Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has signed a number of California Chamber of Commerce-supported bills that will encourage more students to enroll in computer science courses, and that will help ease the bachelor’s degree shortage California faces by allowing some community colleges to offer bachelor’s degree programs.
Computer Science Education
Computer science involves the study of computers and algorithmic processes, their principles, their hardware, their applications, and their impact on society. The subject is applicable to careers in manufacturing, health care, retail, the arts, and financial services.
In fact, according to Code.org, more than 70% of careers involving computing skills fall outside of the information technology industry, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that one of every two science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs in the country in the coming decades will be in computing occupations, representing more than 150,000 new job openings each year. Best of all, jobs related to computing pay significantly better more the national average salary.
While computer science education promises many benefits for students regardless of what field in which they ultimately plan to work, and while there is a huge need for graduates who possess computer science skills, California has largely ignored this subject as a part of K–12 education.
The following bills will encourage more students to take computer science in high school, giving them valuable exposure to this growing sector early on:
• AB 1539 (Hagman; R-Chino Hills; Chapter 876), signed into law on September 30, will ensure that computer science courses will be rigorous by requiring the State Board of Education to adopt content standards to provide guidance for teaching computer science in grades 7–12 to be used by schools that choose to teach this important subject.
• AB 1764 (Olsen; R-Modesto; Chapter 888), signed by the Governor on September 30, creates an incentive for more students to take a computer science course in high school by making it possible for a school district to count such a course as a math course that meets one of the student’s graduation requirements.
• SB 1200 (Padilla; D-Pacoima; Chapter 518), signed by the Governor on September 20, also seeks to encourage more students to take a computer science course in high school by requesting that the University of California and California State Universities establish guidelines for high school computer science courses that would count as a math course for purposes of undergraduate admissions at both institutions.
Degree Shortage Ahead
The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that California will be short 1 million college graduates by 2025 unless the state makes changes to its education system.
Although the California State University and University of California campuses currently are able to serve more than 650,000 students at a time, the universities do not have the capacity to close the gap by themselves to produce those 1 million extra graduates.
SB 850 (Block; D-San Diego; Chapter 747), signed into law on September 28, expands the ability of the California Community College system to contribute to the number of baccalaureate degrees earned in the public school system.
Specifically, SB 850 establishes a pilot program in the community college system that allows the Chancellor to select certain community colleges to each offer a single bachelor’s degree program in a subject related to an unmet workforce need in the local community that does not overlap with any degree programs offered at nearby postsecondary institutions.