by Nishat Kurwa (@nishatjaan)
The cease and desist letters sent to so-called "hacker schools" in California is an attempt to protect students, not entrenched educational institutions.
That, according to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), the state agency that regulates non-accredited schools (with some exceptions, like the Corinthian schools, and those that charge less than $2500 for the entire course of instruction).
When word went out that the BPPE threatened to fine and/or shut down a handful of coding bootcamp schools like Hack Reactor and General Assembly, some technologists reacted strongly against the perceived regulation-happy hand of government.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) January 31, 2014
But Russ Heimrich, spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, said the agency's goal is to put the bootcamps on equal footing with other schools by ensuring compliance with state laws. The cease and desist letters were spurred by the research of BPPE staff member who learned how the bootcamps make money (courses that are sometimes in the $10k range, and may promise that students will get a coding job upon graduation) and determined that they should fall under the state's jurisdiction.
"If one of these places closes unexpectedly, right now, we don't have a means to help those students get their money back," Heimrich said.
He said one of the outcomes of the licensing process is that the bootcamp schools will contribute to a student tuition recovery fund that will insure just that.
All the schools the BPPE has contacted have expressed interest in working toward compliance, Heimlich said, and in turn, the BPPE has promised to put them low on the priority enforcement list. "We want that kind of vibrant instructional landscape in California."
In the meantime, it's being reported, the schools will have to refund past students until they're licensed by the state.
Getting licensed entails creating a course catalog and an enrollment agreement that will pass legal muster, but it's not clear how much time the coding schools will need for that -- Heimrich says just how much time depends on the institution's resources.