Western Washington University computer science department faces the ax despite tech worker shortage

Western Washington University is considering eliminating or drastically reducing its computer science department, a proposal that comes amid a growing need for software developers and engineers in the state.

“It was a big surprise to me. I didn’t dream that anybody would consider reducing the computer science department in the 21st century,” said WWU computer science chair Geoffrey Matthews. “There is such a huge, huge need for computer scientists. It had never occurred to me that they would consider doing that as one of their first responses to a budget cut.”

In fact, Matthews believed that the department — given the need for software developers in the state — would be a candidate for increased resources. The department has placed its students at Adobe, Boeing, Microsoft as well as smaller Bellingham software companies like Logos Bible Software and DSI over the years.

Matthews received the news that the department was in jeopardy last week.

“I was stunned,”  Matthews tells GeekWire. “All of our students have multiple job offers, and they are all going into high-tech jobs at $60,000 to $70,000 right out of school which, of course, is exactly what we need to get the state of Washington out of the recession that it is in.”

Budget cuts are forcing cuts across multiple departments at Western, from art and theater to geology and sociology, according to a statement on the proposed cutbacks released earlier this month.  It is unclear from that statement just how the computer science department will be impacted.

A growing need for Computer Science grads in the state (Source: HECB)

But Matthews, who joined the department in 1985 and was named chairman last year, said he’s been told that the university is considering the elimination of the computer science major altogether. At this point, about 100 students are majoring in computer science.

The department, which has about a dozen faculty members, graduates about 40 majors each year. Just this year, the department accepted 90 new majors and is on a significant growth trajectory.

Existing majors will be able to complete their degrees. But, over time, the major would be phased out if the proposal goes through, Matthews said.

“Just the fact that it is being considered, strikes me as bizarre,” said Matthews.

A key meeting is being held between University administrators and computer science faculty today at 2 p.m. to consider options. The proposal comes just as technology leaders are set to gather in downtown Seattle for the annual Technology Alliance luncheon, an organization which over the years has touted the importance of boosting higher education in the state.

“If you go to the front page of Western, they have a mission statement. And one of their top goals is to serve the state of Washington,” Matthews said. “Well, according to the (Higher Education Board report) the need for computer science majors outstrips all other needs for higher education in the state of Washington by far.” (See chart).

Many graduates of the program are outraged at the possibility. Scott Laird, a 1997 graduate, said that computer science grads were the second highest paid of all new graduates coming out of the university in a 2009 to 2010 survey.

“Personally, I’m shocked that they’re even considering closing the program,” said Laird.

UPDATE: Following today’s meeting with university administrators, I reached out to WWU Computer Science Chair Geoffrey Matthews for an update. He said the meeting confirmed what was communicated earlier today.

“Yes we are being considered for a cut (and before other departments or colleges, such as Fairhaven), but no decisions have yet been made,” Matthews says. “Our only real hope right now is that the legislature’s budget cuts are no bigger than 3 percent.”

We’ll keep tracking the story, and share more details as they arise. Also, it is worth noting that Seattle tech entrepreneur Jeremy Jaech — chair of the Technology Alliance — mentioned the situation at Western in remarks today at the annual technology luncheon.

“What we talk about and how important education is to our economy and for Washington state students, we are still cutting it, and that it is a real shame,” said Jaech.

Follow-up: Western Washington University Provost: ‘We’re not looking forward enough” with computer science

Previously on GeekWire: “UW’s Ed Lazowska on the engineering talent crunch”

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.

  • http://treemolabs.com brentbrookler

    I can’t believe this. ‘Bizarre’ or just plain dumb or shortsighted or a number of words come to mind. This is disturbing to not only the Seattle/Washington tech community, but our company, Treemo Labs. We have several computer science majors from WWU who work for us and the caliber of work is top notch. We continue to actively recruit from WWU and hope that this does poor decision does not come to fruition.

  • Anonymous

    This is surprising and very disappointing. Western’s program WAAAY back in the day was rigorous and was considered superior to UW’s. But considering how programming jobs are offshored nowadays with very little value placed on experience and local team building, it may be a sign of the times.

  • JosiahJ

    As a WWU alumni, this is a travesty. WWU has a top notch CS program that hasn’t gained the prestige as maybe UW, but we’ve hired multiple CS and MIS grads from WWU that are amazing performers. To me, this is worse then cutting the WWU football team given the shortage of tech pool in the PNW and our overall economic condition.

  • http://twitter.com/cmas Christopher M

    Who are the people making these decisions? If this is indicative of the type of management we have leading our state universities and colleges, it’s a HUGE warning flag.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kmorrill Kevin Morrill

    I am unclear why they don’t just raise tuition rates if they think the program is so popular. Is there some kind of state regulated cap on tuition?

