CS Degree Trends - Good News & Bad News

Last week, I read an article that summarized a Sinai Forum speech given by the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani.

In the speech, Reshma discussed the low number of females that graduate with computer science (CS) degrees each year. Reshma’s comment reminded me of my intention to review the latest CS degree data published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Each year, NCES publishes data about the number of Bachelor’s degrees conferred by gender, race, and field of study. I like to review the data as it is one benchmark that can be used to measure progress of initiatives (such as our app or CS For All) aimed at increasing the number and diversity of students that pursue CS/Tech pathways.

Here are some highlights of the most recently published data (covering the 2015/16 school year):

  • Approximately 52,330 males graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in CS, an increase of 7% compared to the prior year.

  • Just over 12,000 females graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in CS, an increase of 12% over the prior year.

  • The number of students of color that earned a Bachelor’s degree in CS was just shy of 27,400 – a 7% increase compared to the prior year.

On the surface, the numbers and growth rates are encouraging. However, further analysis reveals inconsistencies in the growth. For example, the number of CS degrees awarded to females is lower now than it was in the mid 1980s and early 2000s. And while the number of students of color earning CS degrees grew overall, this was not the case for certain subcategories. Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander students earning CS degrees grew while Black and Native American students saw a decline in the number of CS degrees earned.

While this is only one benchmark, it does show movement in a positive direction but also indicates that there is still much work to be done to attract and prepare all students for CS/Tech pathways. What initiatives have you used to increase student pursuit of computer science and technology? How do you track progress? We’d welcome learning from you (info@couragion.com).

Laura FarrellyComment