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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Crowded courses delays computer science majors

Due to the program tripling in size, students transferring to Western’s computer science major are expected to wait up to a year before taking courses.

In the last three years, the amount of students entering into the computer science program as a major or pre-major has increased from 150 to 550. This has led to long waitlists, students not being able to take the electives they want and frustration from freshman because they can not get into the classes they need.

This April, Associate Director of Admissions Jeanne Gaffney, sent a letter to 150 incoming transfer students wanting to study computer science. The letter warned transfer students of the potential wait to start their major, in an effort to put the current computer science majors first.

“[For] the majority of students who don’t transfer, it is a pretty big problem not getting into classes even at the junior and senior level.”

Senior Amos Nistrian, a computer science major

Catherine Clark, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said the college has acknowledged the issue and are actively working to find a solution. Clark attributed a lack of funding as to what was preventing the college from addressing the issue.

“We need to hire additional faculty to be able to open up more sections,” Clark said. “In able to hire additional faculty, we need additional resources,”

Three years ago, before the sudden surge of computer science majors, Western’s computer science program received about $2 million from the state of Washington to hire five additional faculty. There are currently 19 teachers within the computer science department, according to the department’s website.

“If we had funding for faculty, we could hire additional faculty,” Clark said. “We would be able to have more classes, more sections of the classes, so we would have reduced waitlists and [give] more access to students.”

However, during those three years, the number of computer science majors and pre-majors drastically increased.

To get into the computer science major, students must pass three classes, the first of which is computer science 141. Junior Sasa Vukovic, a computer science major, said there was a waitlist to get into the introductory class. He had to wait two quarters to get into the required prerequisite.

“I couldn’t get into the computer science 241 until spring quarter of my freshman year, and even then, I was waitlisted and barely squeezed in,” Vukovic said.

Senior Jesse Sliter is another computer science major who has had difficulty getting into his required classes.

“It took me three quarters to get into computer science 247,” Sliter said. “I have some friends who have tried for over a year and are still trying to get in.”

“I couldn’t get into the computer science 241 until spring quarter of my freshman year, and even then, I was waitlisted and barely squeezed in.”

Junior Sasa Vukovic, a computer science major

Not all students have issues getting into classes. Transfer students have had an advantage over freshman since transfer students typically come to Western with more credits, allowing them priority over other students during registration.

“[For] the majority of students who don’t transfer, it is a pretty big problem not getting into classes even at the junior and senior level,” senior Amos Nistrian, a computer science major, said.

One issue causing frustration among computer science majors is the difficulty of getting into their electives of choice. Students in the major say it isn’t uncommon to graduate without ever taking the electives they want, and only being able to take classes that are less desired, Vukovic said.

“This quarter I had trouble getting into the electives I wanted,” Sliter said. “I am a senior; I am not going to have any more credits ever, so to me that was really frustrating.”

In the letter, Gaffney highlighted three options to consider if waitlists became troublesome for students; those were to focus on GUR requirements, complete a minor or double major and explore similar majors such as mathematics or business administration.

1 COMMENT

  1. Correction: It was 141 I couldn’t get into until my freshman year spring quarter, which is the first course in the major. I was then waitlisted for 241 for multiple quarters afterwards.

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