    • bring_em_back

      They have already raised tuition 30% over the past two years, with another 13% hike next year.

  • http://twitter.com/stevepnewman Steve Newman

    This is extremely shortsighted and somewhat mind-boggling. Lend your support by tweeting and/or blogging about this. Awareness of the issue and a strong response is critical.

    • Guest

      Tweets and blogs don’t pay the bills, Steve. Taxes do. Posting some cheques to Olympia sends a more indelible message than does posting some hashtags into the ether.

      • http://twitter.com/stevepnewman Steve Newman

        True. But awareness is the first step. Financial support is the best for sure.

      • Stinkoid

        Increasingly, taxes don’t pay the bills at state higher-ed institutions, either- tuition does. Shining the light of public scrutiny on this plan is *exactly* what’s needed here. And it’s the administration of WWU that needs to see that light.

        • cr

          Actually, taxes do. Tuition covers only about 30% of the cost of educating a student. The rest comes from funds provided by the Feds, the State and private donations.

          • James Westbury

            You should probably look up the data before you speak. Currently, WWU yearly tuition is slightly more than the total tax-based funding per student. Tuition at WWU for the past school year was, I believe, $8000 on average, including fees ($6300 for residents, $16,800 for non-residents). The school spends around $14,000 per student, total, on average. (Yes, this apparently means that non-residents are subsidizing the education of residents. Fine with me.)

          • GrantProposal

            Are you willing to back the claim that the school only gets its money from taxes and tuition?

  • Lincoln

    This is unbelievable. I have been recruiting recent college grads for the last decade and WWU has traditionally been where we find the highest percentage of recent CS Grads that get hired. There may be a larger number coming from UW, but the quality of Western’s candidates’ is superior. This may be attributed to smaller class size and the results are undeniable. This new dean is a joke. Shortsighted and obviously does not share the values of real business leaders in our State.

  • Lincoln

    This is unbelievable. I have been recruiting recent college grads for the last decade and WWU has traditionally been where we find the highest percentage of recent CS Grads that get hired. There may be a larger number coming from UW, but the quality of Western’s candidates’ is superior. This may be attributed to smaller class size and the results are undeniable. This new dean is a joke. Shortsighted and obviously does not share the values of real business leaders in our State.

  • Lincoln

    This is unbelievable. I have been recruiting recent college grads for the last decade and WWU has traditionally been where we find the highest percentage of recent CS Grads that get hired. There may be a larger number coming from UW, but the quality of Western’s candidates’ is superior. This may be attributed to smaller class size and the results are undeniable. This new dean is a joke. Shortsighted and obviously does not share the values of real business leaders in our State.

  • Lincoln

    This is unbelievable. I have been recruiting recent college grads for the last decade and WWU has traditionally been where we find the highest percentage of recent CS Grads that get hired. There may be a larger number coming from UW, but the quality of Western’s candidates’ is superior. This may be attributed to smaller class size and the results are undeniable. This new dean is a joke. Shortsighted and obviously does not share the values of real business leaders in our State.

  • Jeremy Przasnyski

    As a WWU alum this seems like a really silly, short-sighted decision. I know many highly skilled people who have joined companies in-state, stayed in-state, which provides growth and revenue to the government & educational system.

    I set up a public IdeaScale community to house this discussion & provide a way for people to brainstorm ideas on what to do.

    http://cs.wwu.ideascale.com

    BTW IdeaScale is a Washington State LLC that would likely not exist without me having graduated from WWU.

    Let’s not let this happen.

    • http://profiles.google.com/stinkoid S. Morris Rose

      In fairness to the administration of WWU, it’s not a “decision”- it’s a proposal. Or perhaps a ploy?

  • RJ

    (jaw drop) What are these people thinking? We are always hearing about the the shortage of skilled tech workers and how companies are starving for employees with technology skills. Why wouldn’t we want them to hire from within our own state and communities rather than forcing them to recruit from other places or outsource?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25914115 Sarah Breggin

    I’m a WWU CS grad and this is shocking! What the hell??

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25914115 Sarah Breggin

    I’m a WWU CS grad and this is shocking! What the hell??

  • specsix

    I graduated from the WWU CS program in 2005 and now work at Microsoft. I am the only US citizen on my team. I love my team, but the facts are the facts. My entire team would be non-WA resident and non-US citizen team without me. I was able to make it through my teams insane interview process because of my computational theory background that I obtained from WWU.

    Nobody likes their programs cut when budgets have to be brought back to reality, but this honestly is not the case of “my favorite program being cut” syndrome. This a huge strategical and tactical mistake. Our blue collar jobs have been pushed out of the country and now white collar also? What is left? We should be taking money from other departments to feed the CS department. Matter in fact, WWU should also have a Robotic Engineering program.

    There has to be something they are not telling us. Nobody and I mean NOBODY would do the opposite of the obvious without some serious reasons why. I cannot process the fact they are that incompetent.

