Declining CIS enrollment: An examination of pre-college factors, WL Lomerson, L Pollacia

Tags: CIS, number of students, computer-related, Management Information Systems, Computer Information Systems, school counseling, CIS majors, college major, decline, web, societal impact, Answer Choices, enrollments, Computing Research Association, CIS COB CIS COB CIS COB Other Louisiana Universities, incoming students, CIS major, Robert Baskerville, University of Louisiana System, College of Business, steady increase, career information, decision making process, high school, personal computer skills, high school students, CIS information campaign, business degrees, school enrollments, CIS students, business school enrollments, target population, percent increase, freshman level
Content: Volume 4, Number 35
http://isedj.org/4/35/
July 18, 2006
In this issue: Declining CIS Enrollment: An Examination of Pre-College Factors
William L. Lomerson Northwestern State University Natchitoches, LA 71497 USA
Lissa F. Pollacia Northwestern State University Natchitoches, LA 71497 USA
Abstract: Anecdotal and direct enrollment evidence indicates there is a declining interest in Computer information systems (CIS) as a major. We believe one of the significant contributors to this decline is the lack of availability of accurate information about this area to high school students when they are making choices about future careers and appropriate colleges. We tested this proposition by surveying freshmen in our introductory computers course to determine their differential knowledge of the various computer career fields. In addition, we collected data concerning the information that a student used to select a college, select a major, their initial college major and the source of that information. The results of this survey provide initial guidance on some remediation activities that CIS programs may undertake to increase the number of students pursuing a CIS major. Keywords: computer career, career counseling, declining computer majors, enrollment decline
Recommended Citation: Lomerson and Pollacia (2006). Declining CIS Enrollment: An Examination of Pre-College Factors. Information Systems Education Journal, 4 (35). http://isedj.org/4/35/. ISSN: 1545-679X. (Also appears in The Proceedings of ISECON 2005: §2152. ISSN: 1542-7382.) This issue is on the Internet at http://isedj.org/4/35/
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Declining CIS Enrollment: An Examination of Pre-College Factors William L. Lomerson [email protected]
Lissa Pollacia [email protected]
Northwestern State University Natchitoches, Louisiana 71497 USA
Abstract Anecdotal and direct enrollment evidence indicates there is a declining interest in Computer Information Systems (CIS) as a major. We believe one of the significant contributors to this decline is the lack of availability of accurate information about this area to high school students when they are making choices about future careers and appropriate colleges. We tested this proposition by surveying freshmen in our introductory computers course to determine their differential knowledge of the various computer career fields. In addition, we collected data concerning the information that a student used to select a college, select a major, their initial college major and the source of that information. The results of this survey provide initial guidance on some remediation activities that CIS programs may undertake to increase the number of students pursuing a CIS major. Keywords: computer career, career counseling, declining computer majors
1. INTRODUCTION A growing body of evidence that indicates there is a declining interest in Computer Information Systems (CIS) as a university major. If this decline in enrollments continues, it will have a major impact on both academic organizations and businesses that depend upon these graduates to resupply these very specialized positions. Our research has located a fair amount of speculation as to the cause of this decline but only a limited amount of targeted research. We believe that some of the problem lies with decisions made by students when they are still in high school deciding on possible future careers. In this research project, we undertake to survey incoming students to determine factors that dissuaded or encouraged them to major in CIS.
2. PROBLEM AND PURPOSE Most, if not all, direct and anecdotal evidence points to a steady decline in the number of students who are electing to major in a computing-related field, such as Computer Information Systems (CIS), Computer Science (CS), or Management Information Systems (MIS) (Kessler, 2005; Rednova, 2005). There is speculation that this is due to the dot-com bust and the concern about the outsourcing of jobs to countries such as China and India. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, high-level jobs that combine technical and business skills are still abundant in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs in the industry sector computer systems Design And Related Services, which includes jobs such as information systems managers, programmers, systems analysts, Database Administrators, and network
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administrators, will increase by 54.6% from 2002 to 2012 (Bureau 2004).
If there are not enough qualified graduates to fill these jobs, however, this robust employment demand could be stymied. While the shortage of qualified Information Technology (IT) graduates has not become a significant problem yet; the decline of computing majors, if the trend continues, will create a problem in the near future.
Interviews with our students have led us to suspect that one factor contributing to the decline in CIS majors may be that high school counselors, along with other sources, are not providing students with accurate information about the CIS field when they are selecting a college major. Other sources of information, such as family, peer and the popular press, may be also be sources of information used to form opinions about this field of study.
We propose to determine the factors that
influence a student's decision concerning a
CIS major by conducting a survey of
students enrolled in freshman level
introductory computer courses.
The
questionnaire will examine their awareness
of computer careers and factors that
influenced their choice of a computer related
major or non-computer related major. We
hope that an analysis of this data will
provide some insight into remedial actions
that may be undertaken to reinvigorate
enrollment in CIS courses.
