Kaplan-Owned Coding Boot Camp Will Close

Dev Bootcamp, an early skills-training provider for software developers, struggled to find a viable business model. Experts predict other boot-camp closures or consolidations.

July 14, 2017
Students at a Dev Bootcamp location

Dev Bootcamp, a coding boot camp that Kaplan acquired three years ago for an undisclosed sum, this week announced that it will shut down this December.

Kaplan wasn't the only for-profit education company to either purchase or make substantial investments in coding and skills boot camps, with similar moves by Capella Education, Apollo Education Group and Strayer Education.

Industry analysts at the time said the acquisitions could lessen the for-profits' reliance on federal financial aid while also reaccelerating their growth. Some critics, however, worried about them being a new front in the dispute over for-profit higher education.

The closure of Dev Bootcamp likely will raise doubts about the overall viability of an industry many have seen as a promising new form of postsecondary education and job training. Some of the larger coding and skills boot camps, such as General Assembly and Galvanize, are relatively well established and appear to be growing. But an industry expert predicted other consolidations or closures will follow.

"We've been forecasting a consolidation wave within the boot-camp industry; there are simply too many schools for everyone to be profitable," Rick O'Donnell, the founder and CEO of Skills Fund, a private lender that works on quality control with 55 boot camp providers, said in a written statement. "Consolidation in growing industries happens all the time -- from retail banks to airlines to gas stations to auto manufacturing to ERP software firms -- industries with increasing customers and revenue often go through a consolidation phase on the path to profitability and sustainability."

Dev Bootcamp was an early player in the industry, although it received less attention in recent years.

The five-year-old company is one of the first of the coding skills-training providers to seek and gain approval by a state agency. Its campus locations are spread across the country in six cities with big IT job markets. Tuition for Dev Bootcamp's 18-week software development program ranges from $12,700 to $13,950.

The curriculum is split evenly between remote, part-time training and an immersive in-person session, according to Course Report, which tracks the sector. In addition to becoming proficient with commonly used software, the site said, students "learn how to approach challenges like developers, how to optimize their learning and then apply those techniques to pick up new skills or languages required in the field."

In announcing its closure this December, after teaching-out a last cohort of students, Dev Bootcamp said its financial outlook has been a challenge from the beginning.

"Since launching in 2012, we’ve been striving to find a viable business model that would enable us to further our vision of high-quality, immersive coding training that is broadly accessible to a diverse population, while also covering the critical day-to-day costs of running our campuses," the company said in a written statement. "Ultimately, we have been unable to find a sustainable model that doesn’t compromise on one of those fronts."

On Twitter (below), the company credited Kaplan with buying it time to try to find a way to long-term profitability. Dev Bootcamp said it has trained more than 3,000 students.

Kaplan's university chain recently began seeking to enter into an unprecedented partnership with Purdue University. If the deal is approved by the two universities' accreditors and federal and state regulators, Kaplan would no longer issue federal aid-eligible credentials.

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Paul Fain

Paul Fain, Contributing Editor, came to Inside Higher Ed in September 2011, after a six-year stint covering leadership and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Paul has also worked in higher ed P.R., with Widmeyer Communications, but couldn't stay away from reporting. A former staff writer for C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., Paul has written for The New York Times, Washington City Paper and Mother Jones. He's won a few journalism awards, including one for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association and the Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award. Paul got hooked on journalism while working too many hours at The Review, the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, where he earned a degree in political science in 1996. A native of Dayton, Ohio, and a long-suffering fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, Fain plays guitar in a band with more possible names than polished songs.

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