Report: Further Declines in Computer Science, but Turnaround May Be on the Horizon

A computing research organization said that enrollments and degrees at United States-based computer science departments dropped further in 2006 and 2007. The nonprofit Computing Research Association, which is composed of academic and private industry members, has done survey work on computer science degrees since 1974, tracking enrollment trends among 170 Ph.D.-granting schools.

According to the CRA, after seven years of decline, the number of new CS majors in the fall of 2007 was half of what it was in the fall of 2000 (15,958 versus 7,915). According to a preview report from CRA, "The sustained drop in total enrollments and student interest in CS as a major suggests that degree production numbers will continue to drop in the next few years."

However, the report also noted the number of new majors increased slightly in 2007, which means that the downward spiral may actually be starting to flatten.

This drastic drop in degree production among CS departments mirrors what happened during the late 1980s. According to the report, between 1980 and 1986 undergraduate CS production nearly quadrupled to more than 42,000 degrees.

"This period was followed by a swift decline and leveling off during the 1990s, with several years in which the number of degrees granted hovered around 25,000," the report stated. "During the late 1990s, CS degree production again surged to more than 57,000 in 2004."

Full results from the survey will be released in May.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at [email protected].