Whither the computing students?

The Computer Studies department at the College set its second-year program of courses for the upcoming academic year. The normal slate would consist of five courses each term, but only three will be offered in the fall, and just two come winter. The reason? Only two of the sixteen students that started in September remain in the program.

The first-year program will again run full-bore, assuming someone registers.

The second-year of the program ran partially this past year, and not at all the year before (due to an alternate-year student intake). As someone who teaches second-year material exclusively -- more an artefact of scheduling than advanced content -- my full-time employment prospects are dim.

The problem stems from a simple lack of students. My first year at the College, I was spoiled by an exceptionally strong group of twelve. The number dwindled to five the following year, and just a couple since then. It does make for a superb student-teacher ratio, one that betters Oxford's tutorial system.

There was, and still is, great hope for the recent accreditation awarded the program by the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS): graduates can transfer their two-year diplomas toward a computer science degree down south.

So where are the students? I can think of a few explanations (none substantiated):

  • Alberta. Although our students can fetch about $46K upon graduating, that's peanuts compared to someone with a pipe trades ticket in the oil patch.
  • Whitehorse. There aren't all that many IT employers in town, and the College may have simply saturated the market, particularly for network positions.
  • The Tech Bust/Offshoring. Ever since 2001, fewer and fewer students have enrolled in IT programs, fearing that the jobs are gone and won't come back.
  • University Computer Science. High-school seniors with geek tendencies are very likely to enrol in a university program -- go Outside and see the world a bit.
  • Admission Requirements. Those that didn't have the prerequisites for university, or returning mature students, tend to be put off by the math component.
  • CIPS Accreditation. To meet their standards, the program had to incorporate more programming courses and eliminate electives. Traditionally, more students have pursued the networking stream. Programming increasingly seems to be an "either you have it or you don't" type of endeavour.

What I can't think of are solutions, so my imminent career plans don't include much teaching. Oddly enough, I don't seem to have any trouble finding programming work. What I can't seem to do is train anyone else for these jobs.