  • specsix

    I graduated from the WWU CS program in 2005 and now work at Microsoft. I am the only US citizen on my team. I love my team, but the facts are the facts. My entire team would be non-WA resident and non-US citizen team without me. I was able to make it through my teams insane interview process because of my computational theory background that I obtained from WWU.

    Nobody likes their programs cut when budgets have to be brought back to reality, but this honestly is not the case of “my favorite program being cut” syndrome. This a huge strategical and tactical mistake. Our blue collar jobs have been pushed out of the country and now white collar also? What is left? We should be taking money from other departments to feed the CS department. Matter in fact, WWU should also have a Robotic Engineering program.

    There has to be something they are not telling us. Nobody and I mean NOBODY would do the opposite of the obvious without some serious reasons why. I cannot process the fact they are that incompetent.

    • jack

      You have the answer to your question in your first paragraph.
      The reason US citizens are not going into computer science is because of the instability of the field due to corps like Microsoft bringing in ever more Indians on the H1b guest worker visa to replace US citizens.
      You are still a fresh graduate.
      Give it another 15 years and let’s see if you will still be employed.
      I was unemployed for almost a year after my Indian H1b manager layed me off from a job I had more experience in than he did.
      He now enjoys working for another financial institution that receives tax money to stay afloat while I’m making half of my salary at another job.
      Indians also act as gatekeepers preventing us from obtaining jobs in companies as I quickly realized during my job hunt.

      Does this sound to you like a field that is short staffed?
      What about me?

      • Specsix

        never put your eggs in one basket. Control your destiny. I do not plan on being here in 15 years. My business is taking off and I will be transitioning to that full time in a couple of years.

    • jack

      And the answer is not to give CS departments more money.
      The answer is to cut off H1b’s from US corporations…just like one would cut off methamphetimines from a drug abuser…
      Corps are ADDICTED the Indian h1bs.

    • Mark

      The root cause of the problem needs to be addressed; why is Microsoft, when they receive applications from practically every US Citizen CS new graduate, finding themselves with teams of nearly 100% foreigners?

      The jobs are still in the country — they’re just being given to foreigners because the foreigners work for less money, and are deportable when they get too old or end up costing too much in benefits. This has ruined the lives and careers of hundreds of thousands of US CS grads.

      • jacobi

        I’m a recent US CS grad and I recently got a job with Microsoft(paying 93k!), before Microsoft I had offers from 2 companies in Southern California. Two other US CS grads from my college got jobs at Microsoft. Almost everyone I know in my CS department that is in their senior year has gotten some sort of job offer or internship. H1B1 visas are not a problem as far as I can see.

        Computer Science is probably the best major anyone can be in at the moment.

        • Mark

          That wasn’t my experience.  2002 grad, tech firms didn’t even give me, or my classmates, the “time of day”, and by the time the industry started into a bit of a recovery a few years later, recruiters were telling us that we were stale, out-of-date.  From a top-20 university.

        • http://twitter.com/factchecker2000 Fluffy Mergatryod

          Jacobi is a troll. At least one of these always appears. They have crazy stories and extrapolate their assertions to everybody. In fact, I’ve seen three common troll roles here already: a) the kid who gets an astronomical paycheck and doesn’t see any problem as long as you’re good, b) the judge who gives thumbs up to foreigners and thumbs down to Americans, and c) the boss who just can’t find good Americans (or his way out of a paper bag with both hands). These roles, and a few others, show up everywhere that these issues get discussed.

          • jacobi

            Come to my college and look at the seniors in the CS department. You’ll easily see most of them have a offer already lined up. The ones who don’t have an offer, I’ve heard them bitch about it left and right but when you ask them how their interview went and what they were asked you realize these morons couldn’t even answer a simple question such as what a Binary Search Tree is or how why would you use a hash table.

            My friend does hiring for a large software company in LA. He told me recently they interviewed 5 guys who claimed they had 10+ years of experience but none could answer the technical questions satisfactorily. When I asked him what the questions were, I thought he was joking…he wasn’t

            No I’m not a troll, I’m just someone who put time into my education and spent countless hours on the side making myself a better programmer so I could find a decent job.

          • http://twitter.com/factchecker2000 Fluffy Mergatryod

            At best you are the young hotshot who’s getting the offers and your moment in the sun. See how quickly the sunlight fades for IT pros. You’ll find out. You’ll still be in your prime as to ability when interviews, much less jobs, become hard to get. I was in a local job fair presentation by a major local company to a bunch of local unemployed folks when the company rep said that what they needed right now was someone with expertise in a certain rare skill. A hand went up – an older unemployed guy had just what they needed. But they wouldn’t take his card and interview him.  

