The University of Texas at San Antonio has joined forces with a New York-based company to offer a computer coding certificate, a boot camp-style program designed to help post-high school adults transition into a tech career.

On Sept. 17, UTSA will welcome about 25 students to the first cohort of the six-month boot camp, taught by Trilogy Education Services, which has partnered with universities throughout the country.

It’s a part-time program that allows students to work a full-time job while attending classes in the evenings or on the weekend. Students learn such front-end web development skills as HTML, CSS, and Javascript as well as back-end tools such as database development and command-line operations. 

The coding boot camp will complement the university’s degree programs with the flexibility to teach the latest web development skills employers are seeking, said Lisa Blazer, UTSA’s senior associate vice provost for academic innovation.

“We have to constantly keep up with what the workforce needs and what employers need,” Blazer said. “While our degree programs are very successful, we need to provide working adults with additional resources. This particular boot camp was a way for us to get that kickstarted and get it kickstarted through our new School of Data Science.”

As part of a planned $200 million expansion of its downtown campus, UTSA will establish a permanent home for its School of Data Science, which will consolidate the university’s computing field studies under one school.

The coding boot camp will meet at the downtown campus for two three-hour evening classes during the week and a four-hour class on Saturdays.

Trilogy’s coding boot camp programming has been offered for years at The University of Texas at Austin, among other public universities in the U.S. Thousands of students have graduated from its programs at more than 50 locations, according to its website. The six-month program costs about $11,000.

“In San Antonio, as in other cities across Texas, employer demand for qualified tech talent far outstrips the supply of available workers,” Dan Sommer, CEO and founder of Trilogy Education, said in a news release. “Together, The UTSA Coding Boot Camp and Trilogy Education will enable residents to pursue meaningful careers in the city’s growing tech economy, and will attract new businesses to make new investments in the region.”

UTSA’s program directly competes with Codeup, a homegrown program just blocks away. A Google search for “Codeup” displays an ad for the UTSA boot camp.

Established in 2013, Codeup teaches a 20-week, full-time web development boot camp that costs $27,500, but Codeup’s program is more than triple the class hours of the UTSA coding camp.

Codeup CEO Jason Straughan criticized UTSA’s decision to partner with Trilogy, as the organization does not report its outcomes to the Center on Integrity in Results Reporting, an organization dedicated to creating more transparency in the coding workforce training space.

“It is unfortunate that UTSA has opted to partner with a vendor like Trilogy that does not publish their student outcomes data,” Straughan said. “San Antonio has a growing tech economy that deserves reputable workforce development solutions for its residents.”

A Trilogy representative, who was not authorized to speak on the record for this story, said the company decided when it was founded not to publish outcome data because of the potential for misreporting as well as the legal ramifications of including outcomes in its marketing materials.

The Obama White House had planned to roll out accreditation standards for the nascent coding boot camp industry, but those plans appear to have been scrapped after President Donald Trump took office.

“The boot camp space is not well-regulated,” the Trilogy representative said. “That’s one of the reasons we partner with universities. There’s the added credibility of having the intensive review we get [by the universities].”

Hundreds of coding boot camps have cropped up throughout the country to meet the growing demand for tech talent. Among San Antonio’s other workforce training programs for adults looking for work in the computing fields are Tech Talent South and Rackspace’s Open Cloud Academy. Neither organization is part of the CIRR’s 19-member coalition of schools reporting outcome data.

According to Codeup’s most recent report, 90 percent of its students from January to July 2017 completed the program, and 61 percent of the 54 graduates had found full-time work in the tech sector within six months of completing the program. Those outcomes track fairly closely with other schools’ results.

Trilogy said its numbers are in line with the standard among coding schools.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is the Rivard Report's technology reporter.

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