Regulators to Coding Bootcamps: You're Next

Scott Lucas | January 30, 2014 | Story Tech World

Round one of the disruptors vs. bureaucrats went in favor of the disruptors, when the California PUC voted to approve regulations on ride sharing companies this September. Now, round two could easily go against the techies.

That's the word from the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, which sent cease and desist letters this week to several coding bootcamps, including App Academy, Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor, and Zipfian Academy. The BPPE, which is a part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, is claiming that the bootcamps are unlicensed post-secondary education schools, and must either seek compliance with state regulations or shut down operations. (Unlike the private group behind the CCSF accreditation controversy, the BPPE is a state agency.)

For their part, the bootcamps are saying that they are willing to work with the state to craft regulations, but they fear that an extended shutdown could eliminate them permanently. In a statement, they said, "We welcome appropriate oversight in our fledgling industry, and are in close discussions with the BPPE to define our classification and take appropriate next steps."

We wrote about the burgeoning field of coding schools back in March, saying that although they came with a "frosty pricetag" that in many cases they lead to successful employment: For example, "a third of Hack Reactor students received six-figure offers before they graduated." According to newer statistics, 99% of Hack Reactor students are offered jobs after graduation. Many of the bootcamps focus on serving underrepresented groups in the tech industry, like women.

In many ways, the current regulatory battle is reminiscent of earlier controversies, not just ridesharing firms, but also the regulation of food trucks or of genetic testing companies like 23andMe. In each case, newer business models have outpaced governmental attempts at regulation—only to have had the regulators catch up soon after. Which is to say: Don't be shocked if this kind of thing were to happen to Bitcoin or the crowdfunding sites.

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