That has been the issue at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), where
demand for the CS major is rising and
the faculty is unable to keep pace, says
Donald Fussell, chairman of the university’s computer science department.
“As enrollments keep growing without bounds, it’s very hard for anyone to
keep their faculty size growing as fast as
the demand for computer science majors,” Fussell says.
Two ways to respond to that in the
short term are to “start trying to hire
like crazy,” Fussell says, and compromise your quality standards, or leave
enrollments open and have very large
programs, which translates into increased competition for courses. At
UT Austin, the solution has been to
put a cap on the number of computer
science majors, Fussell says.
“It’s not so much a shortage (of faculty), it’s just when you grow that quickly,
there’s no quick way” to find enough
qualified teachers to meet the demand
for courses, he says.
Fussell says his department is hiring new faculty members on a non-tenured track “much more aggressively,” which works out well, “because
these folks are really good teachers.
But the pay scales are such that it’s
hard to offer compelling salaries” at a
A typical non-tenured position at UT
Austin commands under $100,000 for a
six-course, nine-month teaching load,
he says. “Anyone with reasonable experience in the [computer science] industry is going to be looking at something
twice that much. So that’s the problem.”
The problem also exists at private
institutions, not only because industry
pays so much better, but also because
there is a shortage of CS Ph.D. candidates, and a doctorate is a requirement
for tenure-track positions. RIT, which
has over 4,200 students enrolled in grad-
THE ONLY EXPOSURE Yancarlos Diaz had to computer science during his high school years in New York City was when he used a computer to write
essays. When it came time to apply to
college, Diaz, who says he was good in
math, “blindly signed up” for the computer science program at the Rochester
Institute of Technology (RIT), figuring it
was a major that would help him easily
find a job when he graduated.
That decision already is paying off.
Now a fourth-year student at RIT,
Diaz expects to graduate in 2021 with
dual bachelor and master of science
degrees in computer science (CS). He
then plans to work in the private sector
as a software engineer “mainly to pay
the loans,” he says.
Diaz is not alone. Colleges are not
producing large numbers of CS majors,
and many of those who graduate with a
CS degree are opting to go into industry rather than academia, which can
pay twice as much as what professors
earn. This is causing a perfect storm: a
shortage of computer science teachers
is making it harder for many students
majoring in the discipline to get into the
classes they need to graduate.
Finding enough qualified computer science teachers is also an issue in
secondary education. Only 36 teachers graduated from universities with
computer science degrees in 2017,
compared with 11,157 math teachers
and 11,905 science teachers, according
to the nonprofit Code.org. In 2016, 75
teachers graduated from universities
equipped to teach the subject, the organization reports.
“I can say at the K– 12 level there’s a
dramatic shortage” of computer sci-
ence teachers, says Jake Baskin, execu-
tive director of the Computer Science
Teachers Association (CSTA), which
worked with Code.org to produce a re-
port in 2018 on the state of computer
science education policy in the U.S.
Surprisingly, the study revealed that
only 35% of public high schools in 24
states offer computer science courses.
However, 33 U.S. states now offer
teacher certification in computer sci-
ence, up from 27 last year. “Overall, the
theme of the report is very much that
we’re moving in the right direction and
adopting policies … to increase partici-
pation in computer science in the K– 12
space,” Baskin says.
The increase is also trickling up, mak-
ing computer science a far more popular
college major. The average number of
undergraduate computer science ma-
jors per department at U.S. doctoral in-
stitutions grew from 818 in 2016 to 900
in 2017, according to the Computing
Research Association (CRA) annual Taul-
bee Survey. This has proven to be a mixed
blessing, says Elizabeth Bizot, director of
statistics and evaluation at the CRA.
“There’s a lot of demand for students
with those skills, and in that sense, increases are a good thing,” she says.
However, the average number of CS majors per department has increased 368%
from 2006 to 2017, according to Bizot,
“and that puts a lot of strain on departments in terms of teaching resources,
classroom space, etc., as they seek to
serve students well.”
The CS Teacher
How can we fill more computer science classrooms
when there just aren’t enough teachers to go around?
Society | DOI: 10.1145/3355375 Esther Shein