California’s BPPE sets its sights on coding bootcamps (via stock)
Education is one of the biggest issues the younger generations are facing today. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the US is lagging far behind other countries when it comes to the sciences, math and even reading (based on the 2012 PISA exam). These statistics will undoubtedly limit what jobs will be available to the students of today, a good portion of which will be in the technology sector with a focus on coding and programming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for healthcare IT and mobile networks professionals will, in turn, promote an increased demand for programmers, systems analysts and support technicians to the tune of 22% of those currently employed by the year 2020. In an effort to keep those potential jobs from going offshore, the US government, tech companies and academic institutions have initiated several programs that bring the computer sciences to classrooms and other learning centers. Several nonprofits, including Code.org, Khan Academy and MIT’s Scratch have sprung into existence since 2012 to give kids a leg-up on the skills needed to land one of those tech jobs by providing the necessary tools online. The popularity of those programs has invaded classrooms all over the globe (programming has become part of the sciences in some schools) and as a result, has spawned a slew of independent programming and coding schools in the US. This also brought on the rise of ‘coding bootcamps’ where students get a crash course on programming in weeks rather than months or years. As those programs have risen in popularity among high school kids, it also caught the attention of regulators who have recently taken a closer look at how those camps are run and what classification they fall under as an academic institution.
In recent weeks, California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) has issued ‘cease and desist’ orders to several coding camps, including Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor and App Academy (along with a few others) in an effort to bring those institutions up to code. The BPPE is an offshoot of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (NOT the Department of Education) and is tasked at regulating private institutions of post or secondary education, which includes vocational schools and other academic institutions. The problems seem to be that those programming bootcamps did not (or were not aware of the need to) register or apply for a license with the BPPE and are therefore not in compliance with regulations and guidelines set forth by the regulatory commission. Those bootcamps were issued the C&D orders, which stated either they comply with the guidelines or be forced to shut down and face a hefty fine of $50,000. To get a better understanding of the situation, online programs like Code.org are free to anyone who wants to learn the basics of programming while the coding bootcamps charge anywhere from $10,000 and upwards for a 10-week full-throttle course in specific programming languages. Regulation and oversight when it comes to that kind of money isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however the regulations set down by the BPPE are somewhat archaic in nature when it comes to the digital age. For example, if the institution offers a degree program (which most of those bootcamps do), they must have a library and other learning resources, complete with a professional librarian or information specialist. Suffice it to say, the Application for Approval to get those bootcamps up to regulation is staggering to say the least, which is putting those institutions under immense pressure as they attempt to continue to operate.
It should be noted that some of these programs incorporate diversity within their respective communities. For instance, Hackbright specializes in teaching women to code in an effort to gain a competitive edge in the job market. Bootcamps can also help many unemployed Californians find jobs, which could only bolster the state’s ailing economy. Many coding institutions in the state however, fear that they will become bankrupt and forced to close as the application process can take up to 18 months and during that time, no classes can be taken and prospective students cannot enroll, which costs the institutions their income. It should also be noted that those coding bootcamps usually have a job-placement program in conjunction with many of the top tech companies in the nation, such as Google, Facebook and even Microsoft, which many students will miss out on if these camps go under. Most of the institutions that received the cease and desist letters are working to comply with the regulations to get back to the business of teaching, which consists of a $5,000 application fee, course catalog and a performance fact sheet on student progress (among other things). While some may feel that these camps are being unjustly singled out, others feel that regulation is necessary in order to deter fraud, such as implying a ‘guaranteed job after graduation’ (only the military can do that). The question is, does this signal an end to the ever-growing coding camps or will it only serve to solidify their credibility and could that scrutiny transfer over to schools that have implemented their own coding courses?
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