3. BACKGROUND The number of students majoring in computing degrees has fluctuated greatly over the last twenty-five years. According to Computing Research Association's Taulbee Survey (Zweben, 2004), undergraduate Computer Science (CS) degrees awarded nearly quadrupled in the early 1980s to over 42,000 degrees per year. This was followed by a period of swift decline and a leveling off during the 1990s of approximately 25,000 degrees per year. During the late 1990s, CS degree production again surged to over 43,000 in 2001. Since 2000, however, there has been a steady decline in the number of CS degrees with a total of 14, 185 awarded in 2003/2004. In addition, the number of students that have declared CS as their major has declined
steadily and is now 39 percent lower than in the Fall of 2000 (Vegso, 2005.) Current figures appear to indicate that student majors in Computer Information Systems (CIS) or Management Information Systems (MIS) are also declining. Although figures are not compiled for CIS/MIS nationwide, the levels of CIS/MIS majors at our university and statewide appear to mirror the trends of CS majors. Our own CIS department has seen a 32 percent decline in CIS majors since 2000. When we examined enrollments in CIS/MIS for other Louisiana state universities, we found that at the statewide level there has been an even larger decrease (43 percent) in the number of students seeking a CIS/MIS degree since 2000 (Table 1). The reasons why students are wary of majoring in CIS/MIS is not well documented. Some educators, such as Robert Baskerville, professor and chair of CIS at the Robinson College of Business At Georgia State University, speculate that the dot-com bust, the outsourcing of IT jobs, and the volatility of IT stocks may be discouraging students from pursuing IT degrees (BizEd, 2004.) Baskerville goes on to suggest, "This may be a cyclical process in the information systems job market. As the economy comes back and the demand for IT workers resumes, businesses will find a significant shortfall in skilled workers." This shortfall will spur students to flock back to CIS/MIS programs in order to take advantage of the job opportunities. Baskerville states that we may have to wait until the popular press discovers that there is an impending shortage in the IT workforce before enrollment figures will increase. A related study conducted at the Center for Economic Research at Chapman University in Orange California may shed some light on reasons why there are declining CIS/MIS majors (Doti, 2005.) Although this study did not focus singularly on CIS/MIS degrees, it analyzed data for Business School degrees, both master's and bachelor's, awarded in the U.S. over the last 30 years. The purpose of the study was to determine factors that influence the number of degrees awarded each year. Conventional wisdom has held that when the economy is good, enrollments in business schools drop; and conversely,
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when the economy is in a slump, workers return to school and enrollments increase. Their data did not support this widely-held conventional wisdom. The researchers found that while there is year-to-year fluctuation, there has been a steady consistent growth in business school enrollments, from 30,000 in 1973 to 120,000 in 2000 (Doti, 2005.) By testing various macroeconomic variables, the researchers were able to determine factors that may account for the year-to-year fluctuations in business degrees: · A 1 percent increase in the U.S. gross national product (GNP) yields a 0.6 percent increase in the number of master's degrees awarded three years later. · A 1 percent increase in the number of high school graduates leads to a 0.6 increase in the number of business degrees awarded four years later. · A 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate results in a 0.2 decrease in the number of business degrees awarded four years later. The results of this study indicate that good economic times will spur students to enroll in business degrees. While CIS/MIS degrees usually include a number of business courses and are often housed with the business disciplines, the recent overall trend in CS/CIS/MIS enrollments seem to indicate that the level of enrollments are not as heavily influenced by the general economy. That is, while business school enrollments have showed a steady increase over the last five years, CS/CIS/MIS enrolments have exhibited an overall decline during the same period. Table 1 (located at the end of the article) compares CIS enrolments with the other College of Business (COB) enrolments and provides support for this general observation among Louisiana Universities collectively (excluding the authors' university) and the authors' university specifically. 4. PURPOSE AND METHODOLOGY To uncover some of the causes of this enrollment decline, we decided to examine entering students' differential knowledge of the various computer career fields and to
determine the factors that influenced their selection of college and major field of study. We hope that the results of this survey will provide guidance on some remediation activities that we may undertake to increase the number of students pursuing a CIS program at our university. We selected students in freshman level introductory computer courses offered by the College of Business and General Studies as our target population. This group was selected on the basic assumption that at this point in their college studies they would have had the least amount of modification in their attitudes and knowledge of computer related careers and majors since leaving high school. In selecting the items to be included in the questionnaire, we drew on many of the suggested causes of disinterest that were suggested in our literature review (BizED, 2004; Doti and Tuggle, 2005; Kessler, 2005; Rednova, 2005). We also used our own experience in teaching, researching and consulting on issues important to CIS students and prospective employers. Where possible, we used Likert scales for question responses to enable statistical analysis where sufficient responses were available. After developing the initial questionnaire, we had it reviewed for face and content validity by four students representative of the target population along with four instructors and fOur College recruiters familiar with the target population. Because we wished to collect the opinions of incoming students in an introductory computer course, we decided to use a webbased survey to reach our target population. We believe that the shortcomings of webbased surveys, which were identified by O'Malley, et al., (O'Malley, 2002) such as demographics, technology capability, and literacy capability of the participant, appear to be non-factors in this survey given the subject matter and the target population. The survey instrument is shown in the Appendix. 5. DISCUSSION OF RESULTS This study represents an initial foray into the subject of enrollment declines in CIS majors. However, it is interesting to examine the responses at this point. This section will
