The Mixed News on
Diversity and the
By Tracy Camp, Colorado School of Mines, W. Richards Adrion, University of Massachusetts Amherst,
Betsy Bizot, Computing Research Association, Susan Davidson, University of Pennsylvania,
Mary Hall, University of Utah, Susanne Hambrusch, Purdue University,
Ellen Walker, Hiram College, and Stuart Zweben, The Ohio State University
In the June issue of ACM Inroads [ 1], we consider the phenomenal growth of computer science (CS) in both
CS undergraduate degree programs and CS courses at
doctoral-granting and non-doctoral-granting units. 1
This article examines the impact of the undergraduate
enrollment surge on diversity (i.e., women and
underrepresented minorities) using two existing data
sets (i.e., the CRA Taulbee Survey [ 3] and IPEDS [ 5]) and
data collected from the CRA Enrollment Survey [ 2]. We
also highlight relationships discovered from the CRA
Enrollment Survey between actions taken by units to
manage the surge and their impact on diversity.
As discussed in [ 1], the goal of the CRA Enrollment Survey
was to measure, assess, and understand enrollment trends
and their impact on computer science units, including the
impact of the enrollment surge on diversity (i.e., women and
underrepresented minorities). A positive consequence of the
current undergraduate enrollment surge is a significant increase
in the number of women and underrepresented minority
(URM) students in computer science, both in courses and as
majors. In addition, there is also some good news regarding the
percentage of women and URM students in aggregate; the good
news, however, is not universal across all units that responded
to the CRA Enrollment Survey.
The CRA Enrollment Survey asked units for women and
URM student enrollment data, including data for four representative courses at five-year intervals beginning with 2005;
the course level data is examined in this article. The survey also
asked each unit’s perception about trends in the unit’s recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented groups.
We will discuss the relationship between this perception and
the hard data collected about course enrollments in this article.
The enrollment data results discussed in this article show that the
median percentage of female students in the courses surveyed has
increased overall at both doctoral- and non-doctoral-granting units.
While some may consider the percentage increase to be significant,
others would correctly note that we are still a long way from gender
parity. The results presented in the rest of this article also show that
the median percentage of URM students in our four representative
courses is increasing; these data do not include students at minority-serving institutions (MSIs), as MSI data skew our understanding
of non-MSI institutions. We note that, at doctoral-granting units,
the percentage increase for URM students is larger in the intro
course for nonmajors than in the intro course for majors.
While there is some good news here, the data do suggest a
shrinking pipeline may continue to exist for both female and
URM students (i.e., in the course data provided, the representation of these students decreased from the intro through
mid-level through upper-level courses). Also, as mentioned
in our opening paragraph, not all units are seeing an increase
in the percentage of women and URM students participating
in computer science. In short, much work remains for the CS
community in the United States to look like our population.
1 We use the term “academic unit” or “unit” to denote the administrative division
responsible for the CS bachelor’s program. Often, but not always, this is an academic