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Holberton cleared of fraud allegations in California

Holberton is delighted to announce that the California Attorney General has struck down ‘fraud’ allegations against our San Francisco campus and resolved all other outstanding matters of dispute, including claims of misleading advertising. California was the only market in which Holberton faced any regulatory challenges.

With this now behind us, we are excited to move forward with our original mission of providing affordable and accessible education to prospective software engineers around the world.

For the past four years we have focused on educating thousands of students to Silicon Valley levels of software engineering proficiency no matter their background, education, credentials or income. More than a third of our students are the first in their family to access post-secondary education, 20% of them are women, and they come from all walks of life: high-school graduates, former cashiers, cooks and artists.

The company has refrained from speaking publicly about the California dispute pending this resolution in order to not prejudice the legal process. Now that the matter is behind us, we feel it necessary to clarify for our students and partners and other interested parties exactly what was alleged and what was decided.

The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) brought 15 complaints against Holberton School San Francisco in recent months. The most serious complaints were that the San Francisco campus had used misleading advertisement and ‘fraudulently’ obtained its license.

These were the result of a misunderstanding of communications from the BPPE. The bureau’s parent agency, the California Consumer Affairs Department, subsequently found the BPPE’s communications to Holberton were “vague,” as we will further discuss below. 

TIMELINE

In April 2016, Holberton applied for a license to operate in California. Holberton’s model included Income Share Agreements, or ISAs, which allow students to pursue an education with no upfront costs and pay only after they are earning at least $40,000 per year, or $3,333 in any one month. They pay no interest and if students don’t find employment paying $40,000 or more, they pay nothing.

In March 2018, as Holberton’s application process with the BPPE was still pending, the BPPE sent a detailed questionnaire to Holberton asking for more information about its use of ISAs. Holberton completed the questionnaire and received an email from BPPE saying that the company’s “response is acceptable.” 

In the same email, the BPPE asked that Holberton “provide a new enrollment agreement and catalog that does not reference income sharing agreements,” noting that BPPE “will not approve an application that contains ISA/DTA in the application.”

The BPPE did not say that such a financing mechanism is forbidden, nor is there state or federal legislation restricting the use of ISAs in California. Holberton understood the BPPE communication only to mean that the reference to ISAs should not be included in the school catalog or enrollment agreement and that, while it may be considered as a tuition financing tool, it should not be included in the licensing application.

Holberton immediately complied with the BPPE request and, in July 2018, the BPPE granted Holberton School San Francisco a license to operate in California.

On January, 25, 2020, however, Holberton received a letter from the BPPE claiming that Holberton School San Francisco had fraudulently obtained its license because it continued to offer ISAs after removing reference to ISAs from its licensing application. 

The letter contained notification of an emergency action regarding Holberton’s San Francisco campus that, if confirmed, would have required Holberton to cease operations and stop enrollment.

At a hearing on the matter on February 4, 2020, the BPPE’s parent agency, the California Department of Consumer Affairs, determined that the evidence against Holberton School San Francisco did not support the need for emergency action, and Hoberton was allowed to continue to operate in the state.

With regard to the charge of ‘fraud,’ Holberton explained that it had not understood the BPPE to have banned ISAs and that it had never received an explicit request for Holberton School San Francisco to stop using ISAs. Below is the text of the email at the heart of the misunderstanding. Note, the reference to the ‘institution’s response’ regards Holberton’s answers to the BPPE questionnaire about Holberton’s use of ISAs:

Good Morning! The institution’s response is acceptable. Please provide a new enrollment agreement and catalog that does not reference income sharing agreements and/or deferred tuition agreements. The Bureau will not approve an application that contains ISA/DTA in the application.

Any questions, please feel free to ask.

Sincerely,

A subsequent review of these communications by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, and then by the California Attorney General’s office, clarified the misunderstanding and the fraud allegations were stricken by the Attorney General, along with thirteen other minor causes for discipline brought by the BPPE.

The two remaining BPPE complaints are now moot as we eventually obtained the license to operate and withdrew the Career Track program that was at issue. Nonetheless, for the sake of clarity and transparency, we detail them below.

  1. OPERATING WITHOUT A LICENSE

The BPPE charged that Holberton School San Francisco operated for two years without a license, pending BPPE’s approval of its licensing application. 

