That’s really neat! I’d like to share my own experience since I went to a coding school in San Francisco that sounds similar in some ways to the choice you made, called Holberton School. For myself and the others in my batch, it was free, because we were the first, experimental batch and the founders wanted to refine their pedagogy + curriculum before charging for their model. Now the school operates on a 17% tuition cut over three years after the student gets employed.
This is a pretty hefty cut of your salary, but there are a few justifications. It’s not an upfront charge, so you don’t have to dip out of savings until you have a job that pays well, which is meant to make the school more accessible. Of course, there is still the opportunity cost you mentioned, and the high cost of living in SF. The school also only benefits if they teach you successfully, so they are naturally invested in your learning (but would still be otherwise, because they believe in their model and mission).
Finally, another point that is relevant to what you mentioned about the length of time it takes to become a good programmer is the school is a 2-year-long program, divided in 3 blocks: 9 months of peer- & project-based learning (no classes, it’s a hands-on model), 6 months of a full-time job or internship, and 9 months of specialization in a track of your interest, which can be done remotely while you continue work if you wish. It’s not really meant to compete with other bootcamps as much as it’s intended to be an alternative to the heavily theory-based traditional CS education at a 4-year college, which indeed is quite costly and doesn’t prepare graduates well with the practical knowledge and skills that you would actually use in a job.
I agree with you that there are pros and cons to all the various bootcamps and coding schools that have cropped up out there. I’m acquainted with some successful graduates from HackReactor who managed to get hired after dishing out a few thousand and studying intensively for three months. Although the fee is up-front, the opportunity cost and total cost in the end is less than a 17% cut over three years in the long-term. There is also a new, free school called School 42 in Fremont which operates on a similar project and peer-based methodology, but funnels students through a hardcore sink-or-swim program called a ‘piscine’ (French for swimming pool) — only a portion of students are invited back each year. (You can read a bit about the French version of it here: https://www.quora.com/How-hard-is-it-to-pass-the-PISCINE-selection-at-%C3%89cole-42-What-attributes-and-or-skills-are-needed-to-excel-the-test) Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of educational experience you want, and every person is different. I’m personally happy there is a variety of new models that try to push the envelope and offer something different, so those who want to learn with some structure and support can pick from what suits their learning style, economic limitations, and personal needs best.