Technology has evolved in our economy at an unprecedented pace. To anticipate this evolving change, thousands of students across the country have declared computer science as their major.
At the University of Wisconsin, more and more students every year are declaring computer science for their undergrad degree, with the demand increasing nine times over the course of the last 10 years, making it the most popular major for the last two years.
Given the surge in demand, many universities across the country have struggled to accommodate all the students seeking to evolve with the economy and study computer science. As a result, some schools such as the University of Washington, have issued a cap for how many students can enroll in the computer science program.
UW has decided to take a different approach to the situation. The faculty believe it is their duty to the students enrolled here to provide them with every opportunity possible. As a result, the faculty voted in 2016 not to establish a cap for the computer science program — a commendable decision.
Paying tuition here or taking out loans to fund the education received here creates tremendous economic burdens, and after spending all that money, all students should at the least have the opportunity to study what they desire.
This isn’t to be mistaken with the idea that anybody should be able to become a doctor regardless of if they don’t have the grades necessary to do so. Rather, imposing a cap excludes qualified individuals from majoring in something they are passionate about, despite the tens of thousands of dollars paid to seek out and gain skills necessary for future success.
Despite this honorable decision, the school has faced difficulty finding the faculty and space to accommodate the number of students signing up for classes.
Gov. Tony Evers proposed a $45 million budget for 2019-21, which included provisions to increase high demand programs for UW campuses across the state, including computer science. Republican lawmakers are creating their own budget, but whether or not they plan on including some of Evers’ proposals for increased spending at the university level remains unclear.
Regardless of political affiliation, most people should be able to reach a consensus that education is vital for progress. Including spending in our state budget for public institutions such as UW is a down payment today that will become an investment in the future. Everybody wants Wisconsin to thrive, yet we do a disservice every time we disregard the importance of programs designed to give students necessary skills that will transfer through numerous fields in the private sector in the decades to come.
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UW’s computer science program has seen its national ranking fall from ninth in 2007 to 13th as of 2018. Recruiting talent is already a fierce battle, as it’s no secret that faculty members could make much more in the private sector than they do as professors. Coupling this truth with a potential for underfunding the programs will bring great consequences for Wisconsin. If we don’t fund vital programs, we will see talent leave, more students be unable to seek opportunities, and the overall quality of education in this state will decline.
If we want large corporations come to Wisconsin and create jobs, if we want see Wisconsin’s large cities continue to develop, and if we want to see Wisconsin keep moving forward, then it’s essential that we fund programs at the state level to give this hopeful thinking an opportunity to become a reality.
Like nearly everything in economics, the investment in education, or lack thereof, will have implications that integrate across numerous sectors. It’s important to not let short-sighted concerns or partisan tactics get in the way of potential success for our state.
Mitch Rogers ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in economics.