Recently The Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog posted information on a current hot topic: computer science education in the US. The blog’s author reviewed the percentage of bachelor’s degree graduates in the US that hold a degree in computer science (CS) from 1979-1980 through the 2011-2012 academic year and found that even though there are proportionally fewer graduates now than there were in 1985, this may be a cyclical trend that’s actually beginning to reverse. The author’s numbers show that, after the 1985-1986 peak in CS majors, demand declined again through most of the 1990s, before increasing in the 2000s and dropping back down again in recent years.
In order to see where student demand for these programs may be heading next – and to verify if we really are about to see an increase in CS majors – we looked at trends within the Sparkroom Marketing Software student inquiry and enrollment database. Here are the trends worth noting.
Computer science program inquiries have been increasing in recent quarters.
- Nearly 20% inquiry volume growth from Q1 2013 – Q1 2014.
- Q1 2014 volume is down about 5% from a peak in Q2 2011, but does seem to be showing strong, consistent volume – contrasted with nearly 10% overall decline in school inquiries year over year, this indicates that computer science has the ability to continue gaining ground in coming quarters.
Online programs are growing in popularity for computer science degrees, but campus-based programs have exhibited the most growth for other IT-focused programs.
- Online computer science programs grew in line with the overall average program inquiry growth in Q1 2014, at approximately +19% year-over-year. Campus-based computer-science inquiry volume has remained flat.
- For campus-based programs, other IT-focused programs, aside from computer science, had a very strong year for inquiry volume in 2013. Although volume fell off a bit in Q4 2013 and Q1 2014, the Q1-Q3 2013 period had some of the strongest IT program inquiry volume of the past three years, indicating strong interest and likely an increase in students for these programs in the near future.
Many IT-focused programs have seen subsequent quarters of inquiry and application growth. (Q1 10 – Q1 14)
- Animation, Interactive Technology, Video Graphics and Special Effects (+8% Q1 2013 – Q1 2014)
- Computer Software and Media Applications (+100% Q1 2013 – Q1 2014)
- Computer Technology/Computer Systems Technology (+44% Q1 2013 – Q1 2014)
- Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering Technology/Technician (+8% Q1 2013 – Q1 2014)
While other IT-focused programs have seen subsequent quarters of inquiry and application decline. (Q1 10 – Q1 14)
- Information Technology (-9% Q1 2013 – Q1 2014)
- System Administration/Administrator (-70% Q1 2013 – Q1 2014)
- Forensic Science and Technology (-11% Q1 2013 – Q1 2014)
The current trends do indicate that computer science and other IT-related programs are showing positive signs of future student growth based on prospect interest in recent quarters. As more schools look to add programs with above-average employment opportunities, it’s likely that these programs will continue to grow with schools and prospective students alike.