Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64806-2002Aug26.html By Ellen McCarthy Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, August 27, 2002; Page E01 If John Yandziak had been entering college a few years ago, he might have sought a stake in the "new" economy. He might have dreamed of becoming an ace code-cracker for the CIA or the National Security Agency, or imagined toppling an empire with revolutionary software. Maybe he would have tried to use the Internet to end world hunger. But as Yandziak attends his first college classes this week, he's harboring different academic ambitions. The Ashburn native says he wants to do something more social and more interesting than working with computers. Besides, he said while packing for a Charlottesville dormitory room, "you can't get the chicks with that anymore." The tech industry's financial problems are enough to bankrupt the dreams of some fair-weather students. But now there's another consequence of the tech bust: Enrollment growth in undergraduate computer science departments has come to a halt. The number of undergraduates majoring in computer science fell 1 percent in 2001, according to a report by the Computing Research Association. And educators in the field say the trend seems to be accelerating, with some colleges seeing much greater drops as the new academic year begins. The word is out among department deans that the bust's fallout has trickled into the classroom, said Maria Clavez, president of the Association of Computing Machinery. "I've heard everything from no change to modest decline to more dramatic declines," said Clavez, who will become the dean of science and engineering at Princeton University in January. "It can be hard to see this, because at some colleges the number of people who want to study computer science so far exceeds the available space. [But] it is going to have an effect." At Virginia Tech, enrollment of undergraduates in the computer science department will drop 25 percent this year, to 300. At George Washington University, the number of incoming freshmen who plan to study computer science fell by more than half this year. Interest in undergraduate computer science programs had grown rapidly in the past decade. In 1997, schools with PhD programs in computer science and computer engineering granted 8,063 degrees, according to the Computing Research Association. The numbers rose through 2001, when 17,048 degrees were awarded. The Labor Department projects that software engineering will be the fastest-growing occupation between 2000 and 2010, with other computer-related industries trailing close behind. But in the short term that growth may slow, based on the changes among college students. For example, 900 of the 2,000-plus undergraduates studying information technology and engineering at George Mason University were computer science majors last year. This year the enrollment in that major is down to 800, although a newly created and more general information technology major has attracted 200 students. "Having it ease off for a while is a bit of a relief," said Lloyd Griffith, dean of George Mason's information technology and engineering school. "Particularly with the field as it has been, they don't want to spend four years on something and then not get a job." Freshman enrollment for the University of Maryland's computer science major is expected to be about 167 this fall, down from 329 last year. Maryland decreased its total freshman enrollment by 11 percent, but that alone does not account for the drop, said Steve Halperin, dean of Maryland's College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences. "We are seeing a decrease in the number of freshmen who are declaring their interest in pursuing computer science as a major," Halperin said. "That's a factual statement. But I would say that at this point . . . we don't expect to see a decrease in the number of graduates. Many of the kids who are no longer expressing an interest in majoring in CS would have fallen off." Yandziak, who began at the University of Virginia on Saturday, is not convinced that's the case. He graduated in the top 5 percent of his class, with a 3.9 grade-point average, and nailed the highest possible score on his advanced-placement exam in computer science. "All of my classes have been easy for me. Math and sciences were always fun, so I looked for professions in which I could use those things," Yandziak said. "I'm just not sure I want my life to be immersed in [technology]. I want to do something that will contribute to the practical world." Harris N. Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said the last time there was a dearth of computing professionals, salaries skyrocketed and workers benefited from the labor shortage. "There was a tremendous imbalance in the late '90s; potentially you have the same sort of thing going on right now. People are saying, 'I don't need this kind of IT training right now,' " Miller said. "Our concern as an industry is that if they begin to again see major declines in enrollment, down the road four years, as the economy picks up, once again companies are going to find themselves in a shortage situation." Economic potential weighs heavily in many student career choices, but other factors, including program difficulty, personal interests and social influences, also come into play, said Judy Hingle, director of professional development at the American College Counseling Association. The perception of computer science as an isolating, "nerdy" profession is one that many in the industry have tried to squelch. That stereotype went underground during the tech bubble but reemerged during the bust. "All the hipness is gone," Yandziak said. "Once we thought of the Internet as this thing with infinite capabilities. It was basically just a fad that came along." Lamont Thompson, a recent graduate of Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in the District, is headed to Morehouse College in Atlanta to study business marketing, with the intention of going into real estate development. "Technology comes natural to people my age; it's not fascinating anymore," Thompson said. "To be honest with you, when I think computer science, I think of some guy sitting behind a computer all day in a dark room. It's a necessity, but I wouldn't take it any further." *==============================================================* "Communications without intelligence is noise; Intelligence without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. 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