In the Home State of Google, Apple, and Facebook, Computer Science Doesn’t Count Toward College Admissions

During his final State of the Union, President Obama touted the importance of education and training that will allow Americans to get good-paying jobs. One discipline, in particular, was mentioned twice in the speech -- computer science.

“In the coming years, we should build on that progress [we’ve made] by...offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one,” he said.

But currently, only 28 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation, according to Code.org. California is one of them; in 2014, it passed a series of legislation that allows computer science to count for math requirements in high school.

Does your state allow computer science to fulfill math or science requirements for high school graduation? 

But would it surprise you to hear that in California -- the home of Silicon Valley, the birthplace of tech giants such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, just to name a few -- computer science doesn’t count toward the math or science requirement needed to get into a University of California school?

Computer science is classified as an elective in the UC admission process. Since California high schools often tailor their curriculum to reflect the UC requirements, relegating computer science to elective status doesn’t encourage high schools to offer those courses and it doesn’t encourage students -- let alone a diverse group of students -- to enroll.

And there is a need for people to study computer science. Last year, only 38,175 computer science students graduated into the workforce and there were more than 500,000 computing jobs waiting for them, according to Code.org.

Claire Shorall wants to make sure that all California students, like her juniors and seniors at Castlemont High School in Oakland, have access to computer science (CS) classes so they can be the next generation of programmers and developers. She’s joined up with Code.org to ask the University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (UC BOARS) to make computer science count toward admission requirements. Her petition has nearly 16,000 signatures.

“It’s heartbreaking to see a student forced to choose between CS, which would be foundational to her career, and the courses required for college,” wrote Shorall in her petition. “In America’s top universities, CS is rapidly becoming the most popular field of study. Leaders across academia and business have declared that computer science is foundational.”

Read about Claire’s experience teaching computer science on the Teach for America blog.

Some of those leaders include Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, among others, who wrote a letter to UC BOARS in December asking that computer science be allowed to satisfy the core math requirement for admission.

UC Academic Senate Chairman J. Daniel Hare said the board allows some computer science courses to meet the math requirement. One of the laws passed in 2014 asks both on Cal State and UC systems to develop guidelines for high school computer science courses that they agree on.

 

Do you want computer science to count toward college admissions in your state?