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Want a Job in Silicon Valley? Keep Away From Coding Schools

For-profit intensive engineering academies have become prevalent, but some graduates find themselves in debt and unprepared for tech jobs.

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Illustration: Michael Deforge

It was a calamitous job interview two years ago that prompted Jose Contreras to demand his money back from the coding school he attended. His interviewer, the chief technology officer of a startup, watched as Contreras struggled with basics on JavaScript, a coding language he was supposed to be learning during his courses. “Given you can’t answer this question,” Contreras, now 27, recalls the interviewer saying, “You should ask for a refund.” A few months later, jobless and out $14,400 in tuition and fees, Contreras followed his advice. 

He’s one of many students who say they felt duped by Coding House, a Silicon Valley school that advertises an average starting salary of $91,000 for its graduates. On Nov. 7, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, the regulator that oversees coding schools in California, assessed Nicholas James, the founder of Coding House, a $50,000 fine and ordered the school to shut down. (The BPPE had previously denied Coding School’s application to operate, in November 2015, June 2016, and again on Nov. 4, 2016.) The regulators have told the school to give refunds to all students who have attended since it opened its doors in 2014. Coding House has filed an appeal. In the meantime it has suspended its programs, students said.