Ed Lazowska has penned an article over at the CCC blog about the state of computer science enrollments which is well worth reading.
My favorite part of the post is where Ed points out that the “news” reported in the “news” is not really “news”:
The Taulbee Survey “headline” this year was (roughly) “computer science bachelors degrees drop again.” In my view, this is
not news— it was entirely predictable from the legitimate headline four years ago: (roughly) “freshman interest and new enrollments drop again.” The actual newsright now in the CRA data is that freshman interest and new enrollments seem to be stabilizing and turning the corner — starting to trend upward. “Degrees granted” is a lagging indicator — it lags freshman interest by 4 years. The fact that the number of bachelors degrees granted this past year decreased is not news — anyone could have looked at the freshman interest data from 4 years ago and told you it was going to happen.
Classic. I wonder if we are supposed to call events like this “olds” instead of “news?”
Anyway, Ed points to some interesting effects in Ph.D. data which are clearly a consequence of the dot-com bust. As a graduate student in the Bay Area during the dot com explosion (I left right as the bubble burst), I can tell you that it was very hard to convince many graduate students to stay away from the dot com’s and finish their Ph.D.’s (okay, well I was a physics Ph.D., but even us physics Ph.D.’s sometimes can see opportunities when they are flashing “GREEN, GREEN, GREEN!” in front of us.) And, truth be told, in spite of the ominous economic times we currently live in, I really do get the same vibe of excitement that permeated the dot com boom from listening to all of the interesting startups going on in the Seattle area (John Cook’s venture blog is a good source for this.) But, of course, I also know that the hype of the dot-com hasn’t get escaped from people like me who see all sorts of exciting new opportunities, to the mainstream. Which makes me think that now is an excellent time to be venturing forth into new computing technologies. Of course, this prediction is something totally different from “news” and “olds”, which some will call baloney, but which maybe we should call “futures?”