Dec. 17--HELENA -- Montana Tech is teaming up with a computer-education program for high-schoolers to offer $160,000 in scholarships to incoming computer-science students, to encourage more people to enter the fast-growing field.
The scholarship will go to 40 students who enter Montana Tech the next two years and first complete an online curriculum with CodeMontana, a program unveiled this fall by Greg Gianforte, former CEO at software-development firm RightNow Technologies in Bozeman.
"We have far more high-paying jobs in Montana for computer-science majors than we have graduates, because not enough of our young people are pursuing this field of study," Gianforte said Monday. "These scholarships ... hopefully will change that."
Jeff Braun, chairman of the computer science department at Montana Tech, said scholarships of $4,000 each will go to 20 incoming freshmen next fall and 20 more freshmen in 2015.
Students will get $1,000 per semester for up to the first two years of the program, as long as they stay in it. Tuition and fees for a full-time student at Montana Tech currently are about $3,200 a semester.
Gianforte and Rob Irizarry of Startup Bozeman co-founded CodeMontana this year, to encourage high school students to get interested in computer science as a career.
When Gianforte announced the program at Sen. Max Baucus's jobs and economic summit in Butte in September, he said Montana colleges graduated just 44 people with computer-science degrees this year, but that 400 programming jobs are available in the state, paying anywhere from $45,000 to $80,000 a year.
To qualify for the Montana Tech scholarships, high school students must complete the first four "modules" in the CodeMontana curriculum, achieve math scores of at least 24 on the ACT test or 590 on the SAT test, enroll at Montana Tech and major in computer science or software engineering, The deadline is March 1.
"The idea is that ... anyone who completes the (CodeMontana) curriculum and has a good math ACT score will succeed in our program," Braun said.
He said if more than 20 students a year qualify for the scholarships, the school may look at other ways to offer more scholarships or devise additional criteria to decide which 20 students get the money. The scholarship money is from Montana Tech's discretionary scholarship funds, he added.
Tech's current computer-science program has just 58 students and freshmen entering the program each year average around 20 students, Braun said.
He said after the jobs summit, Gianforte and his wife, Susan, who co-founded RightNow Technologies, came by the department to discuss how to get more people into computer science. That conversation led to creation of the scholarships, Braun said.
Gianforte stepped down from RightNow after it was sold last year to software giant Oracle Corp. for $1.8 billion.
(c)2013 The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.)
Visit The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.) at www.mtstandard.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services