Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Computer Science Programs Make a Comeback in Enrollment, No Change in Diversity

From the ACM Career News Alert.

Computer Science Programs Make a Comeback in Enrollment
New York Times, March 16

In 2008, for the first time in six years, enrollment in computer science programs in the U.S. posted an increase, according to an annual survey from the Computing Research Association. The boost in CS enrollment is significant, according to computer scientists and industry executives, who in the past have pointed to declining numbers of science and engineering students as a troubling sign of the nation’s weakening ability to compete in the global economy. The number of majors and pre-majors in U.S. computer science programs was up 6.2% from 2007. As student perceptions of the discipline change, insiders are optimistic about increased attention paid to computer science education.

Interest in computer science appears to have turned the corner, as student perceptions continue to change. Moreover, with the implosion of the financial services industry, the nation’s college students will likely turn away from future careers in fields like investment banking and finance in favor of careers in computer science and engineering. The Taulbee Survey, with data tables covering different time periods, also found that the number of new undergraduate majors in computer science increased 9.5% and that the rate of decline in new bachelor’s degrees improved to 10%, from 20% in the previous report. Total Ph.D. production grew to 1,877 for the period July 2007 to June 2008, a 5.7% increase over the previous period.

According to the Computing Research Association, there is a sense that computing science skills are increasingly being seen as a toolkit for pursuing a number of modern careers. As a result, schools like Stanford are seeing significant increases in enrollment. However, the latest survey was not entirely optimistic.

The study, which for the first time included data from schools of information, indicated that diversity in computer science programs continued to remain poor. For example, the percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women remained steady at 11.8% in 2008.

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