Computer science program looks to increase enrollment

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As students are focusing on their academic responsibilities, the University of Saskatchewan has begun to plan its budget for the 2018-19 academic year and is considering changes to the computer science program.

The administration is evaluating whether or not to promote the computer science degree program to premium status, which would increase enrollment rates for the program and provide more funding through an increase in tuition revenue. This potential change in status is based on the high demand of students applying to the program and the high demand for tech-savvy employees in the job market.

Peta Bonham-Smith, dean of the College of Arts and Science, explains that there is currently a waiting list for enrollment into the computer science program, because it is already at capacity for both classroom and laboratory space. She says that the upgrade does not imply that the program is inherently better than any other degree program.

“By premium, it’s not putting it on a level, as a degree, above any other program. It’s premium, because there’s no room in it for students,” Bonham-Smith said. “It’s a premium program, because more students want to be in it than can get into it, at the moment, and that’s very much like programs like medicine [and] like dentistry.”

Bonham-Smith currently cannot say how much the costs of this specific program will increase with premium status, as the tuition prices for the 2018-19 academic year will be reviewed in March by the U of S Board of Governors. She explains that the College of Arts and Science is still consulting with the department and the student body on the upgrade and no specific details have been determined yet.

In March 2017, the Government of Saskatchewan reduced base funding for provincial post-secondary institutions, leaving the U of S to reassess funding for operating costs. Bonham-Smith notes that the provincial budget has been a constraint on allocating resources to the computer science program, but that the increase in tuition price will be beneficial.

“Whatever we do will have ramifications on everything else within the college,” Bonham­Smith said. “What we’re gathering is information, so that we can come up with a good rationale as to what … we [should] do with our resources, and part of our resources is tuition revenue.”

Peggy Anderson, a fourth-year computer science student and the president of the Computer Science Students’ Society, explains that the computer science program is facing a large influx of students, which has been noticeable.

“The classes are currently designed for small classes. I believe that changing the classes to be able to handle larger amounts of students will be extremely beneficial. As an example, our databases class had, from what I understand, … a fairly large waitlist, even after increasing the class size,” Anderson said, in an email to the Sheaf. “[Premium status] will definitely benefit students.”

Bonham-Smith encourages students to come forward to the department of computer science or the CSSS with feedback on the potential changes. Already, student-consultation meetings have been held with the CSSS and the Arts and Science Students’ Union, says Bonham-Smith.

Computer science graduates often have great success upon entering the workforce, because of the demand for workers in the booming technology sector, Bonham-Smith explains, which is likely why more students are choosing this field of study.

“Every graduate out of computer science with a degree in computer science … pretty much gets a job, and what we’re hearing from the tech industry here in Saskatoon is that there are jobs waiting for graduates. So, one of the ways of trying to fill that job market is to increase some of those seats in computer science,” Bonham-Smith said. “It’s a resource issue.”

Larissa Belinsky

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor