Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rising computer science enrollment?

I saw this pop up today on my Facebook news feed. There are multiple different points that deserve a whole post to themselves that the article brings up and not only the content but the tone the author utilizes is intriguing for the purposes of our study. The biggest question of the article is where to begin?

From the beginning of the article, it extols a very positive tone. "The top U.S. computer science programs, which are seeing rising enrollment and applications as more college students discover that their job prospects are better — and their starting salaries higher — if they have a computer-related degree" That's great news but I'm a little skeptical. For instance, what is the bright line on "top U.S. computer science schools?" Is it top 5, 10, 25? The school cites lots of different schools, including Carnegie Mellon, but it's unclear how computer science overall is changing. It did receive an uptick since 2009 but it's unclear if this is going to continue.

The article does continue into some good spots, especially documenting the versatility of computer science degrees. Unfortunately, they don't really expand beyond the financial sector "credit card companies, insurance companies — are very much interested in computer science students, as are defense companies and software development and networking companies." It's a positive that they explain how you can move fluidly into the financial sector but when citing the many different industries, stopping at finance seems a little short.

They do go a little beyond and explain how science students in biology find a need for computer science in their studies and explore the growing field of Computational Biology but it still seems like computer science for anything but computer science's sake seems to be still firmly in the realm of academia. It also seems that the guys at Princeton see a different world for financial sector by placing cs students in all different industries.

After touting computer science as the recession proof field, an interesting angle considering the drop in computer science students since 2000 is most often associated with the dot com bubble burst, they close with some quotes from Carnegie Mellon. Our applications are up again this year and as cited, we're approaching our peak from 2000, however what makes the conclusion of the article curious for me is when she points out CMU caps enrollment at 130. This is the understanding of college enrollment that I understand, students apply and the colleges accept up to a certain number. However, the article seems to argue that this uptick may be on the way to dangerously high levels, where the University of Texas argues it couldn't handle enrolling 2400 students. I don't think that a university is obligated to handle as many students as possible and in the face of finally increasing enrollment I think it's strange to say "well let's keep it from getting too high." Because really, the more applicants, the more esteemed students you'll be able to enroll and the more qualified computer science are produced.

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