Computer Science "Futures"

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 news right 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?"

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"the dot-com bust."

That really was just a downturn on over-priced stock because so many of these VC funded start-ups thought future market value could rely solely on (ironically) market capitalization rather than earnings. That's why many wanted replace P/E and other earnings measurements with things like price per sales or even price per projected revenue (ha ha!).

But the demand for the Internet (and, thus, all the computer science and programming behind it) and its services did not go down, it went up. It even has a bigger market today because of the increase in broadband users. It was just certain unsustainable business models that busted. I can't see how there will not be more growth in demand for programmers over time (and, thus, the need for hardcore computer science as well).

By JohnQPublic (not verified) on 14 Jul 2008 #permalink

Don't listen to the "news" (or the "olds" as you so eloquently label it!), there are still tons of Computer Science students out there- myself being one of them.

Part of the issue is probably that a lot of us have shifted to online colleges and universities for our degrees- we're busy people- and degrees aren't cheap. In this economy, I don't see how any could work and study at the same time (for me it's just not financially possible...).

The News Media probably doesn't use all-encompassing statistics, which perhaps don't even exist at this early point in what I'd call the distance learning explosion (let's hope it doesn't bust before I finish up my MSCS at American Sentinel!) and so the numbers look deflated.

As usual, the "news" is lagging behind the times, telling a story full of half truths, without doing any actual investigation of their own!

Rock on Dave!