However, Holberton took numerous affirmative steps to obtain a license to accept paying students by:  (1) attending the BPPE’s August 12, 2015 Licensing Workshop; (2) requesting information regarding the application process and licensure requirements; (3) submitting our approval application six months in advance of our scheduled opening; (4) hiring a BPPE application & compliance specialist with more than 30 years experience to ensure the quality and accuracy of our application and compliance with California’s laws; (5) promptly and diligently addressing all of the BPPE’s questions during the application process. 

Holberton enrolled its first San Francisco cohort in January 2016 and submitted its application to the BPPE in April 2016. The school’s first cohort was offered education completely free, in which case a license to operate is not needed. When Holberton realized that it wouldn’t obtain its license in time to enroll its paying cohort in October 2016, it decided to proceed because the BPPE had a well-established and publicly announced policy to allow institutions that were making progress towards approval (i.e., that had submitted applications) to begin operations pending receipt of a license. 

For example, DCA spokesman Russ Heimerich’s January 2014 statement to the press indicated that the BPPE did not plan to pursue disciplinary action against any coding institution operating without a license as long as an application was in process. This is in recognition of the fact that schools need to make substantial investments before accepting paying students and that sitting idle while waiting for the licensing process to be completed would create an unsustainable financial burden for the schools.

The BPPE was aware of Holberton’s operation during the application process, as acknowledged in a communication to Holberton School San Francisco on April 12, 2016. The BPPE didn’t take disciplinary action at that time because Holberton was actively taking steps towards obtaining the license. The BPPE confirmed receipt of Holberton’s application on April 27, 2016. 

Holberton obtained its license in July 2018, more than two years after applying, and subsequently attended a Compliance Workshop held by the BPPE on October 11, 2018.

Nonetheless, the BPPE reversed course in January 2020, seeking to discipline the school for allegedly having operated prior to receiving its license.

  1. CAREER TRACK

The second remaining BPPE complaint against Holberton regards Holberton’s Career Track program, allowing students to complete the Holberton program through on-the-job learning. 

In late 2018, Holberton began offering “Career Track” as part of its curriculum in response to requests from students who wanted to launch their careers before graduating. Given the many students who come to Holberton from disadvantaged backgrounds, the company understood the desire by some students to earn money before the end of the 18-month program. In response, it created the Career Track to enable those students to earn their certificate rather than having to quit the program in order to work, lose the benefit of Holberton’s alumni network and forfeit free lifetime access to Holberton’s complete curriculum. 

Holberton provided notice of this curriculum change to the BPPE, which expressly acknowledged the change without comment in June 2019. 

In February 2020, however, the BPPE claimed that Holberton had not followed the correct process to modify its curriculum and add the Career Track program. The BPPE requested that Holberton stop offering the Career Track. After receiving the BPPE notice, Holberton immediately stopped offering Career Track to their California students and refunded associated fees.

We regret having had to stop the Career Track program in California, which had proven extremely successful.

CONCLUSION

We are sorry for the disruption this incident has caused our students and community. We are heartened by the Attorney General’s conclusion after reviewing the evidence we provided in response to the various complaints. We remain committed to complying with the laws and regulations of each market in which we operate. 

We learned valuable lessons in California and hope to continue discussions with the BPPE and other regulators in hopes of making private education more accessible to financially disadvantaged students everywhere.

We are happy to have resolved these issues in California. We continue to believe strongly that Holberton’s vocational education solution provides value to all students eager to participate in the global tech economy around the world. Holberton’s employment-focused education can help address the world’s critical shortage of software engineers while making the tech world more inclusive. We look forward to continuing our core mission of democratizing access to world-class engineering education.

Thank you for your support. Join us in closing the global technology talent gap while bringing more deserving people into the knowledge economy.

The Future of Holberton

Holberton’s mission is to provide high-quality education for the many. With Holberton School, we provide employment-focused education to help address the world’s critical shortage of software engineers while making the tech world more inclusive. 

We started Holberton School in 2016 with a campus in San Francisco. Our methodology, curriculum, and platform – developed in close cooperation with Silicon Valley experts – trained students who were in turn hired by some of the world’s best tech companies such as Apple, Tesla, and LinkedIn. Wanting to make our education more widely accessible, we began expanding in 2018 by opening additional campuses. Holberton School today has a network of campuses that spans five continents across the globe.

This expansion was made possible by working with amazing local partners who operate the campuses and deeply understand their markets’ unique needs. By leveraging our Silicon-Valley grade education, they have provided their local economies with highly-skilled software engineers while democratizing access to the tech industry for their local population. They are changing, for the better, many lives.

