By Chris Huebner, CTC Research Fellow
This summer CTC has undertaken a research project in order to better understand what happens to graduates of Connecticut’s Computer Science programs. An early foray into the data has indicated that, although students studying Computer Science in Connecticut are far from extinct, their population is certainly not as healthy as it once was. In 2003, there were 450 students who graduated with a degree in Computer Science. This was a relatively healthy slice of the overall population. That year Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science were earned by 2.8% of all graduates. By 2007, that number had slipped dramatically. 308 students, about 1.2% of Connecticut’s total graduating class, received Computer Science degrees. 2009 showed another drop to a 10 year low of 226. In 2011, the now-endangered Computer Science population had stabilized. 235 students graduated with degrees in the technology fields. Overall, from 2002 until 2011, the number of Computer Science degrees earned had decreased by over 34%.
This trend is not contained in Connecticut. Nationwide, the number of graduates with Computer Science degrees has degrees from 50,365 students (3.85% of the total graduating population) to 39,589 students (2.35% of the total graduating population). That is a 21% drop in Computer Science degrees. It is steep, but not as steep as the drop seen in Connecticut.
The drop in the number of Computer Science degrees earned in Connecticut is even more astounding when compared to the rise in degrees seen in fields that a 2011 Connecticut Department of Higher Education report calls “Priority Workforce Areas.” Computer Science, the Natural Sciences, Engineering and Business are the four priority areas. Of these four, three areas showed increases from 2006 to 2009. The number of degrees earned in Business increased 16.9% during that time while degrees in the Natural Sciences increased by 20.6%. The number of Engineering degrees earned increased by a whopping 43.2%. And, while these three areas showed incredible growth, the number of Computer Science degrees plummeted by around 40%.
What could have caused this drop in completed Computer Science degrees? Perhaps the start of the decline was initiated by the massive media focus on the dot-com bubble bursting. Fears that technology and computer science jobs could be outsourced could also have spurred the plunge in population of Computer Science students. It seems odd, however, that during a decade when many calls were made to increase the number of science and engineering students, and when programs like Project Lead the Way grew in popularity, computer science and technology fields were unable to develop.