Friday, February 23, 2007

More on the trouble with CS education

The title links to a Stanford press release in which Prof. Eric Roberts indicates that the problem underlying the current decline in CS enrollment lies with CS education. I agree with this: introductory CS classes, for instance, are probably the most in-your-face, student-unfriendly courses at a university. The article goes on, however, to say:

Universities also struggle with attracting enough computer science educators. 'In the '80s boom, there was one year in which there was one applicant for every seven open [teaching] positions, which means that six of the positions just did not get filled,' says Roberts. Today, there are more applicants than openings, but the ratio—hovering at around two to one—still stands in stark contrast to that in most humanities departments, where hundreds of applicants compete for one faculty job opening.

'I used to argue that Ph.D.s in computer science probably lowered your salary, because they opened lower paying jobs [in academia],' Roberts half jokes. 'There's an economic incentive not to teach but to go off and make your killing in the field.'

So, on the one hand, CS faculty are paid too little compared to industry. I'm happy to agree with someone who says I'm underpaid. On the other hand, there are not enough people trying to get faculty positions (two per job opening). Presumably, he wants more applicants and higher pay, not realizing that these are diametrically opposed goals. The reason pay is low is because there are more applicants than positions. If the number of applicants rose to the same level as in the humanities, then pay would fall to the level of that for humanities faculty.

Oh, well, Eric, thanks for playing anyway. We have an assortment of lovely virtual prizes for you to take home.

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