84 students of the class of 2018 have applied to the Computer Science department in their sophomore plan. Of the students, 64 applied for a major and 20 for a minor. This is 21% of the entire class of 409 students.
“The growth in the number of students applying for a CS major is extreme, but not unusual,” said Professor Tia Newhall of the computer science department.
According to the Taulbee Survey, which collects data on computer science PhDs,there has been a roughly two-thirds increase in the number of bachelor degrees in CS nationally since 2010.
Compared to biology, political science, and economics, three of the other most popular majors at Swarthmore, applicants and graduates of computer science have increased dramatically in the recent years.
Declared CS major Rachel Diamond ‘18, the co-president of Swarthmore’s Women in Computer Science group (WiCS), commented on the increasing interest in CS.
“CS is so popular now because it has applications in every field. Pretty much everyone is using computer programs to streamline whatever they do, and it is very valuable to be able to actually write a program or design a website that opens up another set of possibilities,” Diamond said.
“The concept of information networks is pretty cool. In my mind societal inefficiencies occur due to systematic failures in communication,” wrote Leon Chen ‘18, who recently applied to be a double major in computer science and mathematics. “Correcting these errors in certain domains seems to be an achievable goal.”
As a student who enjoys taking social science classes, Chen added, he realizes that efforts to enact legislations or create policies take a long time to bear fruit. He speculated that the popularity of CS could be due to the instant gratification it brings about.
“I realized that CS offers a lot of potential to help people,” said WiCS Co-president Gabriela Brown ‘18. Recently she has been designing robots to automate personalized cancer screenings and hopes to continue combining her interest in biology with CS.
As the number of students in CS courses rises, the department will need to hire more faculty to maintain a small student to faculty ratio.
“I think for non basic courses the student faculty ratio is still fine,” said David Levy ‘18, who recently applied for a CS major. “I think the issue would possibly be in the [CS] 21, 31, and 35 classes.”