College officials say yes -- although they caution that it's not something that can occur overnight.
"We have some capacity," says
Gunnink and other
"We could easily handle 50 percent more students," says
They also applaud Gianforte's new CodeMontana program, an online curriculum designed to get
Braun notes that only six high schools in
Gianforte, a cofounder of the program, unveiled it last week at the Montana Economic Development Summit in
Yet while computer-science programs at the three campuses can expand to handle an increase in beginning students, getting a lot more people through the program to graduation is tougher, officials say.
For one thing, the programs aren't easy. The three programs have about 450 undergraduates now but graduated only 43 people this year -- just 10 percent of the total.
"We get a fair number who start out and then go to other majors," says
A sustained increase in computer-science majors would probably mean hiring more faculty for the long term. College officials say that can be done, but it takes planning.
"It's one of those areas where we're seeing a lot of programs that want to expand their options and opportunities," says
Interest in computer-science degrees took a big dive after the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, college officials say, but has started to recover within the past few years.
Still, Gianforte said many people still view computer science as a "hobby" rather than a career.
"The message is, there are good career opportunities if you pursue computer science," he said in an interview last week. "That's a message for high-school college counselors. We have an economic opportunity that were not fully realizing right now."
CodeMontana is an effort to "move the needle on demand creation" for computer-science education, he said.
College officials say graduates of computer-science programs have no problem finding jobs upon getting their degree, working for
"There is 100 percent placement of our graduates, for the 13 years that I've been here," said Braun of
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