Computer Science Enrollment Drops as Field's Luster Fades

Article excerpt

BOSTON (AP) - College students have stopped flocking to computer science programs after learning job prospects are not as bright and that the field is more difficult than they had thought, university officials say.

``They found that they had to take calculus, they had to take physics. It's not a video games major,'' John Rice, chairman of Purdue University's Department of Computer Science, said Monday.

``Five years ago, computers looked like they were the land of good money and easy opportunity,'' said Paul Kalaghan, dean of the College of Computer Science at Northeastern University.

``I think today people understand it's a scientific discipline. Students found it was more difficult, that the mathematical rigor was large. It's not an easy business, really, when you couple that to the negative press the computer industry is getting.''

The industry is concerned about the drop in enrollment, said Dev Glaser, college recruitment manager for Digital Equipment Corp.

``I see it reducing the applicant pool,'' she said. ``There certainly is going to be a need for more and better technical talent in the high-tech industry.''

A survey of 552 colleges by the University of California at Los Angeles found that about 1.6 percent of the freshmen who entered college last fall wanted to major in computer science. That compared with 2.1 percent in 1985 and 4 percent in 1982.

No enrollment figures were available, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which supplied the UCLA figures.

``For a long time it was a fairly specialized, technical field,'' said Jay Nievergelt, chairman of the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. …