Dev Bootcamp, one of the earliest companies to launch an intensive coding school program, is shutting down, the company announced in an email sent to alumni Wednesday night.

The coding school was started in San Francisco in 2012 and opened a Chicago campus in 2013; it also operates programs in Seattle, San Diego, Austin, Texas, and New York. It was bought by test prep company Kaplan in 2014.

Dev Bootcamp’s final cohort will start classes this month and graduate in December. Campuses officially close on Dec. 8, according to the email, signed by Dev Bootcamp President Tarlin Ray. Graduating students will also get “at least six months of career support,” the letter said.

Dev Bootcamp has alumni at Braintree, Trunk Club, Sprout Social, Jellyvision, and Enova, among other Chicago companies, according to its website. The school has 175 employees nationwide, 84 of whom are full-time, spokesman Chris Nishimura said. The Chicago campus has 18 total employees.

Touting the school’s record as a coding boot camp pioneer, and its network of 3,000 alumni, Ray said the school didn’t make the decision lightly.

“(D)espite tremendous efforts from a lot of talented people, we’ve determined that we simply can’t achieve a sustainable business model without compromising our mission of delivering a high-quality coding education that is accessible to a diverse population of students,” the letter said.

Dev Bootcamp was never profitable, Nishimura said. The Kaplan acquisition gave Dev Bootcamp flexibility, but ultimately, faced with the prospect of cutting back full-time instructors and raising tuition, the company decided to shut down.

“Kaplan’s 2014 acquisition offered us the financial support that allowed us to concentrate on our jobs of better serving students for as long as we did,” Ray said in an email to Blue Sky. “In the end, Dev Bootcamp needed to balance quality, access and financial viability. We weren’t going to compromise on the first two.”

Dev Bootcamp’s sister program at Kaplan, a data science-focused boot camp called Metis, will stay open, Nishimura said.

Coding schools have been under increasing pressure in recent years, as for-profit schools go under the microscope nationwide and coding schools attempt to prove their worth. In the absence of an official nationwide accreditation system for such programs, Dev Bootcamp and many other coding schools are not accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting program.

In an interview with Blue Sky in March, Ray criticized an industry group’s proposed standards by which coding schools could be measured, saying it didn’t meet criteria he had suggested — and that other schools were reporting misleading job-placement numbers.

“Until we stop seeing these unrealistic numbers promoted in their marketing, we remain skeptical and we will not sign on to the initiative,” Ray said at the time. “Actions speak louder than words.”

Nishimura said industry scrutiny didn’t affect Dev Bootcamp’s decision to close.

In April, in a press release announcing Ray’s promotion from chief operating officer to president, Ray said coding schools need to change to keep up with the fast-moving tech industry.

“This industry has evolved significantly over the past five years, and we’re at a point where boot camps need to adapt or get left behind,” Ray said in the release. “Coding boot camps need to transform to meet the needs of employers and to better prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

bmeyerson@chicagotribune.com
Twitter @bmeyerson

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