      • http://twitter.com/brrian Brian Burg

        You obviously haven’t interviewed people for full-time software development jobs. I have seen the process. The reason companies like Google and MS have to import talent is because most domestic graduates are complete idiots and would have negative productivity if hired. The same goes for foreign graduates as well, except only the top 1% make it out of their respective country.

        There are simply not enough smart, motivated young graduates in the field that are worth hiring. Show me one unemployed CS grad that’s not a complete idiot, I dare you.

        • jack

           First off, what you say is highly offensive.
          I found myself unemployed but not until my Indian manager (who’d been brought here on the H1b) had conducted knowledge transfer since I was the one who wrote the original web CMS at my former company.
          His “new” CMS was based completely on my own with a change here or there (some were ok and some were utterly stupid changes which showed he hadn’t thought things through).
          He was hardly the best as you claim but quite average.

          Note, I wrote the entire original CMS on my own and was begging for help which they never allowed me to pick on my own until they hired him.

          It took him literally 5 years and 14 million dollars using Infosys and 50 developers in India to replicate what I had done.

          After getting layed off I went from Indian hiring manager to other Indian hiring managers only to recieve the same cold shoulder treatment.

          • African Guy

            jack,

            You should bring this up with your congressman or senator. The Indians are coming only because your leaders allowed them in. They are not illegal aliens or robbers.

        • http://twitter.com/factchecker2000 Fluffy Mergatryod

          I happen to have been an IT hiring manager for the past decade. Whenever I had an opening to fill, it would break my heart that I had only one opening, because so many fine people would show up. Many of my best hires were older, displaced workers who went on to work like heck and show their gratitude for another chance every minute. My younger, student workers were the same. The candidates I had to reject were overwhelmingly the foreign workers. They had egos as big as Texas and were often neither courteous nor sufficiently fluent for my team, yet they had a disturbing sense of entitlement. I agree that there must be a skills shortage being encountered by the likes of Brian Burg, but I’d have to say it’s in his HR team, not in the candidate pool. 

          • jacobi

            What do you mean by IT? Are you talking about software engineering? Programming? Web Design?

          • jacobi

            Reason I ask this is because IT jobs != CS

            Majority who do CS want to get into Software Engineering type of roles.

        • http://twitter.com/christophla Christopher

          You are damn right… I am the senior / lead dev for several software teams and we have a hell of a time finding developers that are any good at all…

          It doesn’t matter where they come from (US or H1B)… there just aren’t enough people that are willing to put in the work required to do software development.

          It’s not like more formal engineering disciplines – the field is ever-evolving, and most people aren’t willing to keep up…

  • Reflector8

    Lets let rational thinking back into the conversation. A Geekwire followup with WWU administration might shed some light on this. So, the idea was proposed — and so the administration must consider it amongst a thousand and one other ideas. I would at least give the benefit of the doubt that they have considered objective criteria to make the evaluation and I suspect it would be rejected on those basis — rather than the “sky is falling because it was proposed and considered”. This limited reporting and reactionary comments is what gives open/public processes a bad name.

    • Rick

      The fact that this has been raised as a serious possibility makes me believe that there hasn’t been much consideration of objective criteria. That our universities are not meeting the graduation rates required to fill the demand for local software development jobs is such a well understood fact that anyone in the position of suggesting how the school address the budget deficit should be able to understand the stupidity of such a proposal.

      • Reflector8

        You’ll get no argument from me on your beliefs. The problem comes when you claim or imply as factual that (a) it is the University’s themselves that are to blame for too few undergrad seats rather than the electorate; and (b) that the proposal came from somebody responsible for decision-making or establishing the objective criteria. If these are facts, please cite. If they are beliefs — we’re good.

      • jack

        “…our universities are not meeting the graduation rates required to fill the demand for local software development jobs is such a well understood fact…”

        This is hardly a fact at all.
        This is the propaganda being promulgated by moneyed interests like Microsoft in order to bring in ever more H1bs to replace US citizens.

        If this “fact” were true, no computer science grad would have difficulty getting a job at virtually any US corporation.

        As a software engineer, that has not been my experience even though I see millions of H1b’s in these positions.

  • Anonymous

    I have two suggestions: 1) fire whoever made and supports this suggestion because this is one of the few programs that is creating the kind of jobs needed by this State in the 21st Century and those who make these kinds of decisions in light of that reality are clearly stupid and incompetent, 2) eliminate any and every program that is not tied to increasing employment in a meaningful way and put the money in the remaining programs.

  • JSug

    This is ridiculous. As a WWU CS grad who regularly contributes both to the university and the department, I’m definitely going to be contacting the office of the provost to find out what the hell is going on.

    • Reflector8

      Finally, a rational response.

  • johnhcook

    A lot of talk about the importance today of education at the Technology Alliance annual luncheon, including mentions of the situation at Western Washington University by Jeremy Jaech and U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra. I’ve updated the post above with remarks from computer science professor Geoffrey Matthews following this afternoon’s meeting with administrators.

