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California threatens to shut down coding bootcamps

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Hacker (STOCK)
Hacker (STOCK)

Coding bootcamps are scrambling to figure out how they can save their programs, after a California regulator slapped them with cease and desist letters ordering them to shut down, pay a $50,000 fine, and offer refunds to past students. The problem, according to the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) which sent the letters, is these bootcamps aren't technically private schools under the law. Since 2009, California has required such private entities to apply for that status and meet a series of minimum standards to protect would-be students from fraud.

As VentureBeat reports, the BPPE sent the cease-and-desists to at least six programming bootcamps, including App Academy, Dev Academy, Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor, and Zipfian Academy so far, though sources tell the publication that Coding Dojo, Coding House and General Assembly are also targets. However, it looks like not all of the hacker schools are truly facing imminent shutdown. The co-founders of App Academy told VentureBeat that they were already in compliance with most of the BPPE's requirements, and are working on their formal application now.

"We will work with them to get them licensed and focus on more urgent matters."

And apparently that's all that the California regulator really wanted, anyhow. A BPPE spokesman told The Associated Press that the language in the cease and desist letters was just designed to scare them into complying with the law. "As long as they are making a good effort to come into compliance with the law, they fall down low on our triage of problem children. We will work with them to get them licensed and focus on more urgent matters," he told VentureBeat.

However, it sounds like some of the BPPE's requirements may be onerous to satisfy. For instance, he AP reports that the BPPE requires a bachelor's degree and three years of teaching experiences from instructors, things which Dev Bootcamp founder Shereef Bishay said one of his best instructors lacks.

There's also the question of whether these bootcamps' claims might hold up to government scrutiny. Programs like App Academy promise to turn students with no experience into iOS app developers within nine weeks, and promise that 95 percent of graduates are offered jobs at an average salary of $91,000 a year. However, as Fast Company found out, those graduation numbers can get inflated when students quit in frustration or are asked to leave the program.