While Holberton Inc. started as a school, our focus is now to empower our partners to provide the best experience to their students by continuously improving our platform and curriculum. To better achieve this mission, Holberton Inc. is exiting the operation of Holberton School campuses as a business. Therefore we have decided not to reopen our San Francisco campus, which closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and CA regulations preventing us from enrolling remote students.

Holberton Inc. will remain in San Francisco; we will continue to build our curriculum and platform by working with industry experts based in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs. We will continue to act as a gateway between Silicon Valley and all the local tech ecosystems our partners are building. We believe this is the best formula for serving Holberton School’s international community.

While the decision to close the San Francisco campus was not an easy one, we are excited to focus our efforts on further developing the ‘operating system of education’ and supporting current and future partners in delivering high-quality education to students worldwide.

Montevideo Campus Inaugurated by Uruguay’s Minister of Labor and the Subsecretary of Education

Holberton School Uruguay, alongside Fundación Zonamerica, hosted a ceremony to celebrate the inauguration of its Montevideo campus in Jacksonville – which welcomed its first cohort in September.

Fundación Zonamerica’s mission is to develop and promote innovative training programs and cultural activities that allow people to learn new skills that will enable them to work for the most prestigious and internationalized companies in Uruguay.

Holberton School Uruguay campus

Uruguay Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Pablo Mieres, emphasized the role played by Zonamerica and the foundation about training Uruguayans.

“The initiative of creating a Holberton School in Uruguay is a reaffirmation of a fundamental value of the country, which is having people always create innovative ideas. The experience of this establishment in Uruguay is a symbol that shows the way forward in the right direction to follow between training and employment for a wealthy, state-of-the-art country that looks toward the future.”

Uruguay lacks tech talent; while the country graduates 800 software engineers per year, companies need 2,500 of them. Therefore companies have to train internally or hire abroad. The tech sector is adding $1.7B to the economy every year.

“We do not have a digital gap in the sense of infrastructure, since we can count on fiber optics, a submarine cable, a data center, the Ceibal program, which are the base to continue building starting from them. That is why I welcome and congratulate this project because I consider that these types of initiatives, from the public and private sector, have to continue blooming”. Said Carolina Cosse, elected Governor of Montevideo.

The ceremony and campus were video-recorded via drone

The ceremony – that followed all sanitary precautions – was attended by The first lady of Uruguay, Lorena Ponce de León; Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Pablo Mieres; Fundación Zonamerica President and Vice-President, Alberto Fossati and Orlando Dovat; Executive director of Holberton School in Montevideo, Inés Jakubovski; Elected Mayor of Montevideo, Carolina Cosse; the Subsecretary of Education Ana Ribeiro and the President of the Uruguayan Chamber of information technology (CUTI), Leonardo Loureiro as well as other governmental authorities, foundation leadership, business chambers, companies, and Holberton School students.

Holberton School arrives in Peru!

Welcome Holberton School Peru! While Peru is known for its Machu Picchu’s stunning views – it is also one of Latin America’s fastest-growing startup scenes. In 2018, Peru attracted more impact-investment capital than Mexico, a long-time leader in the region. In 2019 a new record was set for the amount of capital invested into local startups, with a 24% increase compared to 2018. Before the pandemic, Peru already had a deficit of 17,000 software engineers, a number estimated to grow dramatically due to COVID-19 acceleration on digital transformation. 

This acceleration will affect all industries as stated by Juan Carlos Tassara, Edifica Executive Director:

“The real estate, as well as other traditional industries, increasingly need to introduce new technologies to differentiate themselves. Holberton’s proposal prepares the talent that Peru needs in a fast and innovative way, talent that will drive the country’s digital transformation.” 

Holberton School comes to Peru in alliance with social entrepreneurs Valery Vargas and Gabriel Bedoya. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus will first open as a remote program providing its education entirely online; facilities will open in Lima as soon as possible.

To help make Holberton’s education financially accessible, multiple ways to finance tuition will be available: upfront payment, monthly payments, loans, or Income Share Agreements. Also, scholarships will be offered. 

“For the first cohort, and because we know how this pandemic has impacted thousands of students that had to stop their careers, we will offer 15 full-tuition scholarships,” says Holberton School Peru Co-founder Valery Vargas.

The school will begin welcoming its first cohort of students in January 2021. Check out the Holberton School Peru campus page to learn more!

Holberton School is coming to Ecuador!

