SAN FRANCISCO —
“For people who are looking to get involved in software in a big way and don’t want to set aside four years for a computer-science degree, this nine-week program is a terrific alternative,” Compton said.
One San Francisco school called App Academy doesn’t charge tuition. Instead, it asks for a 15 percent cut of the student’s first-year salary. Graduates who can’t find jobs don’t have to pay, but so far nearly all of them have.
“When I started it, people thought we were crazy. Why would you do something like that? But in practice it’s worked out well so far,” said Ned Ruggeri, who co-founded App Academy last summer.
Over the past year, more than two dozen computer-coding schools have opened or started recruiting students in cities such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Washington and Cambridge, Mass. The programs are attracting students from a wide range of backgrounds, from college dropouts to middle-aged career changers. Most students haven’t formally studied computer science, but have tried to learn to code on their own.
Alyssa Ravasio, who graduated from UCLA with a liberal arts degree in 2010, worked at tech startups but was frustrated because she didn’t know how to write software, so she signed up for Dev Bootcamp.
“What we’ve learned in the last nine weeks would have taken at least a year, if not years, on my own,” Ravasio said. “I knew I wanted to learn how to code, and I tried to on my own before and it was really hard and really frustrating.”
But as more boot camps open, backers worry low-quality programs could hurt the reputation of the pioneer schools and drive away potential students and recruiters.
“I worry about the explosion of Dev Bootcamp copycats,” said Michael Staton, a venture capitalist at Learn Capital. “If they mess up, they kind of ruin it for everybody. Then students have to worry about whether these schools can actually deliver on their promise.”