More on the CS enrollment drop

I’ve written on this blog about the recent drop in enrollment for Computer Science degrees in North America: I gave an estimate of a drop by 25%. Looks like it is worse:

The number of new undergraduate majors in U.S. computer science programs has fallen 28 percent since 2000, reports the Computing Research Association, a group of more than 200 North American computer science, computer engineering and related academic departments.

The explanation would be that students do not want a Dilbertesque life:

One reason, say those in the field, is that technology jobs appear less lucrative than they did during the dot-com boom. Then, students thought a computer science degree would lead to riches and a quick retirement. Many took on the major.

Another reason might be that Business Schools are now competing with Computer Science departments for students:

Colleges have also begun to integrate computer instruction into other majors such as e-commerce programs in business schools. A computer science degree, therefore, can be unnecessary.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

8 thoughts on “More on the CS enrollment drop”

  1. It may also be that companies are realizing that what they want to hire (in most non R&D cases) is someone with a degree in software engineering, not computer science.

  2. I actually assume that when they write “computer science”, they aggregate all computing degrees offered by computer science departments.

  3. The way I think they do these studies is to ask each CS Department to report on their students. I would assume that they would exclude computing degrees that are offered by engineering and business faculties.

    So, no, they probably do not lump “engineering” with “science”.

    Now, if Computer Science Departments offer “Computer Engineering” (and my school does) without being part of an Engineering School, it becomes harder to classify. Think what would happen if Chemistry Departments offered “Chemical Engineering” degrees? It has got to throw off the statistics. Is this a significant biais?

  4. Mind you, now that I read back the study, they say: “computer science, computer engineering and related academic departments”. Hence, they probably lump everything together.

  5. Upon hearing the news of drop in enrollments, one of my colleagues said: “Good: this will ensure that we’ll get the ones who really want to study CS”. I’m not that cynical, he’s right. The market has changed for the best in a sense (because of offshoring): if a company hires a CS student today, more is expected from this student.

  6. In my experience, in the last 2-3 years, actually, less is expected from the CS graduates. Less in the sense that they used to get programming jobs where algorithmic design was part of the job. Now, often, people will work in non-software companies where they will, at best, write a script to extract some data from a spreadsheet.

    As development moves offshore, what remains is higher level, but it might not be the higher level pieces CS students are best trained for. What seems to remain are business concerns, security, and so on. Mostly high level IT issues. Nothing wrong with that, but it is not clear CS students are the best candidates for these jobs.

    It is probably not a concern if the number of students also goes down significantly: the market will sort it out. However, if you work in a school, then you will have fewer students which means a lesser budget, no matter how you put it.

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