CS/IT higher-ed degree production has declined since 2003

August 19, 2013 at 1:19 am 4 comments

I couldn’t believe this when Mark Miller sent the below to me.  “Maybe it’s true in aggregate, but I’m sure it’s not true at Georgia Tech.”  I checked.  And yes, it has *declined*.  In 2003 (summing Fall/Winter/Spring), the College of Computing had 367 graduates.  In 2012, we had 217.  Enrollments are up, but completions are down.

What does this mean for the argument that we have a labor shortage in computer science, so we need to introduce computing earlier (in K-12) to get more people into computing?  We have more people in computing (enrolled) today, and we’re producing fewer graduates.  Maybe our real problem is the productivity at the college level?

I shared these data with Rick Adrion, and he pointed out that degree output necessarily lags enrollment by 4-6 years.  Yes, 2012 is at a high for enrollment, but the students who graduated in 2012 came into school in 2008 or 2007, when we were still “flatlined.”  We’ll have to watch to see if output rises over the next few years.

Computer-related degree output at U.S. universities and colleges flatlined from 2006 to 2009 and have steadily increased in the years since. But the fact remains: Total degree production (associate’s and above) was lower by almost 14,000 degrees in 2012 than in 2003. The biggest overall decreases came in three programs — computer science, computer and information sciences, general, and computer and information sciences and support services, other.

This might reflect the surge in certifications and employer training programs, or the fact that some programmers can get jobs (or work independently) without a degree or formal training because their skills are in-demand.

Of the 15 metros with the most computer and IT degrees in 2012, 10 saw decreases from their 2003 totals. That includes New York City (a 52% drop), San Francisco (55%), Atlanta (33%), Miami (32%), and Los Angeles (31%).

via In the Spotlight: Higher Ed Degree Output by Field and Metro | Newgeography.com.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cecily Heiner  |  August 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

    I also think there is an alarming trend to increase enrollment in CS0, CS1, and CS1.5 and other feeder type courses, but to screen very heavy in CS2. There is significant anecdotal evidence of this happening at Stanford in CS107, the “dump your girlfriend” course. Some of this increase is probably a healthy recognition of the importance of programming by society at large(I recently heard a DO say at a seminar that all pre-med/pre-dental students should ace their science classes and take a programming class). However, there is also reason to be concerned as this heavy screening for CS2 often appears to be especially detrimental to under-represented minorities, and I often wonder if it reflects on less-than-rigorous preparation in foundation courses.

  • 2. alex  |  August 22, 2013 at 5:13 am

    How many of these dropouts went straight into CS related career field? Are college classes even keeping up with the latest tech trends?

    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  August 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Good questions. Our existing databases don’t tell us that, and FERPA prevents us from tracking people any more carefully. But given the enormously high take-up rates of our graduates (every graduate I spoke to had multiple offers, and the Dean told me that the highest starting salary for a GT undergrad last year was for a Computational Media major), it’s not that the degree isn’t valued.

  • […] talked about this problem before — that it looks like we’re graduating fewer CS undergraduates, despite rising enrollment.  Interesting analysis in The […]


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