Coding schools draw students with promise of high-paying jobs

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Officials are investigating whether it's worth the big bucks thousands are paying to learn coding at schools in just a few weeks. (KGO-TV)

We have a warning about coding schools as thousands of people are paying big bucks to learn computer coding in a few weeks.

Some students taking the class hope to walk away with a high paying job, but the question is are students getting what they pay for? And that's exactly what state investigators are looking into.
Hack Reactor in San Francisco is one of the city's largest and most popular boot camps for computer coders.

Student Hannah Erannan was excited about the program, "I would say that every day, and almost every hour it's a surprise and lots of new fun things to geek out about," she said.

Students at Hack Reactor spend just shy of $20,000 for 12 weeks of intensive training. When you finish, they all but guarantee you a job.

"I definitely think it is worth the price," said Julius Buckley, another student at Hack Reactor. "For the amount of value we are getting out of it, it is worth it because I tried to do this on my own, before Hack Reactor, and it is very hard to stay motivated by yourself."

Shawn Drost is with Hack Reactor and he said: "This is a place where students come through saying they learn more in three months than they did in four years at university."

Hack Reactor boasts a 98-percent graduation rate and an average post-graduation salary of $104,000.

However, the school had run into trouble with the state partly because coding schools like Hack Reactor do not fit the traditional definition of a school. They now have approval to operate, but many other schools are still struggling to get the necessary permission to hold classes and are operating outside of state guidelines. The rules are in place to protect students from fraud.

Joanne Wenzel heads up the state's bureau of private post-secondary education and she says there are very specific rules that all schools must follow.

"We regulate everything from cosmetology schools, truck driving schools, University of Phoenix, and coding schools," said Wenzel.

All schools must make public enrollment agreements, financial documents, graduate rates, and a course catalog.

"A lot of stuff just does not apply to what we do, there is stuff in there about, like a course catalog, but we really just have one main course," said Drost.

Not all coding schools in the state are subject to state regulation.

"42 is a non-profit, tuition free coding university," said Brittany Bir with 42.

At 42's Silicon Valley campus in Fremont, students pay nothing. A French billionaire is picking up the tab. It opened last year and because there is no tuition, the school isn't subject to the state's post-secondary education standards.

"We have no professors, no classes, and no lectures so our learning experience is entirely project based and is peer to peer education," said Bir.

Students at 42 are thrown into piscine's, that's French for swimming pool, and immersed in coding by working with other students.

Student Queenie Ho was excited about the program. "I am not paying anything for this right now, and we have access to all these resources, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Queenie said.

"I was not expecting anything like this to be free ever, I was prepared to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 to go to a three month coding boot camp," said another student Josh Caplinger.

42 does not have any data on graduations yet, but its enrollment and popularity have grown since it first opened. How successful will 42 be? We'll have to wait and see, the entire program takes three to five years.

If you are paying for a coding school, you should check the state's website to make sure the school is meeting all state requirements.

Written and Produced By Ken Miguel
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