    The situation still seems to be in flux, with administrators considering canning the program.

  • Glassring

    Cutting vital and successful programs before exploring online courses and evening offerings for returning students seems to indicate that WWU administration is less concerned about keeping a viable and quality public offering [by expanding options and thus increasing student access and enrollments], and is more concerned about retaining a “[reduced] college on the hill.” Faculty and program are our greatest resource; we should be looking for ways to innovate before axing.

  • bring_em_back

    As an alum who, after making many public records requests following the football decision 2 years ago, I am stunned by unsurprised. I recently read their “rebasing” plan, which was disgraceful. In one branch of the university, the university administration amassed 26 cost-savings ideas, ranked in order from 1-26. Three items cut back on student jobs and/or programs before they cut one — leadership retreat opportunities — that impacted administration (none of which has taken a pay cut yet).

  • DavidS

    As a WWU CS graduate this is absolutely insane. I can understand budget cuts here and there but taking out a whole department whose graduates are among the highest in demand goes again everything the school stands for. I’m in deep shock this is even being considered.

  • Rick

    any good looking girls in the general studies program. that’s why I attend college

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely incredible! What is it? Too much fluoridation and insurmountable pathocracy?

  • CJ

    This must have been emailed to all WWU Alumni and asked to post their anger and shock. I am impressed this was an option, perhaps the dean see’s something that we don’t. Perhaps the CSS alumni are not as supportive to the Universities funding as other graduates are and thus they are worth less in the long run to the new dean? This is just speculation but there must be some reason for why something like this could happen.

  • Ed Lazowska

    As a long-time faculty member in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, all I can say is that this epitomizes decision-making at our state’s universities. As the chart in John’s original post illustrates, there is no area of greater opportunity than computer science — a field in which Western has a fine program. “What could they have been thinking?” They weren’t. They don’t.

  • http://twitter.com/nikolawannabe nikkie

    From someone who was present at a meeting discussing this:

    “This decision, apparently still potential, is a permanent statement of the University about the future of Computer Science. The impression conveyed in the meeting with the Provost and Dean was that we had reached the End of History. Now that everyone has a computer and a spreadsheet and a wordprocessor, the contribution of computing to the life of the mind has been exhausted. I do not write this sarcastically. This was the sense of the meeting.”

  • Remyadew7

    This is very disappointing and at a time really shocking.

  • Walterbyrd

    Who could blame them? Why would Americans study comp sci these days? In deference to the title of this article, there is no tech worker shortage these days, in fact there is a glut, remember the massive layoffs from 2009, and 2001? US IT jobs are being offshored like mad, and the jobs that cannot be offshored are being filled by foreign visa workers. Smart Americans would be stupid to go into comp sci.

    • pennsyltucky

      I’m with walter. I have a cs degree. Since I’ve graduated, I’ve seen nothing but lowering wages and scarce employment. Non-tech people can’t see the problem through all the tech job openings. People are getting those jobs, but they’re not US citizens! The US has imported over two million foreign workers since the H-1B visa program began in the 90s. Most of those workers are indian, and most of them are in IT. Needless to say, when supply goes up, salaries go down. Demand has gone down for the American worker, and up for foreign labor. Why pay an american programmer 60K when an indian worker will work for 40K? Don’t let the job listings fool you. There are a lot of unspoken requirements for those jobs.

      I never recommend CS to college seekers. Honestly, I doubt I would do it again if given the chance.

      • Mark

        Yes, its pretty sad that outsiders (and even employed insiders) do not see the problem. When Microsoft goes to hire 5,000 people, its usually 4000 people overseas, and 1,000 foreigners in America. A typical or even an above average CS grad has very little chance of getting into the company in the US, and even so, the salaries paid once working are quite pathetic.

  • jack

    I’m a Computer Science grad from another university (graduated in ’98).
    I had a hell of a time finding another job when I was layed off by my Indian H1b manager in 2009.
    There is no shortage of IT workers.
    That’s a myth.
    Any US citizen would be a fool to go into Computer Science nowadays.
    The government has opened the floodgates to India so that Indians can come in and steal our jobs and fire us from our positions. And then they act as gatekeepers preventing anyone except other Indians from getting in.
    And they are far from the “best and brightest.”
    They are among the least talented in the world

    • Mason

      I’m just going to point out that this stuff is all ridiculous. As a current CS student at WWU Microsoft comes here all the time to get interns and workers. I regularly talk to WWU CS grads who work at Microsoft. And for the last two years the sheet of where WWU CS grads went to work has been completely filled with jobs except for maybe one or two students that are taking breaks or starting businesses. I think you just had a bad experience.

      Also IT != Computer Science.

