Biz & Tech
July 18, 2017 Updated: July 18, 2017 4:52pm
Dev Bootcamp s decision to shut down effective Dec. 8 comes at a time of transition in the coding camp industry.
The San Francisco company launched the nation s first in-person, short-term, intensive coding camp in 2012. The boot camp industry grew rapidly as demand for programmers exploded, but jobs got somewhat harder to land as competition increased and tech companies scaled back their hiring. The industry itself has grown a great deal, about 10 times since 2012, said Liz Eggleston, whose website Course Report tracks coding camps.
In mid-2014, Dev was acquired by Kaplan, a large, privately held for-profit education provider. Kaplan helped Dev become the first coding camp to get licensed in California, a complicated undertaking some competitors resisted. Dev currently operates coding boot camps in six cities and has more than 3,000 graduates.
So it came as a shock last week when Dev announced that its final cohort would start Monday and graduate in December.
Since launching in 2012, we ve been striving to find a viable business model that would enable us to further our vision of high-quality, immersive coding training that is broadly accessible to a diverse population, while also covering the critical day-to-day costs of running our campuses. Ultimately, we have been unable to find a sustainable model that doesn t compromise on one of those fronts, the company said.
Dev has promised its 285 currently enrolled students they will get the same experience as past students.
The decision to wind down was made by Dev Bootcamp leadership and supported by Kaplan, Dev spokesman Christopher Nishimura said in an email. Kaplan will continue to operate Metis, a smaller boot camp for data science training.
Dev s impending shutdown is reflective of a difficult period in the boot camp industry, said Shawn Drost, co-founder of Hack Reactor, another San Francisco coding camp.
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Today there are 94 full-time, in-person coding boot camps in 74 U.S. cities and Canada, according to Eggleston. In 2017, we expect 22,814 graduates. Since boot camps launched in 2012, we estimate about 57,000 graduates in total, she said.
Increased competition has brought consolidation. Some coding academies such as Hack Reactor s parent ReactorCore and Galvanize have bought competitors.
Others have been purchased by major for-profit education companies, which have struggled under Obama-era regulations designed to crack down on those whose students get federal financial aid but fail to land jobs. President Trump s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, plans to put those regulations on hold. (Because coding camps are not accredited, their students are not eligible for federal aid or loans except for a very small pilot project.)
Capella Education bought DevMountain and San Francisco s Hackbright Academy. University of Phoenix parent Apollo Education bought a controlling interest in the Iron Yard Academy. Strayer Education bought the New York Code + Design Academy.
There is a fear of missing out, said Jake Schwartz, CEO of General Assembly, a coding camp company with campuses in 18 cities worldwide. For-profit postsecondary education is in trouble, even in the Trump era. They bought these boot camps as a hedge.
When Kaplan acquired Dev, I was totally freaked out. Kaplan was big, professional, Schwarz said. But he soon realized it was employing a lot of old-school tactics. (Dev s) business model did not evolve at all. It continued teaching these immersive coding courses in a few cities.
General Assembly has expanded way beyond coding. It has online, offline, full-time and part-time courses in programming and other subjects including user experience design, data science and digital marketing. It is also partnering with companies to help them radically re-skill their employees, Schwarz said.
The industry is also facing pressure from Trilogy Education, a fast-growing company that offers coding camps through universities or their continuing education programs, including UC Berkeley Extension.
Meanwhile, a free coding school started in Paris, called 42, opened in Fremont a year ago and has 522 students enrolled (though not all attend regularly). It doesn t compete directly with coding camps because it s designed to be a three- to five-year college-level program without teachers or classrooms. Students learn by doing projects, usually in small groups.
Dev Bootcamp had two choices, Drost said. One was to raise its fees and academic standards. Dev was not known as the standout academic champions, they simply were not gunning for that reputation, he said. Dev s tuition for an 18-week program in San Francisco is about $14,000. Hack Reactor charges $17,780 for its 12-week program.
The other option was to lower academic standards to increase enrollment. They didn t want to go that route. They couldn t find a business that works to achieve their vision of being a high-quality school.
Drost admitted that it s getting harder for boot camp graduates to get jobs. Hack Reactor s placement rate dropped a couple of percentage points in the past year, he said.
Travis Lawrence, who borrowed from family and friends to attend Dev s San Francisco program in 2013, called it an excellent career move. It took him about three months to get a job with a now-defunct company called 50Cubes. He quickly realized that he probably could have learned as much about coding studying at home for three months, but would have missed the community of people, the quest for knowledge that excites you every day. If I were to make the decision again, I absolutely would, said Lawrence, now a front-end developer at Tumblr.
It took Danielle Hassid about five months to get a job with Grio App Studio after completing Dev s program in September, but she also considered it a great experience. I was a mathematics major, education minor. This was by far the most beautiful learning environment I was ever in. Nobody had an ego. The environment was really supportive and encouraged diversity in technology and also having an openness about what you don t know. Dev taught her to learn faster and learn better.
Its weakness, she said, was placement. Every three weeks a new cohort would graduate. That s a lot of (grads) to place. About one-fourth of the 30 people in her cohort are still looking for work, Hassid said.
Kathleen Pender is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @kathpender