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CRA Releases Report on Surge in Computer Science Enrollments


cover of enrollments report


Generation CS: Computer Science Undergraduate Enrollments Surge Since 2006

Across the United States and Canada, universities and colleges are facing a significant increase in enrollment in both undergraduate computer science (CS) courses and programs. The current enrollment surge has exceeded previous CS booms, and there is a general sense that the current growth in enrollment is substantially different than that of the mid-1980s and late 1990s. To investigate the current situation, the Computing Research Association (CRA) produced an enrollment survey to measure, assess, and better understand enrollment trends and their impact on computer science units, diversity, and more. The survey was administered in parallel with CRA’s annual Taulbee Survey of doctoral-granting units and ACM’s annual NDC Study of non-doctoral granting units in computing. Analysis of the survey is presented in a new report, “Generation CS: CS Enrollments Surge Since 2006,” available for download and online at: https://cra.org/data/generation-cs/.

  • The Generation CS report analyzes the survey results with respect to majors, nonmajors, diversity, impact on academic units, and units’ actions in response to the surge.
    There has been phenomenal growth of computer science majors in the United States and Canada since 2006 (e.g., the number of CS majors enrolled at doctoral-granting units has more than tripled since 2006); furthermore, the data indicates that continued growth is likely.
  • Units are seeing remarkable growth of nonmajors taking computer science courses and an increase in computer science minors.
  • The impact of the current student enrollment surge on diversity is a concern of many members of the computer science community. While more data is needed, there appears to be some good news regarding both the numbers and percentages of women and underrepresented minority students involved in computer science as majors and as students in CS courses; unfortunately not every unit that responded to the survey is experiencing this growth.
  • The report covers the impact of the current enrollment surge on the unit (e.g., challenges with space and instructional staff), as well as how units are responding to the current surge (e.g., increasing section sizes or number of sections taught).
  • A section on degree completions in computer science from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data is included, which helps advance understanding of the data collected in the CRA Enrollment Survey and provides more information about the current surge in computer science at non-doctoral granting units.

The enrollment growth in the mid-1980s is sometimes referred to as the “PC boom” and the enrollment growth in the late 1990s is sometimes referred to as the “dot-com boom.” CRA Conference at Snowbird attendees suggested that we are currently in “Generation CS”, where CS enrollment across the nation is surging due to the pervasiveness of computing in today’s society. Computing plays a significant role in daily life, and students with interests in a variety of fields are beginning to understand that training in computer science is vital.

To encourage a conversation about the content of the report, we have enabled a comments section located at the bottom of the main report webpage at: https://cra.org/data/generation-cs/.

CRA Enrollment Committee

In early 2015, CRA created a committee to investigate increasing enrollments. As part of this effort, an institutional subgroup of this committee developed a CRA Enrollment Survey and produced this report. The subgroup includes:

  • Tracy Camp, Chair, Colorado School of Mines
  • W. Richards Adrion, University of Massachusetts – Amherst
  • Betsy Bizot, Computing Research Association
  • Susan Davidson, University of Pennsylvania
  • Mary Hall, University of Utah
  • Susanne Hambrusch, Purdue University
  • Ellen Walker, Hiram College
  • Stuart Zweben, The Ohio State University

Main Contact: Tracy Camp, Colorado School of Mines (tcamp@mines.edu)