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present some preliminary observations about these initial respondents. Forty-four usable responses were obtained with approximately the same number of students from the business and general studies courses. While the sample provided some interesting implications, there was insufficient data to do any analytical statistics. All tables are located at the end of the article. Demographics As Table 2 indicates, the respondents form a diverse group of students rather than the compact distribution that we expected from a freshman level course. About half of the students are 25 or older with the average number of course hours completed and in progress considerably higher than a traditional freshman. Major Selection Tables 3, 4, and 5 give some background into the interest and attitudes of the students with regard to computer related majors. The students were asked if they had ever considered a college major dealing with computers (Table 3). If the student selected one of the choices indicating they were not in a computer related major, they were directed to a follow-on question based upon their selection. If they chose "Yes, but..." they were directed to the question shown in Table 4. If they chose "No," they were directed to the question shown in Table 5. There were 14 respondents to the question shown in Table 4 with 17 responses, since multiple answer selections were permitted. While there was no single reason that emerged, we feel that all of the selections indicate a lack of sufficient information to make a good decision. There were not enough responses to "Other" for analysis. Table 5 gives some interesting things to think about in determining what is classified as a technical career. No single factor dominated the "Other" responses but they do provide some direction for expanding the choices in this section in future questionnaires. Comparing these responses with their current majors may provide some additional insight into ways to attract students into some of the less technical
areas of CIS, such as business analysis or web mastering.
High School Influences
Tables 6, 7 and 8 attempt to discover the factors students used to develop their opinions and awareness of computer related majors prior to matriculation. When looking at Table 6, we can see that personally developed information appears to play a very important role in the decision making process.
In Table 7 we examined the perceived
effectiveness of high school counseling in
providing effective guidance to college
majors, especially those related to
computers.
Based on a cumulative
comparison of the responses to all questions
in this section, only 27% of the respondents
answered favorably (agree or strongly
agree) about their high school counseling
experience.
Table 8 shows that while the majority of students are comfortable with their personal computer skills, they have little knowledge of the availability, societal impact or career opportunities in CIS and other computer related disciplines.
6. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS This paper presents the results of a pilot questionnaire given to a relatively small sample of students. However, we feel this initial study has shown that there are areas that can be addressed that may lead to CIS enrollment increases. The results seem to indicate that our initial speculation that high school students are not obtaining adequate and/or accurate information concerning computer-related majors appears to be true for many students. The results also uncovered a variety of causes for the disinterest in a computer career. Reasons that involve personal likes and dislikes (i.e. I don't like computers or I don't want a technical career) are probably not something that can be ameliorated. However, those reasons, such as lack of career information and the perception of a weak job market are areas that can be addressed proactively. One particularly surprising result was the fact that over half of the respondents reported choosing their major using only self-developed information. They appeared
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to give limited influence to family, high school counselor, peers, or the popular press. We initially believed that high school counselors played a large role in the student's career decision-making process, but our results indicated otherwise. Our survey found that students have a high level of dissatisfaction with their high school counseling experience. All of these factors discussed above might be addressed and improved by a CIS information campaign directed at counselors and teachers of computer classes in the high schools matriculating our students. The survey also overwhelmingly indicates that students have little knowledge of the availability, societal impact or career opportunities in CIS. This is something that might be remediated effectively by including these topics as part of our introductory computer classes. This would help to counter any inaccurate information acquired by the student prior to enrolling in college and, at the same time, provide the very knowledge that the student needs to make an informed career choice. For the future, we plan to revise the survey instrument using information gained from responses to this initial survey. Thereafter, we will conduct a survey at the beginning of the Fall 2005 semester with a larger number of participants. We think this will provide us with more students who are early in their college career, i.e. "traditional" freshmen, which should yield an expanded and extended set of data. This research has taken an initial step in the quest for some answers to the question of declining CIS majors. Future research should be able to provide more definitive answers to this important question. REFERENCES BizEd (2004, May 12) "Are U.S. Enrollments in IT Shrinking?" BizEd May/June 2004, p. 50-52, retrieved July 15, 2005 from AACSB web site: http://www.aacsb.edu /publications/archives/mayjune04/p5052.pdf
Doti, James L. and Francis D. Tuggle (2005, July 12) "Doing the Math on B-School Enrollments", BizEd July/August 2005, p. 46-50, retrieved from AACSB web site on July 20, 2005: http://www.aacsb.edu /publications/archives/julyaug05/p4651.pdf
Kessler, Michelle (2005, May 23) "Fewer Students Major in Computer: Some Fear Shortage of U.S. Workers, More Outsourcing." USAToday, retrieved from USAToday web site on July 12, 2005: http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/ money/20050523/1b_computerscience2 3.art.htm.
