Computer science courses are paying off in the real word with high-status jobs and salaries, and many colleges are finding they cannot keep up with the student stampede, The New York Times reported.
The number of undergraduates majoring in the subject more than doubled from 2013 to 2017, to over 106,000, while tenure-track faculty ranks rose only about 17 percent, according to the Computing Research Association, the Times reported.
The Times noted learning computing skills can be a fast path to employment in fields from agriculture and banking to genomics — and some computer science majors make six-figure salaries straight out of school.
"The demand is unbounded," Don Fussell, chairman of the computer science department at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Times.
For example, the Times reported, at Swarthmore College, officials hold lotteries to select students for computing classes and cap the number of courses that computer science majors may take. The University of Maryland plans this fall to make computing a limited enrollment major, which will make it harder for non-majors to transfer in, the Times reported. And at the University of California, San Diego, introductory lecture courses have ballooned to up to 400 students to accommodate both majors and non-majors.
"When you put any kind of barrier in place in terms of access to computer science majors, it tends to reduce the number of women and students of color in the program," Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, a private college in Claremont, California, told the Times. The school has become a national model for diversity in computer science, the Times reported.
Klawe is weighing a more academic solution to meeting student demand and professor shortage: She wants to train people with Ph.D.s in subjects like math, physics, and biology to teach computer science, the Times reported.
"It's going to get worse before it gets better," she said.