Hmm. Very interesting! In plowing through the usual raft of press releases for blog fodder, I came across an item posted on GoCertify.com entitled “Cisco and University of Phoenix Team Up to Deliver New Network Programs for Students.” The upshot of this piece is that UofP — one of the world’s largest university programs, with a major online training presence — is teaming up with Cisco to create degree programs built around Cisco certifications.
The press release also includes this interesting snippet of data:
Job growth for network administrators, network support specialists and computer network architects is projected to grow by more than 20 percent by 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With this opportunity comes a need for highly trained workers familiar with the latest networking technology and systems.
In following the UofP link to the program page for this degree plan, I grabbed the following screen capture to illustrate potential program costs:
I see numerous interesting things about this offering, over and above Cisco’s partnership with the University to bring a two-year degree forward with a solid concentration on CCNA coverage:
- It looks like the Congress’ investigation into and new regulations on disclosing costs for for-profit colleges is starting to have some effect1. This is a pretty clear and straightforward disclosure of costs, with more details available in footnotes at the bottom of the cited Web page.
- The citation of the growth rate for network admins also explicitly addresses the concerns that Congress has raised about private for-profit programs leading students into debt, but not necessarily into the workforce. Nice to see IT training touted as a ticket to gainful employment, isn’t it? Notice also the median debt entries are listed as Not Available because the program hasn’t been around long enough to generate such numbers. It will be interested to check back in a year or two to see where these numbers settle out.
- At today’s private and public college prices, the overall estimated costs of $17.5K to $28K (in round numbers) for two years of full-time tuition is not cheap (it works out to between $8,750 and $14,000 per year). Community college offerings for CCNA abound, and usually come in at under $100 per credit hour2, with lower or no electronic materials fees (OTOH, students must buy textbooks and often pay lab fees instead, so this particular factor may be a wash–the difference in per-hour tuition rates, however, is substantial).
- It’s important to remember that CCNA is a gateway Cisco certification, perhaps better viewed as a prerequisite for the Cisco professional-level (CCNP, CCDP, and so forth) and specialist credentials rather than as an end to itself, or a “guaranteed ticket” to immediate employment. That said, a quick trip to Indeed.com, Dice.com, and other job posting sites, does show substantial numbers of IT job listings that mention CCNA by name (some portion of which that read “CCNA or better” or with similar language, however).
If you find yourself pondering this program, well and good. But please, do yourself a favor and weigh the costs carefully. If you’re working full-time and can get your employer’s support for such a program, or qualify for substantial grants or support, it’s well worth pursuing. But if you have to pay the costs out of your own pocket, or assume substantial debt to participate in the program, look around for similar offerings at local community colleges and local public colleges and universities. I’ll bet you can find equivalent offerings for less than half the published costs. Only you can decide if attending the UofP justifies paying such a premium for the convenience and careful package that has gone into their program’s formulation.
1. When it comes to for-profit colleges and universities in the USA, the University of Phoenix is a sort of charter member of this group, with long-standing ties to remote campus locations on military bases around the world as far back as the 1970s. As an Army brat myself who spent half his formative years on bases in Germany, and most of his life until college on or near an Army base, I believe the University of Maryland is the only institution with longer-standing and deeper roots in the DoD than UofP (see this listing for the University on MilitaryFriendlySchools.com for independent verification).
2. A 2009 article from www.communitycollegereview.com “Value of an Associates vs. Bachelors Degree” cites a CNN report that draws from the US College Board to state that “…an average two year educational instate costs approximately $2,191 each year.” It goes on further to state that “…an average four year university costs more than twice as much, with an average tuition expense of $5,500” and “…private four university costs…on average…over $21,200 each year…” Applying 2.5% inflation for the period from 2009 to 2012 (four years), the numbers go up to $2,418, $6,070, and $23,400 respectively. This puts the UoP CCNA AA per-year costs somewhere between an average four-year university and a private four year university, in the bottom half of the overall range between them.