Coding Boot Camps face regulations in California

Coding Boot Camps in California have been given a two week warning to comply with regulations or face fines or closures. The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) sent out stop letters to Zipfian Academy, App Academy, Hack Reactor, and Hackbright Academy and others.

BPPE, a unit in the California Department of Consumer Affairs, says that the boot camps are under its command and they have the right to regulate. BPPE has the right to license and regulate post secondary education in California. This includes academic and vocational training programs. The California Private Post-secondary Education Act of 2009 was passed to provide greater oversight of the 1,500 post-secondary schools in the state.

The boot camps have not been approved by BPPE and can be considered unlicensed post-secondary educational institutions, they must comply or risk being shut down.

"Our primary goal is not to collect a fine. It is to drive them to comply with the law," said Russ Heimerich, a spokesperson for BPPE. Heimerich is confident that these companies would lose in court if they attempt to fight BPPE.

Heimerich states that the boot camps simply need to show they are trying to reach compliance. As long as they make that effort Heimerich says they "will work with them to get them licensed and focus on more urgent matters".

Christina Farr of Venture Beat reported that Chief Executive of General Assembly, Jake Schwartz said "We see government as a stakeholder—along with our students" and that companies should work closely with BPPE.

Anthony Phillips, co-founder of Hack Reactor, said the founders of these boot camps are not against the principle of oversight and regulation, but that he would like to be a part of the group that creates the standards. The other co-founder Shawn Drost said they are taking it seriously and their policy and legal advisors are confident in a positive outcome.

In the learn-to-code movement, online schools and in-person courses are springing up to meet a huge need for more developers across a wide range of industries. For a price, these schools offer training in digital skills, such as software development, data science, and user experience design.

The 10-12 week programs range widely in tuition costs and recruits are told they have job possibilities with companies like Facebook and Google. Hack Reactor students are typically offered jobs with companies like Adobe and Google. Phillips says the average salary for a computer scientist at these businesses is over six figures.

The boot camps specialize in bringing variety to the tech sector and help Californians who are unemployed or underemployed find jobs. Hackbright specializes in teaching women to code so they have a better chance at landing a computer engineering job.

These boot camps claim to be doing something innovative for which BPPE's regulation is not applicable. But BPPE's point of view is different: It is treating them in a similar manner to any other trade school and online education program. The boot camps fear that they will go bankrupt as regulatory processes can take up to 18 months.

The tech start-ups and regulators have clashed before. Start-ups say that the regulators are hindering innovation, the regulators say that consumer safety and fraud prevention are their focus.

01 30, 2014
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