Half of High School Seniors Lack Access to Computer Science

More than half of high school seniors attend schools that don’t offer computer science, according to a new analysis by Change the Equation, a nonprofit organization that aims to mobilize businesses to improve STEM learning.

Only 22 percent of 12th graders say they’ve ever taken a computer science course, according to the analysis. Just 44 percent of seniors say they have access to any computer science classes, and less than a quarter of seniors have access to Advanced Placement computer science courses, the analysis said.

To conduct its study, Change the Equation (CTEq) examined data from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” which is given to seniors and includes survey questions for students, teachers and schools.

The data also indicated that low-income students are less likely to have access to computer science courses than higher income students. And African American and Native American students were much less likely than Asian and white students to attend high schools offering the subject.

Curiously, Latino students were about as likely as white students to go to a school with computer science, and slightly more likely than white students to attend a school with AP computer science.

Seniors in rural areas also face challenging odds. Only 30 percent say their high school offers any computer science classes, and just 15 percent say their school offers an AP computer science course.

Meanwhile, it’s pretty well documented that computer science skills lead to better paying jobs. Last year, a CTEq study — using data from Economic Modeling Specialists International — found that workers in computing jobs make a median $39 an hour, while people in all other jobs make $21 an hour.

And projected job growth in computing jobs is 19 percent from 2015 to 2025, while the rate of increase is only 11 percent for all other jobs during that same time period, according to the CTEq study.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.8 million people in the United States work in computing occupations. Yet, CTEq determined last year that more than twice as many — 7.7 million Americans — said they use computers in complex ways in their jobs.

More studies and information can be found at Change the Equation’s website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].