      • Mark

        IT != Computer Science, WTF are you talking about? And tell me, why does Cornell and UCBerkeley only have 30-40% employment rates amongst its CS grads? Do you honestly believe WWU would shut down a program that you claim has full employment of its grads??? Of course not. The program is being shut down because there is high unemployment.

        • SCJ

          I have close ties to the WWU CS department and @Mason is correct, most WWU CS grads have multiple job offers. The school currently has a provost that needs firing. When hearing first hand accounts of the meeting with her, and reading her interview, she is simply out of touch with reality.

          • jack

            Recent grads don’t have nearly as hard a time finding jobs as older grads.
            Part of the reason US citizens are no longer going into Computer Science is due to the threat of offshoring or inshoring (bringing in H1b guest workers almost exclusively from India).
            This makes the viability of a computer science graduate diminish over time.
            No one wants to be 43 years old or so and even though being in the prime of their skills, cannot find a job…

  • jack

    I’m a Computer Science grad from another university (graduated in ’98).
    I had a hell of a time finding another job when I was layed off by my Indian H1b manager in 2009.
    There is no shortage of IT workers.
    That’s a myth.
    Any US citizen would be a fool to go into Computer Science nowadays.
    The government has opened the floodgates to India so that Indians can come in and steal our jobs and fire us from our positions. And then they act as gatekeepers preventing anyone except other Indians from getting in.
    And they are far from the “best and brightest.”
    They are among the least talented in the world

  • Anonymous

    The US is currently graduating more STEM workers than there are jobs to fill, and then many of those precious jobs are being gobbled up by cheap labor from India and Communist China, and Obama wants even more immigration. Look for more Computer Science schools to shutdown. There simply are not enough jobs.

    • Mark

      Absolutely. Its not unheard of for graduates to send 100-200, if not more resumes out to tech firms, and receive responses maybe once or twice. Even top grads. If you graduate in the wrong year (ie: during a recession), or if you don’t have the sort of internship experience that a firm is specifically looking for, good luck ever joining the workforce as a CS grad. I know guys who graduated in the 2001-2003 crash, and still, even to this day, haven’t been able to find employment.

      H1-B is a huge part of the problem; instead of firms like Microsoft going into the labour market (or heck, even using their own resume queues which receive millions of resumes from very qualified individuals every year) and finding those top-quality people who haven’t been able to find jobs — they just go for the cheap H1-B’s. This is why Microsoft is full of mediocre Indians, while top US grads go unemployed. Employment rates of CS grads from schools like UC Berkeley and Cornell are only in the 30-40% range.

      • zango

        dude what are you talking about. I sent out 10 resumes, got 8 interviews and 3 job offers. I’m a recent CS Grad. ITS SUPER EASY getting a cs JOB! The only people who have problems are people who are substandard candidates, these tend to be people who barely made it through the program and don’t really know how to program. Or they did good in school but never had passion or spent time on the side working on practical programming projects.

        • jack

          It’s not only people who “don’t know how to program” who are looked over in this climate.
          I am both a passionate programmer and an exceptional one.
          I happened to have graduated in ’98 though.
          The reason you think it’s so easy is probably because most companies have a policy of hiring either only recent graduates or foreign guest workers.

          Computer Science is not a job with long term viability.
          Sure if one makes their own software and happens to strike it big (without incurring a frivoulous IP infringement lawsuit from one of the corps), then they might have it made.

          But mostly, it’s a dead end job now and it’s precisely because of the policy of hiring only foreign candidates or recent graduates while completely ignoring highly qualified and highly skilled candidates with a decade or more experience.

        • Mark

          @jacobi:twitter , your experiences are obviously different than mine, because, as a 2002 grad of EE/CS, employers *rarely* responded to my resume, or the resumes of my classmates.  Many of my classmates even to this day remain unemployed, not because of lack of skill, but rather, simply because no tech firm will even pick up the phone or answer the email to interview them. 
           
          If tech firms won’t interview me or my classmates — how do tech firms know, (or rather, don’t know) if they’re ‘substandard’?  Truth is, they don’t.  And none of us ‘barely made it through the program’, in fact, most of my classmates graduated on time with dual degrees. 

      • jacobi

        By the way I have a bunch of friends in the software engineering industry in southern california and they all tell me there are a BUNCH of openings but the only problem is that most people they interview just suck. This is why they hire the Eastern Europeans, because those people actually put time into programming/software engineering and are good at what they do compared to most american cs grads who devote much less time to programming and more to partying…

        • Mark

          @bb6129a2d41f9cdb038a34a4e86e9431:disqus , then its a problem in the HR function of the companies your friends work for, that is the problem.  Are you really trying to tell me that 60%+ of UCB graduates, or Cornell CS graduates, ‘just suck’ at programming?  Because employment rates out of those two schools are only 30-40%.

