About 30 students attend the first day of Codeup in February 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
About 30 students attended the first day of Codeup in February 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Codeup is a for-profit educational startup in San Antonio that takes people from non-techie to full fledged hirable programmer in 12 weeks. Created by entrepreneur and startup investor Michael Girdley, the programming boot camp not only teaches students the skills employers need today through constant mentorship and hands-on training, but helps connect them to partnering employers both at graduation and afterwards.

Codeup logo. File Photo.
Codeup logo. File Photo.

But it ain’t cheap. At $9,850 the program is worth roughly half of a nice new car. The price is by no means bad for a programming boot camp – a similar 12-week program at Austin’s MakerSquare would cost $13,880 and San Francisco’s Hack Reactor runs you $17,780 – but for some, it’s still a significant economic barrier. Full and part time jobs are almost certainly out of the question, because between all-day classes and homework, students are looking at about 60 hours of coursework per week.

That’s why Codeup just launched a tuition crowdfunding portal where students can crowdfund some or all of their tuition. The simple site takes you directly to the student profile page where participating students have a video to promote themselves and a brief description of where they will go with their programming education.

Users can pledge between $25 and $1,000 by credit card and also can promote their recipient student’s fundraising campaign on social media with the click of a button. Four students accepted for the coming semester already have created crowdfunding profiles, which will be up for a month, and more students may join if the model proves effective.

A screen shot of www.crowdfund.codeup.com
A screen shot of www.crowdfund.codeup.com.

Girdley got the idea for a crowdfunding tuition model after talking to friend and Geekdom Manager and 80/20 Foundation Executive Director Lorenzo Gomez about Kiva.org – a global microloan site.

Michael Girdley, founder of Codeup, during the first day of the inaugural class in February 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Michael Girdley, founder of Codeup, during the first day of the inaugural class in February 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick. Credit: Iris Dimmick

“One of the things that is really powerful about Geekdom is that I have the best conversations when I am walking to get coffee with people or talking about issues that are happening,” Gridley said. “That was one of the conversations I had with Lorenzo, so we went and pursued it.”

“This is the future of tuition and paying for your school in my opinion,” Gomez said. “You can go and spend $30,000 on a degree. There’s nothing wrong with that option. But if you need to acquire a skill in a timely fashion and get working right away you can now go to a 12-week boot camp, crowdsource to get some or all of the tuition you need, and then go through and get life-altering skills taught to you in a compressed amount of time.”

The crowdfounding option is great for recently accepted Codeup student Jonathan Robinson, who would have had to go into debt to take advantage of the program.

“I would have had to take out some extra loans,” Robinson said. “There is an opportunity to pay for it up front but it would put me in greater debt because I am still paying off student loans. I’m using the crowdfunding to help supplement my cost.”

Robinson has a degree in business marketing from Hampton University. After saving some money, he left his sales job at San Antonio medical company Medtronic to try and build a programming career with Codeup.

Jonathan Robinson is one of four students already taking advantage of the crowdfunding portal. Courtesy photo.
Jonathan Robinson is one of four students already taking advantage of the crowdfunding portal. Courtesy photo.

“It’s a growing job opportunity and companies are looking for it. Here in San Antonio they are trying to become a tech area so you want to make sure you are ahead of the game and not trying to play catch-up,” Robinson said. “It’s the opportunity I’ve been waiting for and I’m just ready to get started with it.”

Codeup launched its first programming boot camp on Feb. 3 of this year. The inaugural class is now in the final three weeks and will graduate April 22. This first class, as a kind of experiment, was originally scheduled for 8 weeks and cost $8,000, but adjustments to lesson, practice length and material/instructor costs had to be made.

Their graduation ceremony at The Briscoe Western Art Museum will be a kind of “reverse job fair,” where employers will attend and approach any candidates they might like to hire.

The second boot camp, which will benefit from the crowdfunding campaign, will begin on May 6 and has 15 of 30 seats available. Getting accepted is a competitive process as Girdley has already received 70 student applications and expects to receive quite a few more before filling the class.

Codeup boot camps mainly focus on web development and cover Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, and JavaScript. Camps also features visits from tech industry professionals who speak on a variety of entrepreneurial topics and help students network. The course curriculum was created as a direct response to the needs of the local tech community and Codeup has hiring partnerships with 55 startups and larger tech companies who have agreed to consider hiring Codeup graduates. In fact, Girdley is so confident that Codeup will find students employment that he offers a guarantee: Students not offered a job within six months of completing the course will get half their tuition back.

While the true results of the first Codeup class, and the job opportunities that result, will not be known until after the April 22 graduation, Girdley is not shy about his dislike of traditional higher education system, and he wants to turn the whole system on its head to better educate tech professionals.

“If you look at everything we are doing, it’s exactly the opposite of how classical education is done,” Girdley said. “You look at a college or a job training program and the first thing they try to do is saddle people with a whole bunch of debt. We don’t want to do that. If you look at their instructors, they hang out with you for an hour or two hours a couple days a week. Our instructors are with you for over 700 hours — all day every day as a group with the students. College is usually one professor and 30 students. We have seven instructors in a class of 28 … and the cool thing is, you come talk to our students and they’ll tell you it’s totally working.”

Codeup is still accepting applications for both the May 6 and August 5 boot camps. If you’re interested, go to Codeup.com.

*Featured/top image: *About 30 students attended the first day of Codeup in February 2014.  Photo by Iris Dimmick.


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Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore is a native of San Antonio and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He wrote on tech startups for a year as a freelancer for Silicon Hills News and loves reporting on the cool...