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Will Rising Enrollments Stifle Partnerships?

Mark Guzdial's recent blog contained an interesting article from Eric Roberts:


Eric points out that CS enrollments at Stanford have rebounded to record numbers. Other responders to Eric's comments note similar improvements in numbers of students in introductory computing classes at other bellwether schools. While this is likely good news for the US economy, and for the colleges that have not cut their CS departments so as not to be able to handle the soon to be increases in students, it raises the point that CS enrollments in college are cyclical. Following probably 4-5 years after industry crashes and booms (once a student is in a program, (s)he is somewhat stuck when the tech sector tanks - conversely, when it rebounds, students who chose to enter CS spend 4 years completing their baccalaureate degrees prior to entering the workforce).

My fear, as we see this (hoped for) rebound in numbers of students at the collegiate level is that the colleges will "forget about" the needs of teachers and students in K-12. I believe that during this past tech-downturn, many colleges and K-12 schools began to meet, talk, and build partnerships. College faculty rightly recognized that K-12 students' insufficient exposure to computing was not making them more likely to sample computing classes at college. Certainly, many local CSTA chapters have significant higher ed contributions.

While colleges may well start to see this rebound in the number of students, the needs of K-12 educators remain, as do the challenges of exposing more K-12 students to high quality computing content. I think that the partnerships that have developed over the past several years should be maintained and grown, even if the colleges (temporarily) become less needing of the students from their K-12 brethren.

Steve Cooper
CSTA Vice-President


I think we can make a case for this rebound increasing the importance of high school CS courses and teachers. As a high volume of students rushes to study CS, high school teachers can provide valuable information on the likelihood of a student's success in a college CS program and can help steer the most interested and able students to appropriate departments.

Departments who directly admit students out of high school do so fairly blindly, using math and science grades as proxies for CS interest and ability. Some students have mastered the art of taking math/science courses without having much ability for the kind of problem-solving CS highlights. On the other hand, many students get burned out on high school math and science and would really shine in CS but never get a chance to if their high school grades aren't high enough. Perhaps most alarmingly, many students who could be good at CS never even attempt it in college. As we enter a boom, colleges will have more leeway to think about diversity so it becomes even more important that the high schools send qualified candidates of varied backgrounds their way.

I don't think too many are going to relax after one or two years of good data. I think history tells many of us that education can be counter cyclical. That is to say that while the ecomony is bad more people go to school. CS may be getting some of the benefit of that. But we know that alone will not last. We are still not seeing all the diversity we need either so people understand that there is work to be done there as well. So I am hopeful. I know that were I work I am hearing more conversations about encoraging younger and younger people to become interested in the field. We realize that the pipeline has to be kept full and that work must be done to make sure that happens.

I know that were I work I am hearing more conversations about encoraging younger and younger people to become interested in the field.

This is really marvelous post. And Alfred is absolutely right.

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