          And American CS grads devoting time to partying?  Hardly.  You’d simply not get through most CS programs if you “partyed” to any significant extent, and your generalization is extremely ignorant to say the least.  However, most CS grads I’ve met probably would be more well rounded people if they “partyed” a little harder in their undergrad days. 

  • johnhcook

    I am planning a follow-up on the situation at the computer science department, with plans to speak to WWU administrators today. Thanks for all of the comments, but please let me know if you have specific questions that you’d like me to ask. Thanks.

  • Cheryl Walters

    Good Lord – this is
    ridiculous! I’m in Houston, TX and there are a treasure trove of idiots
    in our state making horrible decisions about our schools, but this story
    takes the cake! Cutting the CS department at WWU is like cutting
    petroleum engineering from UT! What about getting CS alumni involved in a
    letter campaign to the decision makers? Heck, get any alumni working at
    Microsoft and other key corporations involved. Surely their voices
    would ring loudly.

    • Mark

      Cheryl, can you imagine how much of a scandal it would be if Texas-based oil firms didn’t extend offers to substantially all of UT’s petroleum engineering grads? Yet this is what is happening to WWU when it comes to Washington’s software industry, in particular, Microsoft. As another poster alluded above, entire teams are comprised of foreign nationals when WWU grads are beating down the doors trying to get in.

      The WWU program would likely continue to exist if there was demand for it. But at the salaries Microsoft pays (quite low), and with the difficulty of finding a job in the industry for a US citizen — students simply aren’t wanting to go into CS for those reasons.

  • http://twitter.com/darienbrown Darien Brown

    The unfortunate reality is that humanities departments are profit centers for universities. Faculty and facility costs are lower, yet students are charged the same tuition rates. The decision at WWU is very likely being made according to the net earnings and losses that departments create for the school. (See this WSJ article from October:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703735804575536322093520994.html
    )

    There’s been a debate raging over the last decade about whether or not private for-profit education should have a place in the academic landscape. I think it’s important to remember that, at the highest administrative levels, even public universities often place budgets and income statements before the actual benefits they create for their students. They’ll continue to encourage students down the humanities path and, in the process, take from those students 4 years of tuition fees, 4 years of professional experience, and 4 years of earning potential that is likely never to pay for itself.

  • Jenny Lynn

    Someone should ask Govenor Gregoire how many international visa employees work in the state of Washington in jobs requiring Computer Science degrees. If she allows international people to work here with CS degrees at the expense of US citizens, then supports CLOSING the Computer Science department at one of our state universities, well that’s just crazy. Washington state cannot allow this to happen.

    • Mark

      Must be tens, if not hundreds of thousands. Redmond has basically turned into an enclave of India, with Microsoft not even responding to applications from some of the best and brightest grads of Canadian and US universities.

      • Mason

        Then why does Microsoft come to the WWU campus recruiting from us (CS) all the freaking time? Why do our grads at other corporations always telling the WWU CS program they are looking for interns? How come all of our grads get jobs?

        • Mark

          I don’t know about WWU; just talking about my experience as a upper quartile grad from a top-20 North American university in CS, and how most of my graduating class submitted our resumes to Microsoft and never even received the professionalism of a response. Yet Microsoft claims a need for foreign guest workers, and imports them by the thousands.

  • johnhcook

    I know this has been a hot topic here on GeekWire this week, so I wanted to alert everyone to my interview that I just posted with Western Washington University Provost Catherine Riordan.

    http://www.geekwire.com/2011/western-washington-provost-were-respect-computer-science-department

    In the interview, she said that WWU computer science department is undergoing a “critical review” and she noted that the department is not doing enough to meet the needs of the state or students.

    “We are leaving the door open for any kind of outcome,” she said.

  • jack

    I have about eleven years experience in the field.
    I applied to Microsoft for a number of jobs where I was qualified.
    I didn’t even get a response (other than an automated one).

    I also applied to Amazon.com. The first interviewer was Korean-American and saw that I knew what I was doing and passed me on to the next interviewer an Indian gentleman. I answered both his questions correctly (he conceded they were correct) in half the time allotted yet to my surprise the HR person contacted me to tell me I had been passed over.

    At the Seatac airport I saw dozens upon dozens of Indian H1b’s coming in (along with an entourage of their family members, including parents) at the baggagle claim.

    Do we as US citizens have less of a right now to get these jobs than non-US citizens.
    The vast majority of these H1b’s are from India and are almost always males.

    • Rick

      Is it possible that your resume didn’t grab Microsoft’s attention? Is it possible that your Amazon interviewer felt that another candidate interviewed better than you even though you answered the questions ‘correctly’?

      There are numerous local CS graduates that find work at Microsoft, Amazon, and other local companies. Perhaps you should spend time reflecting on how you can better market yourself to these companies rather than blaming Indians for taking these jobs that you apparently feel entitled to.

