Herald announced that computer science, Southwest studies and agricultural science majors will be discontinued at Fort Lewis College by the end of the 2012-13 school year, according to a unanimous decision Friday by the college’s Board of Trustees. While it is unfortunate that any major is being cut, I was personally disappointed that computer science was one of the victims.
The primary reason stated was declining enrollment. If this is the case, then it is bucking the national trend. In fact, according to a recent CRA Taulbee report, the number of undergraduate students enrolled in computer science departments, and the number of new majors in computer science, have both increased for the second straight year. The number of new students majoring in computer science increased 8.5 percent over last year. The total number of majors increased 5.5 percent, yielding a two-year increase of 14 percent. Computer science graduation rates should increase in two to three years as these new students graduate.
Enrollment in computer science saw a massive decline in the early 2000's. This is attributed primarily to the implosion of the dot com era, when prospective students saw their odds of making a quick fortune in the industry disappear faster than Yahoo! profits. However, that trend has reversed, and the industry as a whole is looking good again, in no small part due to the ability for tech companies to establish themselves and operate with a lot less overhead. Investors are also flocking back to tech in the last couple of years.
Computer science jobs pay very well, right out of college. The starting pay of certain liberal arts majors generally clocks in well below that of graduates in engineering fields, according to a recent Wall Street Journal study. The survey also shows that they maintain this compensation gap throughout their careers, and that employers tend to hire these grads for what would typically be a job for a liberal arts major.
There are 2 immediate impacts as a result of this decision. First, local high school students who show an aptitude for computer science will have to go elsewhere for their post-secondary education. And secondly, there is no flow of local graduate talent that can stay in the area and get a great job.
Maybe the answer would have been to better promote these programs. Maybe Durango Tech should have come into existence sooner. Either way, let's continue to promote local tech jobs and companies, so that we create a strong voice to get this program reinstated down the road.
I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this.