Computer Science department working to meet increasing demand

The program is currently capped at 85, but hiring more staff could lead to higher numbers accepted

The computer science department is working to offer a greater number of bachelor’s degrees to students in keeping with increasing departmental popularity.

The BA currently accommodates 85 students, said Computer Science Prof. Kevin Skadron.

The department currently offers three degree programs: a bachelor of science in computer science or computer engineering — both offered through the Engineering School — or the computer science interdisciplinary major that leads to a bachelor of arts in the College.

“The B.A. has more flexibility to combine it with a second major or to take a wider range of courses, and do computer science in the context of a true liberal arts education,” Skadron said. “Engineering degrees have much more extensive requirements in terms of the major and also in terms of prerequisites, calculus, physics that significantly reduce students’ flexibility to do things such as double major.”

Skadron said the B.A. and B.S. degree programs offer students the same core foundation in software engineering.

“The B..A graduates seem to be equally competitive in software engineering positions,” Skadron said. “The feedback we’re getting from our industrial advisory board is that they don’t differentiate the two degrees, [rather] they look more specifically at the students’ performance in their courses and to some extent what electives the student has taken.”

The challenge in raising the cap from 85 lies in the department’s ability to hire faculty, especially for the lab sections which allow students to practice and apply their computing skills.

The University is planning to implement a new activity-based budgeting model in the next fiscal year, which will allot money to schools based on the number of students who enroll in courses through that school. Currently, schools receive tuition revenue based on the students housed by that school regardless of enrollment.

The new model could feasibly mean the Engineering School sees more revenue coming from the computer science courses, as College students enroll in the bachelors of arts courses, but Skadron said the numbers are not yet available.

“It’s unclear at this point what impact the change in the University’s financial model will have on resources, it might not have any impact in the short term to the extent that it makes it easier for us to staff more sections of core courses,” Skadron said.

The hiring process itself can be challenging, Skadron said, as there is a high demand for a small supply of qualified candidates.

“I think the reputation of U.Va. and our reputation for outstanding students and students who are interested in doing research are all attractions [to faculty candidates],” Skadron said. “The [Engineering School] has been really outstanding in offering top salary and start up packages in terms of setting up a lab and helping a faculty member get going with their initial graduate students before they have grants. I think we’re ultra competitive there.”

The original story said that the computer science major was capped at 85 students. This was changed to reflect the fact that it is only the B.A. program that is capped at 85.

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