Regulators threaten coding academies

“Coding academies,” which offer intensive, short-term training in programming skills, don’t rely on state or federal financial aid.  But California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is threatening to shut down “coding academies” and other training providers unless they apply for state licensing.

The startups — which include places like App Academy, Dev Bootcamp, General Assembly, Hack Reactor, Hackbright Academy and Zipfian Academy —  typically charge between $8,000 and $12,000 for a six- to 10-week course, reports Inside Higher Ed.

App Academy is free — until graduates of the nine-week course find a job. Then they pay 15 percent of their first-year’s pay, which averages more $80,000 a year, says co-founder Kush Patel.

The BPPE sent a letter telling coding academies to cease operations immediately or face fines of $50,000. But spokesman Russ Heimerich told Inside Higher Ed that bureau officials neither “believe these schools are unscrupulous” nor aim to run them out of business. “If you’re making a good-faith effort to come into compliance, it’s not like we’re going to move to shut you down,” he said.

General Assembly and Dev Bootcamp began the process of applying for California licensure before the letter was sent, founders say.

Dev Bootcamp’s Shereef Bishay says he understands the need to protect against shady education providers, but “the regulation was written without a new sector like ours in mind.”

The rules require, for instance, that all instructors must have three years of teaching experience, and while Dev Bootcamp’s instructors average 7-10 years of experience in their industries, where they have mentored employees and trained apprentices at companies like Google and Apple, many of them have little formal teaching experience.

. . . Similarly, the BPPE regulations state that a provider must run any change in curriculum by the agency, and that approval may take up to six months. “We change our curriculum every three weeks, and we can’t teach technology that’s six months old,” Bishay said. 

. . . “Instead of telling me how to educate them, how to track them, and how often my curriculum can change, make sure my alumni are succeeding and that I’m not defrauding my customers. I support that 110 percent.”

Jake Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of General Assembly, hopes regulators will crack down on any providers that are “ripping people off.”  His company has a 96 percent job placement rate, he said. 

Hack Reactor, which charges $17,000, claims a 99 percent placement rate, reports Venture Beat.


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