O'Malley, J.R., McCraw, J.H., and Matheson, L. (2002) "Internet Enhanced Surveying: Should We Do It?", Proceedings of the Thirty Second Southeast Decision Sciences Institute, M.C. Spears (ed.), Hilton Head, NC, 2002, pp. 150-151.
RedNova (2005, February 21) "Computer Majors Shortage a Warning", RedNova News, retrieved from RedNova web site on June 14, 2005: http://www .rednova.com/news/display/?id=12961
Bureau (2004) Bureau of Labor Statistics (2004-5) U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2004-05 Edition, "Computer Systems Design and Related Services", retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site on July 29, 2005: http://www.bls.gov oco/cg/cgs033.htm
Vegso, Jay (2005, March) "CS Bachelor's Degree Production Grows in 2004; Poised for Decline." Computing Research News, 17(2).
Zweben, Stuart (2005, May) "2003-2004
Taulbee Survey:
Record Ph.D.
Production
on
the
Horizon;
undergraduate enrollments Continue in
Decline." Computing Research News,
Vol. 17/No. 3, retrieved from Computing
Research Association web site July 2,
2005:
http://www.cra.org/CRN/
articles/may05/taulbee.html
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Appendix ­ Tables and Web Questionnaire
Table 1. - Five year comparative enrollment
Fall 2000
Fall 2004
Enrollment Change
CIS
COB
CIS
COB
CIS
COB
Other Louisiana Universities with CIS Majors
2743
13952
1561
15657
-43%
12%
Authors' University
361
1074
239
1084
-34%
1%
Data Source: Board of Regents, University of Louisiana System, 2005
Table 2: Basic demographics of respondents
Female
Male
Age
Average
Average
Hours
Hours
18 - 24
55% 40%
50
74%
34
25 and older 45% 60%
40
26%
88
Total
44
25
19
Table 3: Did you ever consider a college major dealing with computers?
Answer Choices (select one)
Responses
Yes, I am currently studying a computer-related major.
4
9%
Yes, but I did not pursue it.
14
32%
No.
26
59%
Table 4: I considered a computer-related major but did not pursue it because
Answer Choices (select all that apply)
Responses
I could not find enough information about computer careers.
3
21%
I thought it would be too hard.
4
29%
I thought it would be too technical.
3
21%
I didn't think I would like the work.
3
21%
I didn't think the employment prospects were good.
2
14%
Other (please specify)
2
14%
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Table 5: I did not consider a computer-related major because
Answer Choices (select all that apply)
Responses
I never heard any information about computer careers.
1
4%
I am not interested in technical careers.
10
38%
I don't like using computers.
4
15%
People who use computers are strange.
0
0%
I didn't think the employment prospects were good.
2
8%
I don't have access to a personal computer.
3
12%
Other (please specify)
7
27%
Table 6: How did you select your major? Answer Choices (select all that apply) Inputs from family Input from school counselor Inputs from peers Decided yourself without input from anyone Heard about the field from books, TV, etc. Other (please specify)
Responses
5
11%
7
16%
5
11%
25
57%
2
5%
5
11%
Table 7: Select the designator that best describes your level of agreement with the comments about your high school counseling experience. SD - Strongly Disagree D - Disagree N - Neutral A - Agree SA - Strongly Agree
SD D
N
A SA
S(he) gave me good ideas concerning my college major.
8
7
14
9
5
S(he) was knowledgeable about careers in the computing field.
6
9
17
7
4
S(he) gave me good counseling concerning computerrelated careers. Overall I am satisfied with the college and career counseling I received in high school.
8
12 14
5
4
9
8
13
5
8
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Table 8: Select the designator that best describes your level of knowledge about each of the listed topics. None Min -. Minimal Mod - Moderate Signf - Significant
College major in Computer Information Systems (CIS)
None
Min
20
14
Mod 7
Signf 2
Careers available to a CIS major
21
15
5
2
College major in Computer Science (CS)
22
15
4
2
Careers available to a CS major
23
13
5
2
College majors in other computer-related fields
20
13
8
2
Careers available in computer-related fields
20
14
6
2
Using computers in general
6
7
21
9
Web Questionnaire
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WL Lomerson, L Pollacia

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