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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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Clark College seeks support to add computer science bachelor’s degree

Program would focus on applied science rather than research

By , Columbian staff writer

Representatives from Clark College delivered a statement of need for a bachelor’s degree program in computer science to the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges Wednesday morning.

As of now, though the school offers a host of classes and an associate degree in computer science, it doesn’t offer a bachelor’s degree of its own. Instead, it refers interested students to continue their education in the field at Washington State University Vancouver, the University of Washington or elsewhere.

Financial support to offer a full degree in the field, Clark representatives say, can help students in and from Southwest Washington pursue a field in industry-connected computer science without needing to go out of state or leave the region.

Clark’s existing student interest and faculty support in computer science serves as a strength to make this request a successful reality, they said. A poll conducted on campus this year found that over 400 current students at Clark said they would have interest in pursuing such a degree if it was instated.

What would make their offerings different than WSU Vancouver or other research universities, however, would be the program’s dedication to application in industry as opposed to academic research.

“There is less focus on theory. There is more focus on making sure the students are ready so that the first day when they go on a job they are prepared and execute,” said Izad Khormaee, the adviser for the computer science department at Clark.

Clark’s presentation came alongside similar statements of need in varying fields from six other community and technical colleges in Washington.

Enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs in Washington’s community and technical colleges has declined in recent years, a trend that the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges director of transfer education Valerie Sundby said is due to colleges’ focus on “surviving and functioning” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools revamp growth in bachelor’s programs, Sundby said that trend is changing.

“I’m excited to share that we’re seeing that shift now back to reengaging in program development,” Sundby said.

Sundby added that the programs proposed Wednesday aligned with areas of study like technology and environmental science that are seeing growth across the state, including Clark’s interest in computer science, Sundby said.

In Southwest Washington, Sundby said there are as many as 1,500 annual job openings in computer science compared to an average of 53 local annual graduates in the field — making it an area with a lot of space for potential growth.

“(Clark) has a long history of teaching computer science, Sundby said. “And there’s more interest than they’ll possibly be able to accommodate in those first few years.”

No date was offered for when the board might make a decision on the application from Clark and the other institutions.