Holberton School is opening in Ecuador in alliance with BuenTrip Hub, the local incubator for technology startups. Ecuador’s tech scene has been drastically growing in the last few years. The country, which had 70 tech startups in 2018, is now counting 250 of them according to BuenTrip’s Radar Tech Startup study. All are looking for highly-qualified software engineers. The International Labor Organization (ILO) recently reported that e-commerce, software development, and IoT were the top industries for Ecuador’s job creation.

Carmen de la Cerda, director of BuenTrip Hub, says, “Holberton will provide Ecuador students with world-class training. Access to this knowledge and skillset is indispensable because it will empower our local talent, opening doors for them to become technologists and innovators.”

Holberton School Ecuador’s first online cohort will begin in January 2021, synchronizing with the school’s network of campuses located in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. To help make Holberton’s Silicon Valley-grade education financially accessible, tuition can be paid either upfront or in monthly payments. Applications are open to individuals over the age of 18, coming from any educational background. To learn more about Holberton School Ecuador, visit the Ecuador campus page!

The Holberton School Hauts-de-France campus is opening!

We are thrilled to announce the opening of the Holberton School Hauts-de-France (HDF) campus! Following Holberton School France online opening last August, this new campus, founded by Benjamin Dhellemmes, entrepreneur linked with the local Tech ecosystem, and Benoit Denot, former COO/CFO in healthcare and digital companies, is strategically located at Europe’s crossroads. The HDF region and Lille metropolis host more than 70 retailer headquarters like Decathlon, Kiabi, and Auchan. But also 17 startups incubators as well as 160 e-companies like OVHcloud, aDvens, and Showroom-prive.

“Hauts-de-France is home to the most successful retailers in Europe, and a flourishing startup ecosystem,” Says Holberton School HDF Co-founder Benoit Denot “Holberton School Hauts-de-France will train a diverse and Silicon Valley grade workforce that the local companies need.“

The campus is partnering with local investors, hiring companies, and tech communities, among which are: EuraTechnologies (one of Europe largest startup incubator), Jezby Ventures (OVHcloud Founder Octave Klaba’s fund), ÏDKIDS Group (a major French retailer), Vade Secure (global leader in predictive email defense), the French Tech community and many more.

Holberton School Hauts-de-France

“Tech ecosystems are growing all over France, we were impressed by Hauts-de-France region’s one,” Says Holberton Co-founder & President Sylvain Kalache “it is in this type of dynamic and vibrant communities that Holberton School shines.”

Holberton brings Silicon Valley grade education to an already robust education ecosystem. The Hauts-de-France region is where most French engineers are trained, with over 30 Grandes Ecoles and six universities. Due to COVID-19, the school will provide its education entirely online from January 2021. A physical campus will open as soon as the pandemic allows. Start your application today.

Welcoming Grammy award-winning producer Alcover to our Board of Trustees

We are honored to welcome Alcover to the Holberton Board of Trustees! Milton J. Restituyo, better known as Alcover, will contribute toward Holberton’s mission to increase access to tech education with a focus on the Hispanic community. 

The Latin Grammy award-winning producer is also a singer and influencer in Hispanic pop culture. Born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, Alcover’s interest in music was sparked at an early age thanks to his father, a singer and multi-instrumentalist. After making the decision to move to New York, he took the first steps in commencing his musical career, enlisting his high school classmate Juan Abreu “Xtassy” as his creative partner. Together the two formed the award-winning production duo A&X, positioning themselves among the best producers in New York City’s urban scene.

Grammy award-winning producer Alcover

“Pop culture allows us to see what is needed now and what is important in our communities. It has enabled me to use my voice in an uplifting and encouraging way.  Music, art and technology that is created and distributed by ethnic and socioeconomic diversity helps create unity and accessibility,” said Alcover. “Holberton provides to any students, including the ones from disenfranchised communities, access to education in tech, and gives them a way out. I want more people to leverage the Holberton opportunity. Tech companies are seeking diverse, and motivated software engineers to drive them towards the future,“ he added. 

Join us in welcoming Alcover to the Holberton community!

Holberton School is coming to France!

We are thrilled to announce that Holberton School is opening in France! The opening has been fast-tracked as Julien and I (Holberton founders), both French, wanted to help our country. Unemployment rates in France rose to 22 percent due to COVID-19, and one of the biggest software engineering schools, SUPINFO, is in liquidation.

Director of operations Julien Cyr and I are both alumni of SUPINFO, one of the largest software engineering schools in France. Due to SUPINFO’s liquidation, a thousand students who already paid for their education – some of whom already paid for several years of school in advance of completing it – may suddenly find themselves out of school and unable to recoup their costs, beginning in September. To support our community, Holberton School France will cover the cost of the first year of our program for any SUPINFO students who wish to enroll, making the first year completely tuition-free.

