The TL;DR Summary
Starting with the January 2023 cohort, Turing's tuition is increasing from $20,000 to $25,000.
What do you pay for?
When we started in 2014 we had a lot of determination but not yet any results. We started with tuition at $17,500. By 2016 as the program has a real track record and we were expanding student services, we increased it to $20,000. Then by early 2020 we knew it was past time to change tuition again. We planned to roll it out that summer, but COVID-19 had other plans.
In the Spring of 2020, as we moved to remote learning, several current or prospective students asked if remote Turing would be cheaper than in-person Turing. It's true that our 20,000 square feet of office space in downtown Denver is expensive, nearly 10% of our overall annual budget. But talking about the office or really any expenses misses the fundamental point.
Students don't come to Turing because they want to collectively support the leasing of an office. They don't pay for a certain instructor, specific hours of job support, or a quota of Slack questions. They pay for an outcome. Students come to Turing because they want to launch themselves into a high-fulfillment technical career.
But Is It Worth It?
We know education is supposed to be an investment in oneself. It shouldn't just be an activity or a lottery ticket – the investment needs to pay off. Every student is going to have their own collection of priorities and metrics. Some of them are quantifiable like post-program salary, others are harder to measure like quality of life or creative engagement in the work. Let's take the most concrete and common goal: I came to Turing to get a higher-paying job that would grow into a higher-paying career.
One of the challenges to traditional higher education is that the cost-benefit analysis is bleak. The Social Security Administration finds that men with bachelor's degrees earn approximately $900K more in their lifetime while for women it's $630K. For a graduate degree it's $1.1M for women and $1.5M for men. Meanwhile the average in-state public undergrad degree costs $84K and the average graduate degree costs $66K.
Is it worth it? Yes, eventually. Say you finished high school, went straight through and did undergrad in four years and grad school in another two years. You're 24 years old and go into a job earning $80K/year versus a high-school grad who would only early $45K/year. You paid $150K for all that tuition, but crucially you also spent six years not earning the salary of a high school grad. That's $45K/year for six years for a total of $270K. This is the "opportunity cost" of going to undergrad and grad school. So the total felt cost between opportunity cost and tuition is $420K.
After all that schooling you get into the job earning $80K versus a high school grad who'd earn $45K. You're out-earning them by $35K per year, which we'll call your "salary delta." Your total felt cost of $420K then gets offset $35K/year and after 12 years you have broken even. You're 36 and now your degrees put you ahead, probably. Also your high-school friend who didn't go to school has six more years experience in their field than you do in yours, which at that point is 50% of your career.
Turing's Value Proposition
The problem in America is not that college is "pointless" or "doesn't matter," it's that the payoff timeline is too long with too low of a salary delta. Our collegiate degrees don't matter fast enough. And yes, we've left out details that make it worse like the interest on student loans and others that make it better like arguing that people with grad degrees get promotions and raises faster. The core argument remains that American higher education is a big, risky, and slow bet on your future.
And so what does that all have to do with Turing? Let's go through the same analysis. In 2016 we set the $20K tuition with average pre-program salaries around $35K, after-program salaries of $72K, time-to-completion of 7 months, and a typical job hunt around 75 days. The time in the program and job hunting adds up to 300 days or 82% of a calendar year. The opportunity cost of missing your pre-program $35K job for 82% of the year is $29K. Add that to the actual tuition of $20K and the total felt cost of Turing is $49K.
The pre-program salary of $35K to the after-program salary of $72K is a salary delta of $37K. The felt cost of $49K thus pays off at $37K/year which comes out to 16 months. In less than two years the typical grad is "ahead" financially, not to mention the quality of life factors, likelihood of quickly accelerating salaries, and other benefits.
The Late-COVID Economy
The first months of COVID were a hard time to get a new job. I have tremendous respect for all the grads who pushed through and eventually got to the employment they deserved. And since August of 2020 it's been a rocketship – employment has been faster and at higher salaries than we've ever seen.
The Q2 2022 jobs report shows a median post-Turing salary of $89K with a median time to hire of 32 days. That's 24% higher pay and half the job hunt time of a 2016 grad - wow.
It's Time to Change Tuition
It's been six years. We've added our pre-program "Mod 0" which has dramatically increased graduation rates. We've added instructional staff and grown the career support team by 4x. We're smarter than ever about how to build and iterate our instruction to help students develop tremendous skill in a short period of time. But all of that is just "nice to have" – students come to Turing because they want a great, high-paying job.
Starting with our January 2023 cohort ("2301" in Turing-speak), our tuition is increasing to $25,000. Is it worth it?
A student who enrolls in January is most likely going to graduate in 7 months and job hunt for 40 days, a total of 250 days or 68% of a year. Say that their pre-program salary was $45K in this inflationary, constrained employment market. Their felt cost is $25K tuition and $31K of opportunity cost, for a total of $56K.
Let's be conservative and project a regression in median salary, so in late 2023 they start a new job earning $85K. They're earning a $40K annual salary delta against the total cost of $56K.
That's a 17 month payoff from graduation. Tweak numbers up or down a bit and you can shave a month or add one. But the conclusion remains the same: even at a $25K tuition, the typical Turing student will pay off their investment in under two years. And after that...it's a rocketship.
Where Does It Go?
We're increasing tuition by 25% and it's still a good investment for students. But where does the money go? It's a simple answer: labor.
As a non-profit, there's no point in making more than we spend, so we spend it all. Over the years we've grown to a staff of nearly 50 people working to support the success of every student.
To continue redefining what a world-class education looks like, teaching at Turing has to be rewarding emotionally and financially.
Every one of our instructors could earn a higher salary working in a tech company, and our first priority with the additional revenue is to try and close that gap.
As we look into 2023, I'm excited that we continue to find success in outside charitable fundraising, too. Our goal is to fund our operations through 80% tuition and 20% outside money. When we spend it all on students, that means the individual is getting back 125% of what they put in. That's how we'll continue to grow, get better, and ensure every student has a Turing experience that unlocks their potential and enables a high-fulfillment technical career.
We'll continue to refine the programs that have gotten us to this point, while behind the scenes developing new ideas to help people grow across the full spectrum of their career. The best days of Turing are still to come.
See you soon, 2301.