      • jack

        Does it make sense to hire Indian guest workers when there are numerous US citizens with Computer Science degrees who would love to work at these companies?
        The article speaks of a “tech worker shortage.”
        I’m suggesting that this is just propaganda by moneyed interests to like Microsoft to bring in ever more Indians.

        Here is a challenge. Make it so that these companies cannot hire foreign guest workers till the supply of US computer science graduates is exhausted.
        That would seem to be fair.

        • jack

          I believe as a US citizen that I’m entitled to not have foreign workers brought in to replace me on the false premise that there is a shortage of people in this country with an ability to code.

        • Mark

          +1

          If coding is such a valuable and scarce skill, then the price of good coders should be similar to that of, for instance, good bankers, lawyers, or any one of a number of other professions where skills scarcity (whether real or imagined) is rewarded handsomely.

  • Dr. Chondra

    MASSIVELY ABRIDGED OPINION: Americans are being told, to their faces, the BIG-LIE, that they can no longer ‘run’ their own country. H-1bs’, and the plethora of other alphabet-soup visas, in conjunction with outsourcing and trade agreements, for traitors to reap their thirty pieces of silver. Been going on for OVER A DECADE. We have been SOLD-OUT. Wakee-Wakee.

    • Mason

      I think you may be a pseudonym for Mark and jack… just saying….

      • Mark

        *sigh*, you don’t like the truth, so you accuse another poster of being some sort of sock puppet. Fact is, Microsoft receives resumes from substantially *all* US CS grads, and, if so inclined, would have the pick of the litter just based on its reputation alone. Why it needs to use foreign guest workers on H1-B’s extensively has no logic other than cost savings.

        • Adam

          H1B’s aren’t the problem, they’re an indication of the problem.  It isn’t cheaper for Microsoft or Google to pay for foreigners to come over and work in the US.  Guess what: they’re getting the same wages as their American counterparts.

          The problem is that we cannot supply the >qualified< workers that these companies want.  The only way for American companies to hire American workers, is for there to be an adequate supply of them.

          In the long run, WWU destroying their computer science program will only lead to more H1B's

          Mark, I'm sorry that you have had such a struggle, but clearly you either do not have the skill set that is currently needed, or you just don't know how to market yourself to potential employers. The claim that people send out 100-200 resumes without any response is bogus.  That may have been your experience, but I can guarantee that nobody from WWU's Computer Science program has run into that kind of problem…

          And that is what we are discussing here: WWU's CS program has been a brilliant success, so why cut it?  If anything they should be receiving more funding.

      • jack

        Mason,
        You sound pretty young.
        It’s probably true that recent graduates have an easier time getting jobs.
        Give it a dozen or so years though (assuming current trends continue).

        You’ll soon learn to appreciate that special feeling you get every time you realize that “no US citizen need apply” when you’re looking at that very interesting job description that is also a good match.

        • AfricanGuy

          jack,

          If you  had spent more time looking for a job instead of posting so much on these boards, you’d have a job before the weekend.

          • jack

            I looked for a year.
            Only two face to face interviews in that time.
            Almost all postings ignored my resume.
            And it was clear they were looking for Indian H1b’s. 

  • Dave, LG, CPG

    Folks, I’m a fan of STEM. If you are a true Geek the comments related to the WWU post miss the mark. There are geeks other than computer jockeys. Who do you think finds the materials we use to build things, power machines, make electronics work, and clean up everyone’s mess once society spits it out? The demand for geologists could be argued is much more extreme than computer scientists. With such a small pool of earth scientists to begin with, it would be a huge loss to our country if such an important discipline got cut. Even though there is a limited pool of educated geologists, as well as computer scientists, the geology pool is literally that; a pool. The computer scientists operate in a lake. And the sad thing is, we need an ocean of scientists and engineers; whether that be a geologist or a computer scientist. Everyone, including the media, should focus on that deficit and not pit one science discipline against another. Do we really need another business major? And do I need to mention who analyzes and responds to our natural disasters?

  • johnhcook

    Pressure is mounting on Western Washington University officials, with technology groups sending letters offering their support for the computer science department.

    http://www.geekwire.com/2011/pressure-mounts-western-washington-university-preserve-computer-science-department

  • Anonymous

    As much as I would like for the school to remain open, the real tragedy is that if the school does stay open, it will be used to educate kids that have no realistic chance of finding a job.  We 

  • http://www.nissanpacific.com eDDi Hughes

     This is outrageous. . 

  • Sedulous

    I notice WWU has Women’s Studies. Any chance they might cut that instead?

    • Fwip

      I’m a female computer scientist and I really don’t think that’s the solution.

    • Fwip

      I’m a female computer scientist and I really don’t think that’s the solution.