In addition to helping SUPINFO students, we also wanted to help people impacted by the economic consequences of the pandemic and resulting unemployment rate. As such, Holberton School France will cover the first-year tuition–valued at €6,120–for the first 165 admitted students, the equivalent of €1,000,000 of scholarship value.

Holberton School France’s first student cohort will begin online on September 7th in synchronization with Holberton’s 12 other campuses spanning 6 additional countries.

Live coding sessions ++

Students love them – we listened and are bringing more live coding sessions!

While the COVID19 pandemic has been easing in some Holberton communities, the trend isn’t going in the right direction for most of them. Many of our students have been sheltering and studying from home, for months.

We were able to quickly move Holberton education online, without any interruptions for students, and have been adding features to make Holberton online education better. Among many features and initiatives, one is particularly adored by our student community: the weekly live-coding session.

These sessions were historically done by San Francisco Resident Software Engineer Kristen Loyd and I. For 1 to 4 hours, we would whiteboard and code live 1 or more projects that students had worked on, streaming it to our students in all campuses across the world.

Live coding sessions allow students to witness the thought-process of a senior software engineer solving a problem and how it is then implemented into code. Students can ask questions at any time and clarify concepts they may be unsure of. Students enjoy the learning benefits, but they also get to hang out with fellow students from all across the world – which can be a mood booster – in a time where we are all far from one another.

Given the success of these live coding sessions, we came together as a community and are now very happy to bring this to the next level. Starting next week, we will offer even more live sessions every week, with more formats!  These live coding sessions will be given by software engineers in residence from Holberton campuses around the world.

As an example, here is next week schedule:

  • Monday: printf concepts review with 🇨🇴Holberton Medellín SWE Fredy Mena Andrade (this is a project where students get to code their own version of printf)
  • Tuesday: SQL JOINs with 🇺🇾Holberton Montevideo SWE Javier Valenzani
  • Wednesday: Binary trees with 🇺🇸Holberton San Francisco SWE Kristen Loyd
  • Thursday: Introduction to assembly with 🇨🇴Holberton Bogotá SWE Nicolaz Pérez
  • Friday: Singly-linked lists with Holberton 🇺🇸Tulsa SWE Derek Webb

With at least one software engineer in residence for every Holberton campus, more campuses will mean more live coding sessions! With locations all across the world, it also means that students can learn from different points of view, ways of thinking, with more diversity of background, culture, and experience!

These live coding sessions are extracurricular. They are following our belief of helping one another and learning from each other – live-coding sessions are an embodiment of what our education is: project and peer-based learning.

If you are a software developer and want to do a live coding session with Holberton folks from all across the world, please reach out to me! Keep coding!

Welcoming the legendary songwriter Savan Kotecha to our Board of Trustees

As reported in Forbes, we are thrilled to welcome Savan Kotecha to Holberton Board of Trustees! Savan has written musical hits for many of the world’s best artists. His songs, performed by Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande, Madonna, Justin Bieber,  The Weeknd, and numerous other headliner artists, have earned 17 Grammy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination.

Savan and his wife founded The MyLeo Foundation in 2017 with the mission to provide college study and vocational training scholarships to students from impoverished backgrounds.

The Holberton Board of Trustees is helping us to achieve our core mission of providing high-quality education for the many. Trustees meet multiple times a year to discuss successes and to provide advice on how to address the challenges facing the organization. Trustees also leverage their large public platforms to make the tech industry more accessible and diverse by encouraging a broader swath of the population to continue their educations beyond high school.

“Pop culture has shown me the importance of representation. It’s important that the people shaping the world via music, art, visual media, and technology come from diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds so that everyone feels represented. Holberton’s focus on that is very inspiring and is why I wanted to be involved. During this ‘new normal’ we’re experiencing during the pandemic, we’re seeing just how important software engineering is with regards to shaping our new world. Software engineers’ creativity and vision will be key in helping us all move forward,” said Kotecha.

Songwriter Savan Kotecha with Holberton co-founder Sylvain Kalache.

Savan joins the board which currently includes Grammy award-winning artist NE-YO, actor and social activist Priyanka Chopra, CEO of CloudNOW Jocelyn DeGance Graham, Avasant Foundation Executive Director Chitra Rajeshwari, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel, legendary Educator Esther Wojcicki and Docker co-founder Solomon Hykes.

Join us in welcoming Savan to the Holberton community!