Today we are seeing a large spike in undergraduate computer science enrollment. There have been two previous spikes in CS, one in the late 80’s (following the debut of the PC) and one in the early 2000’s (the “dot com boom”). So here we go again? Is this another enrollment bubble? This one feels different to me. While the current growth rate will surely level out, I believe CS enrollments will be sustainably high for the foreseeable future. Computing is just so pervasive, and a CS degree is such good preparation for deep computational thinking and creative problem solving—exactly what is needed to address virtually all of the most important problems and opportunities society faces today. And as we make progress on broadening participation in our field to include historically under-represented groups, the potential for new talent and growth is even more exciting.
Here are a few numbers, to give you a sense of CS undergraduate enrollment trends at Virginia Tech. This year we will award almost 250 bachelor’s degrees, our largest group ever, and almost twice the size of the class that graduated only four years ago. Our current sophomore class numbers 341, a number which ranks second in the College of Engineering, trailing only Mechanical Engineering. The average GPA of this group is an impressive 3.37.
We are thrilled at the number of talented students that are streaming into our field! It is a great privilege to help the next generation build on what has come before. In a future post, I’ll have more to say about the great jobs our students are moving into, and about the exciting growth we are experiencing in other dimensions of the department.