"Our enrollment was up 30% this fall over last fall, and we expect to see continued growth on an annual basis," says Professor Mehran Sahami, associate chair for education at Stanford's Computer Science Department. "Our numbers in terms of students majoring in computer science are comparable to the height of the dot-com bubble. But in terms of the number of students taking our courses, we've exceeded that previous record... There is greater interest in computer science, which is reflective of the fact that computers are having an impact on other fields."
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Stanford has 400 undergraduates who have declared computer science as their major. However, 90% of the university's 6,940 undergraduates are now taking at least one computer science course even though it is not required to graduate.
Sahami says interest in computer science courses among undergrads is rising in part because the popular media is showing the power of computing to have an impact on the world.
"The attention surrounding Steve Jobs' passing will motivate some students. The movie 'The Social Network' had some impact. The fact that the high-tech economy is booming again, and that IPOs are happening again, also has an impact," Sahami says. "We see a clear correlation between the health of the computing industrial sector and students' interest in computing."
But the real motivator for many computer science majors is jobs.
"Our students had close to 100% employment last year," Sahami says. "Our students were in high demand. They had multiple offers, stock options and signing bonuses... Computer science undergrads saw salaries ranges where the max of the range got into six figures. The median salary was in the mid-90s."
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