these programs is that there are a lot of schools that have already gotten approval from the VA. Those schools and people like me are more than happy to help you figure out how to get approval and offer these funding programs for veterans.
When I started working on Operation Code in 2015, there were no code schools that offered the G.I. Bill. I helped get the first code schools approved in the state of Washington, and it started with Code Fellows. Code Fellows was one of the early movers on this, and now there are code schools all over the country. The more code schools participating in this not only helps all veterans use their benefits in a way that gets them a job, but also makes this a better program all around.
What’s the future of veterans benefits for coding bootcamps?
Maggie: In 2022, Congress will consider the VET TEC program and the VRRAP program, and probably determine what those are going to look like moving forward. This could mean a mix of VET TEC and VRRAP, or maybe they choose to go with one over the other. Hopefully, they'll take the best elements of both programs and create something for veteran funding and high-demand occupations moving forward.
Could any of these programs be used as a model for non-veteran bootcamp funding?
Maggie: Absolutely. There's been a lot of recent reflection on higher education and student loan debt in our country. Looking at these veteran funding programs that are specifically tied to outcomes, both VET TEC and VRRAP, there’s a model there for vocational training and accelerated learning programs.
Alicia: I don't know if the VA realized what they were doing, but it's put coding bootcamps in an interesting space where we have to show our worth.
Maggie: It also may be interesting to consider the lessons learned with coding boot camps and accelerated learning programs for traditional higher education. Should there be a job placement requirement on traditional higher education? There are best practices in career services and job placement at coding boot camps and non-accredited schools that higher ed might want to consider.
As we rebuild our economy, I would love to see a program like VET TEC apply to manufacturing and other industries where we need to rebuild our economy with a highly skilled population. Veteran programs should not only be made permanent for high-demand occupations for veterans, but we should look at expanding those to civilian students, too.
Why does a coding bootcamp make sense for a military veteran? What can someone with a military background add to a tech company?
Alicia: At Code Platoon, our employer partners love to hire our students because they know that they're hiring students who have this military experience that gives them leadership skills. Their military training gives them life experience. While they may be hired as a junior developer and are new in their coding careers, they bring this life experience to the teams that they join. They're able to contribute on day one; they have an ability to learn and they have the willingness to learn. They've had a career in a sense while they were in the military, and they're now hungry for this civilian career. Our veteran students are motivated — they've got high energy and they bring great value to the tech teams that they're a part of. We hear that time and time again from our employer partners. We get a lot of repeat employer partners because they're seeing such great success with our graduates.
Maggie: I think the gold standard is to use VET TEC or G.I. Bill for a coding boot camp, get into the industry, then go back and get a CS degree part-time. Sometimes the debate becomes higher education versus coding bootcamp or an accelerated learning program, but it doesn’t have to be an either/or. The coding bootcamp model really models our military training model. For example, I dropped out of high school, enlisted in the Air Force, scored really high on the aptitude test for electronics, then went to tech school for eight months and became a radar technician in the military. That's the model that the military uses, and it’s the model that coding bootcamps use. I think it makes a lot of sense, especially for the country as we come out of a pandemic.
There's a huge opportunity next year, I'll tell you!
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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