Mines-led panel reports on computer science enrollment

The number of computer science majors at doctoral-granting institutions has tripled in the past decade, challenging departments and universities to meet the demand, according to a report recently released by a committee led by the head of the Department of Computer Science at Colorado School of Mines.

The report, called Generation CS, was released February 24, 2017, by the Computing Research Association’s Enrollment Committee, chaired by Computer Science Professor Tracy Camp. It traces enrollment numbers going back to 2006.

“The report provides hard data on what is happening in computer science programs across the country,” Camp said. “Prior to this work, there were a lot of hypotheses and anecdotal information, like ‘wow, we seem to have a lot of students,’ or ‘wow, our classes are really full’.”

“This report is really the best heartbeat of what’s happening in computer science across the country,” Camp said. “Approximately 70 percent of doctoral-granting computer science programs responded to the survey we put together.”

In addition to the surge in computer majors, “non-majors taking computer science classes is partly why computer science programs are struggling to meet the demand,” Camp said. “And the trend is still moving up; nobody thinks that we’ve reached the top yet.”

The demand for computing skills is driving these enrollment numbers, Camp said. “Seventy-seven percent of new STEM jobs require people who are trained in computing. Students and parents are realizing that there are a lot of unfilled jobs out there requiring computer science skills.”

Camp also cited efforts to add computer science classes to high school programs, including former President Barack Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative.

At Mines, the number of computer science majors has increased 61 percent between Fall 2011 and Fall 2016. In the past three years, the Department of Computer Science has seen a 68 percent increase in the student credit hours it is teaching, while the number of students pursuing a minor in computer science has grown every year for the last five years.

“Here at Mines, we feel that we are just starting to see the surge,” Camp said. “If you talk to Admissions, more students are applying with interest in computer science than they’ve seen in past years—450 accepted students listed CS as their potential major.”

The data in the report can be used by computer science departments across the country to make their case for more resources, Camp said. In addition, the report shares what some computer science departments have done to meet the demand for classes.

Some, for example, are recruiting faculty from other departments to help them teach. “Over forty percent of departments didn’t think about doing that including Mines,” Camp said. “It’s a great idea.” Camp is not in favor of restricting access to CS courses, either through limits or additional fees, as other institutions have done. In fact, she would like to see more Mines students required to take them. “I strongly believe every major at Mines should be taking a class or two in computer science.”

Camp said computer science faculty at Mines are going above and beyond to provide access to their courses to students who want it. “We also have fabulous graduate students that we can use as a resource. We’re keeping in touch with our alumni, too, and they’re helping as well,” she said.

“Mines administration has been awesome as far as helping us meet the demand,” Camp said. “Dean Kevin Moore has been going to bat for us, and Computer Science at Mines really appreciates that."

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Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

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