Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

NY Times: The Hard Part Of Computer Science? Getting Into Class

New York Times, The Hard Part of Computer Science? Getting Into Class:

Lured by the prospect of high-salary, high-status jobs, college students are rushing in record numbers to study computer science.

Now, if only they could get a seat in class.

On campuses across the country, from major state universities to small private colleges, the surge in student demand for computer science courses is far outstripping the supply of professors, as the tech industry snaps up talent. At some schools, the shortage is creating an undergraduate divide of computing haves and have-nots — potentially narrowing a path for some minority and female students to an industry that has struggled with diversity.

The number of undergraduates majoring in the subject more than doubled from 2013 to 2017, to over 106,000, while tenure-track faculty ranks rose about 17 percent, according to the Computing Research Association, a nonprofit that gathers data from about 200 universities.


Economics and the promise of upward mobility are driving the student stampede. While previous generations of entrepreneurial undergraduates might have aspired to become lawyers or doctors, many students now are leery of investing the time, and incurring six-figure debts, to join those professions.

By contrast, learning computing skills can be a fast path to employment, as fields as varied as agriculture, banking and genomics incorporate more sophisticated computing. While the quality of programs across the country varies widely, some computer science majors make six-figure salaries straight out of school.

At the University of Texas at Austin, which has a top computer science program, more than 3,300 incoming first-year students last fall sought computer science as their first choice of major, more than double the number who did so in 2014.

“The demand is unbounded,” said Don Fussell, chairman of the university’s computer science department. The university is looking to hire several tenure-track faculty members in computing this year, he said, but competition for top candidates is fierce. “I know of major departments that interviewed 40 candidates, and I don’t think they hired anybody.”

Although the problem has been building for years, a recent boom is straining resources at new levels at institutions large and small. The situation has become so acute that Swarthmore College, which was already holding lotteries to select students for computing classes, is now capping the number of courses that computer science majors may take. The University of Maryland plans this fall to make computing a limited enrollment major, which will make it harder for non-majors to transfer in. At the University of California, San Diego, introductory lecture courses have ballooned to up to 400 students to accommodate both majors and non-majors.

As a result of such changes, students on some campuses said they felt shut out of computer science while others said they faced overcrowded classes with overworked professors.

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Hmmm. 106,000 undergrad computer science majors in 2016 according to a trade organization? That's pretty far away from the 71,420 according to IPEDS / Department of Education.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 30, 2019 9:11:36 AM