Dev Bootcamp Adds San Diego Program as Coding Schools Multiply

Dev Bootcamp, a San Francisco-based training program for Web developers, has arrived in San Diego.

The three-year-old company is accepting applications for its first 19-week course in downtown San Diego, which begins November 9. The company describes itself as a pioneer of the software coding bootcamp model, intensive programs that teach students the fundamentals of Web development.

Kaplan, a leader in the college test prep industry, acquired Dev Bootcamp for an undisclosed amount last year. The company also provides its job-training classes in New York and Chicago, and says it has graduated more than 1,700 students.

Dev Bootcamp’s San Diego opening comes amid an explosion in vocational schools for software developers, and at least two-dozen have sprung up in the Bay Area in recent years.

This year, more than 16,000 Americans are expected to graduate from a private coding academy or boot camp—more than twice as many as the 6,740 who went through similar programs in 2014, according to the market research website Course Report.

The demand has been driven by a seemingly insatiable need for software developers to match the rapid growth of smartphones and mobile devices, mobile apps, cloud-based computing, and complex Web environments. By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that nearly one million coding jobs will go unfulfilled.

Private trade schools that teach such skills are filling the gap. Dev Bootcamp says nearly 90 percent of their graduates start a paying job in a tech-related field within six months of graduating.

But the program is expensive.

In San Diego, Dev Bootcamp says the cost of its 19-week program will be $12,700. That’s less than the $13,950 the company charges for the same course in San Francisco and New York, but still about 15 percent more than the national average of $11,000, according to Course Report.

Dev Bootcamp lecture in San Francisco (Photo courtesy Dev Bootcamp)

Dev Bootcamp lecture in San Francisco (Photo courtesy Dev Bootcamp)

Students who attend private vocational schools like Dev Bootcamp do not qualify for federal student loans, and students who enroll in technical training schools can be an easy target for unscrupulous private lenders.

Dev Bootcamp says it works with alternative lenders like Affirm, Pave, and Upstart. Small scholarships, typically only a few hundred dollars, also are available for veterans, women, and certain minority groups.

One private lender founded earlier this year in Austin, TX—the Skills Fund—is working to differentiate itself by emphasizing its efforts to protect the interests of students who enroll in private code skills. On Wednesday, the Skills Fund announced that it has raised $11.5 million in seed capital, and designated Dev Bootcamp and five other code schools as vetted “launch partners” that met its quality assurance standards.

The Skills Fund has cast itself as an ethical finance company focused solely on coding schools. Before partnering with a coding bootcamp, the Skills Fund says it conducts “due diligence” to ensure the quality of the program, and considers student outcomes as one criterion. The lender says it provides full transparency in disclosing the annual percentage rate of its loans, and ties its own financial success to that of students.

“We want to build the best financing tools for the best bootcamps and their students,” the Skills Fund says on its website.

The founder and CEO, Rick O’Donnell, is a former state official who oversaw all consumer protection in Colorado, with the banking, financial services, securities, and insurance commissioners reporting to him. As the cabinet secretary overseeing all of Colorado’s public colleges and universities—and regulation of private and occupational schools—O’Donnell also privatized the state’s student loan servicing business.

In a statement yesterday, the Skills Fund said it had established partnerships with six code schools that met its quality-assurance process: Kaplan-owned Dev Bootcamp and Metis (a San Francisco-based program that provides training in data science programs), Galvanize, Hackbright Academy, CodeU, and Sabio.

“We are aligning with organizations whose business aligns with the students’ interests,” says Tarlin Ray, vice president of business development and corporate strategy for both Dev Bootcamp and Metis. Ray told me by phone that Dev Bootcamp receives no benefit for referring students who need loans to the Skills Fund. “It’s an arms’-length transaction,” he said.

In announcing its San Diego expansion, Dev Bootcamp says the widespread need for skilled programmers is evident in the 5,500 openings for software programmers—a number that has remained relatively steady in recent years.

In San Diego, two small coding schools have opened their doors in the past year. Rob Kaufman of the Portland, OR-based Web development firm Notch8 opened Learn in North Park last year. Origin Code Academy started operating last month at Co-Merge, a shared workspace in downtown San Diego.

Even as more schools open, there’s demand for them, says Kevin Solorio, Dev Bootcamp’s San Diego program director. As he puts it, “What we’re seeing in San Diego is just a lot of room for growth.”

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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