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Published November 2019

Interest in computer science has steadily increased over the past 10 years with little sign of abating. The following chart shows the number of students declared as a computer science major or minor from Fall 2010 to Fall 2019.

growth in enrollment from 2010 to 2019

In response, the department has allowed class sizes to increase while attempting to grow the number of faculty as fast as possible. We are now at the point where over 400 students enroll in the first course for the major every semester. Unfortunately, despite resources allocated to the department by the college, our efforts to grow have not kept pace with enrollment. As these massive enrollments flow through our curriculum, we anticipate that many students will find themselves unable to take the necessary courses to graduate in four years without extraordinary efforts by the department. In any case, our current enrollments are not sustainable and we must balance providing a great experience for students with meeting the demand as best we can.

While we are exploring many possible models for supporting as many students as feasible, initially and immediately, our only option is to begin limiting the number of seats offered in the introductory sequence to match the actual resources that we have in place today. Our models indicate that this will mean reducing introductory sequence capacity to somewhere between 100 and 200 students. Applying this limit assures the students in these courses will get the kind of high quality education for which our department is known.

The department remains committed to the ideal of allowing any student at UNC to major in computer science and as our department grows, we will increase the number of seats offered accordingly. We are actively searching for new faculty to add to our department. In the meantime, however, we expect the major to be heavily oversubscribed.

Plan For Students Already In The Pipeline

Sizing the introductory sequence to the largest number of students we believe we can sustainably handle will help us going forward but leaves a significant question about students who have already made steps toward the major that are already in our pipeline. We will be reaching out the following groups of students with a specific plan for completing the introductory sequence and moving on to the upper division elective courses required to complete the major.

  • Students enrolled in COMP 401 in Spring 2020
  • Students enrolled in either COMP 410 or COMP 411 in Spring 2020
  • Students on the Spring 2020 waitlist for COMP 401
  • Students on the Spring 2020 waitlist for either COMP 410 or COMP 411

If you are a student interested in majoring in computer science but are not in one of the prior groups, your best recourse is to ensure that you have taken the prerequisites for the first course in the major and hope to get a seat in Fall 2020. Once you have a seat in the first course, we should be able to accommodate students going forward.

Note, that we have also redesigned the introductory sequence starting in Fall 2020 as described here.