Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Filling the Pipeline for IS Professionals: What Can IS Faculty Do?

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Filling the Pipeline for IS Professionals: What Can IS Faculty Do?

Article excerpt


There are many reasons why declining enrollments are important to the various disciplines of most universities. At both public and private institutions, for example, enrollments affect the number and timing of course offerings, the staffing requirements of the departments that offer them, and of course the recruitment efforts of the colleges who staff them (Goff, 2000; Clark, 2008)). Then, too, at formula-funded universities where funding is calculated based on student counts, enrollment translates into real dollars in the budgets of institutional administrators, and thus influences resource-allocation decisions within the university as a whole (Brookshire, 2006). Finally, the lack of enrollments in some areas or the over-subscription of courses in others presents problems to those administrators seeking to match the supply of course offerings to student demand for them.

Declining enrollments are also of special importance to industry and government employers, who depend upon IS programs to help train new hires or educate returning students seeking graduate-level education (Kastrul, 2008). Here, the laws of supply and demand for qualified graduates are very much in evidence, with (for example) past shortfalls of technically-qualified individuals requiring both businesses and state agencies to pay unexpectedly high salaries or signing bonuses to attract hires for newly-created positions or to replace retiring baby boomers (Murphy, 2005). Then too, many scholars believe that IT personnel are one of an organization's most important resources, and that managing, retaining, recruiting, and replacing such workers are critical challenges to corporate executives (Ferratt, Agarwal et al., 2005). Finally, industry leaders express concern that U.S. and European companies have the potential to lose their competitive edge as more technically-competent hires graduate from institutions in developing countries and begin working for competitors abroad, or are better able to execute the strategic corporate IT initiatives of the future (Pournelle, 2004; Armstrong, Nelson et al., 2008).

A review of the literature suggests that the field of information systems is but one of several fields that have experienced large swings in student enrollments over the years. Similar trends have been observed in such disciplines as agriculture (Smith, 2005), art appreciation (Kimweli and Richards, 1999), chemistry (Wolke, 2006), civil engineering (NewsBriefs, 1998), economics (Fournier and Sass, 2000), and science and mathematics (Brookshire, 2006). The issue of variable enrollments has been particularly characteristic of, and problematic to, the areas of computer studies, where the large increases in enrollments in the 80s and 90s were matched by equally large decreases in the period 2001-2008. In the period from 1980 to 1986, for example, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to computer science majors more than quadrupled (Zhang, 2007). This increase was followed by an equally dramatic drop in student IS majors in subsequent years, with institutions reporting losses as high as 50 percent (Zhang, 2007; Panko, 2008). Granger, et al. (2007) predicts future world-wide decreases "as much as 70 to 80 percent."

Decrease in enrollment may affect the genders unequally. Camp (1997) described the low number of graduates in computer science awarded to women and the "incredible shrinking pipeline". Strategies related to attracting and retaining women in information systems and computer science continue to be "filing the pipeline" issues (Horwitz and Rodger, 2009). Shrinkage in female enrollment have also compounded the "gender gap" perpetuating inequalities in IS workforce development (Trauth, 2006). It would seem that since 1997, there have been islands of improvement (Singh, Allen et al., 2007); however, there remains a need to "fill the pipeline."

Overall, the decrease in computer science and IS majors at U. …

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