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Computer science hits record high enrollment

STEM enthusiasts have reason to celebrate: A recent study from Code.org found that a record number of computer science degrees were awarded at public, non-profit universities in 2015.  

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Code.org researchers found that 49,291 students earned bachelor's degrees in computer science in 2015—a 15% increase from the previous year and a number that number surpasses the previous record of 48,586 degrees in 2003.

Code.org's researchers note that the number is expected to continue rising. Enrollment in AP computer science is expected to double this year and a recent College Board study found that high school AP computer science students are six times more likely to study the field in college, too.

Despite booming enrollment in programs, Code.org found that employers are hungry for even more grads in the field.

Code.org researchers note that a full 71% of all STEM jobs are in the computing field, and these jobs currently account for 16% of all new wages. Yet computer science majors still account for only 3% of all bachelor's degrees. 

One way to address the gap? Some colleges are partnering with coding boot camps

Computer science also has a long way to go in terms of diversity, the researchers found. Women haven't made up a full third of computer science majors since 1987, the data shows. Female representation in the field is growing at a snail's pace—from 2014 to 2015, it increased by less than half of a percentage point. In 2015, women only made up 17.5% of students.

3 STEM fields that are actually doing well with female representation

The same goes for minorities—the data shows that black, Hispanic, and American Indian students make up roughly 18% of computer science degrees.

A few colleges have launched programs to recruit and support underrepresented populations in computer science programs.

Harvey Mudd College has implemented a three-step program to enroll women in computer science majors:

  1. Renaming courses with approachable titles;
  2. Bringing female computer-science faculty and students to the annual Grace Hopper Conference, which spotlights women in technology fields; and
  3. Giving students the opportunity to work on computer science research projects of their choice between freshman and sophomore year, enabling them to apply classroom skills to real-world solutions.

From 2006 to 2016, the program helped Harvey Mudd boost its share of female computer science majors from 10% to 40%.

Read more about how Harvey Mudd quadrupled its female computer science majors

The HBCU Howard University is also making strides in improving computer science diversity by partnering with Google and opening a satellite campus at their headquarters (Code.org, Medium.com, 3/27; Loewus, Education Week, 4/4).

Learn more about Howard's partnership with Google


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