PAY IT FORWARD: The Education Finance & Income Share Agreement (ISA) Blog


Degree vs. Certificate? The Fast Track to Employment Comes of Age


In recent years, education options in America have become akin to cold-brewed coffee and crypto currencies with the number of higher educational institutions, certificate programs, and skill-based learning initiatives that have come to market. With so many avenues available for skill development and alternative forms of education in place, it can be difficult to make a decision about what program is right for students and adult learners.

Many recent high school graduates and adult learners are turning towards alternative forms of education in an effort to compete in the job market. This is a good move for many, as the cost of attending these programs is comparatively low, and the overall outcomes are positive considering the skills obtained over that period of time.

Some would venture to say that traditional 4-year degrees are worth the investment because they focus on long-term experiences and critical thinking development. However, when paired with direct employer access and a multitude of networking opportunities, skilling up through these shorter certificate programs can be extremely beneficial and more attainable for many looking to enter the workforce with some experience under their belt.

As an example, Stack Education, which partners with universities to offer low cost certificate programs, provides full stack web development, coding, and data analytics programs. Stack’s partnership with MentorWorks has resulted in data that shows the undeniable value of such programs. Data on MentorWorks-financed Stack students shows that they get employed with an average salary increase of 40% higher than the pre-school average income at Stack, with an average postgraduate salary for employed graduates at $63,000. For a $10,000 cost, this represents a solid return on investment in its education.

Another example is Code Fellows, which offers online and in-class, coding and cybersecurity courses. This school is a powerhouse of certificate training, boasting a 93% placement rate with a $72,500 income for in-field full time placements. This school was recently names by Switch Up as the top school by placement at the top five tech giants (Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google).

And, such programs are available for those that are less inclined toward technology. North Carolina based PreHired is a skills training program that provides training for those looking for a career in software sales – not only preparing students to hit the ground running in corporate business development but also familiarizing them with the technology industry as a whole and the vast array of categories, markets, and players.

In addition to their lower barriers to entry, more collaborative and simple admissions processes and comparatively lower costs, such programs are also extremely flexible when it comes to scheduling conflicts. In most cases, students can cater their courses around times that work for them instead of preset ones that might bar them from attending. Not only do some of the programs offer flexibility in scheduling, but also innovative financing options. Alternatives to student loans, such as an Income Share Agreement (ISA), can ensure that students don’t pay until they are employed and earning at or above a Minimum Income Threshold that is determined on an individual basis.*

Clearly, there’s a flourishing market for upskilling, re-skilling and continuing education. If you are considering one of these options and by aligning yourself with a trusted partner like MentorWorks, you can be assured that we have your back and we’re here to provide pathways to your education and your career.

For more information on MentorWorks’ educational partners, please visit our schools page here.

*To see more on ISAs, visit the MentorWorks homepage.