Project Shift Blog


The Affordability of Project Shift vs. College

Project Shift believes in making education affordable, accessible and valuable. Perhaps you read that and roll your eyes because you can see on our site that we charge $9,900 (seemingly, NOT affordable) for a 3-month course on Software Engineering and we’re picky about who we let into our course (also seemingly, NOT accessible?). So let’s chat. How is this affordable, accessible and valuable?

What is Expensive?

First of all, let’s think about what “expensive” means. For example, $100,000 is a lot of money… but not for a new 3 bedroom house. To determine whether something is “expensive” you have to access it's value. People often say that a product is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. That’s sort of a shallow definition for price. College degrees actually illustrate this shallow definition well. The average university degree around Durham costs $83,484. But does anyone take the time anymore to actually think about the value of a college degree? Rather, it's so ingrained in our culture that college degrees are valuable that most are willing to go into insurmountable debt to invest in a degree that will take 2 decades to get a return on. So to help us determine whether or not a program like ours is “expensive”, let’s compare it to the average college degree in the area.

The Cost of RDU Colleges vs. Project Shift

The 8 closest universities to Project Shift (within 10 miles of Durham, NC) cost an average of $20,871/year, or $10,435.50 a semester. If we break that down to per/week (and can assume that a semester is 15 weeks) college courses will cost you $695.70 per week. Our course is 12 weeks long, so at that price, 12 weeks in college would cost you $8,348.40 compared to our 12-week course at $9,900. In this scenario, 12 weeks of college courses would be $1,551.60 cheaper than our 12-week course (though our course is obviously $73,584 cheaper than the average degree). But what’s the value proposition of these universities vs. our program?

According to, attending one of these 8 schools will (on average) earn you a salary of $43,800 after you graduate, and put you $22,050 in debt, which will take you 21 years to pay off (that’s how long it takes the average American to pay off their student loans anyway).

Compare that with the median salary of entry-level Software Engineers in the United States, which is $76,350. The $14,400 price tag may put you in some debt, but it’s sure to be a small fraction compared to the $83,484 price tag of a degree and much easier to pay off with a potentially much higher entry-level salary. Obviously, our conclusions here have some reasonable objections. Let’s examine a few:

What about people who already have a college degree?

We're not suggesting someone apply for Project Shift instead of college, though we’re not against that idea. Our applicant pipeline consists of mostly college grads, so it’s likely that you already have a degree and college debt, which means, the last thing you want to do is go into more debt. Compared to another degree (computer science), a program like ours is the minimal debt option.

But you don’t guarantee a $73,584 salary after finishing Project Shift

But what are the guarantees that come with university degrees or job assistance after graduation? Unlike our program, job placement and preparation is nowhere near a top priority for many university degrees.

Aren’t you just encouraging more student debt?

The reason we’re so adamant about having a strict admissions process [read more about that here] is to ensure our student’s success before they invest in our program. We wouldn’t be partnering with Loanable and offering a financing option if we didn’t believe that this would be a worthwhile investment for our students.


Wouldn’t having your program online make it cheaper?

For sure! Capping our cohort to 12, and having a low student-instructor ratio is not cheap, but we’re trying to offer the best education possible. Programs like Treehouse and FreeCodeCamp are doing incredible things to make coding accessible to the masses (and we highly recommend them!) but top learning experiences require human-interaction and an immersive commitment.

What about the cost of quitting my job?

This is probably the most difficult part. When you graduated high-school, you probably lived at home, were single and had very little living expenses (and no debt!). Now you probably have a higher paying job and several responsibilities - the cost of not working for 3+ months is much higher. All we can say to that is, do what you have to do. Move back in with your parents for a bit, cut down on your current expenses, live off your spouses' salary alone. Just as entrepreneurs never have "enough money" to start a company, you’ll never have "enough money” to invest in your education and it will only become more expensive the longer you wait.

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