What is BPPE and why should you care about it? BPPE is a California regulatory agency that has suddenly thrust itself into the limelight. The initials stand for the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. That’s right, California has an agency that regulates private schools that are not in K-12.
California consumer protection officials are threatening to close a number of fast-paced, fast-growing computer coding boot camps that train people to work in the technology industry, saying they failed to get licensed as private schools before they started accepting students.
The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education issued citation letters this month to at least six computer-programming academies in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to Dev Bootcamp co-founder Shereef Bishay, whose 2-year-old, nine-week program is the oldest of the group. The letters order the schools to immediately stop enrolling students and to issue refunds to past students until they receive approval to operate.
California Department of Consumer Affairs spokesman Russ Heimerich said that as educational institutions that charge “a fairly hefty chunk of money” and are not operated by religious organizations or accredited by another agency, the coding boot camps clearly fall under the regulatory authority of the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, which oversees about 1,400 career schools and for-profit colleges.
“We did discover that these organizations existed, we looked into it, we found that, yeah, based on what they are doing and how they are doing it, they are not exempt from the law,” Heimerich said.
He added, however, that the stern language in the cease-and-desist letters was designed primarily to get the operators’ attention and that it was unlikely the bureau would be moving to shut them down as long as they made a good-faith effort to come into compliance.
“We are trying to get them to become licensed,” Heimerich said, adding that the agency has not received any complaints about the boot camps and learned about them from a staff investigator who saw them mentioned on a technology blog. “So if they are doing that, they fall to the bottom or close to the bottom of our enforcement priorities because there are many more serious threats to student consumers.”
[Editorial comment] if there have been no complaints from consumers and the BPPE really is giving this low priority, why don’t they just leave these folks alone? This seems to be another case of a regulatory agency expanding its turf to increase the number of employees and power. Economists have studied this — look up the economic theory of bureaucracy.
Recently, BPPE decided “computer boot camps” needed to be brought into line. Many of these camps are run by private companies who often charge fees. The quotation at the right is from the Associated Press article reprinted in USA Today. Dev Bootcamp is run by Shereef Bishay. Mr. Bishay’s company charges $12,000. But he points out that these classes are intensive, that many of those attending have quit their jobs, and that shutting down the program temporarily will effectively terminate it. He contends that the boot camps are closer to apprenticeship programs than to a postgraduate educational institution.
Mr. Bishay’s story is interesting:
At 21, he built careeregypt.com and sold it to Microsoft 2 years later. He then worked for Microsoft for 4 years as a lead Dev, and left them to learn Ruby on Rails so he could build bettermeans.com and classparrot.com.
And there’s one additional fly in the ointment. Every single change in the curriculum must be approved in advance by BPPE. I have serious doubts about the ability of any bureaucracy to keep up with the stream of changes that will emanate from this industry. After all, ten years ago html was all the rage. Today it’s css and php. HTML5 is already a standard and is slowly being adopted.