The state Legislature should invest in the University of Washington’s proposed computer science and engineering building that needs state funding.
WHILE computer science and engineering jobs boom in Washington, the state is graduating too few of its own residents in this field, which plays such a crucial role in the state’s fortunes.
The University of Washington argues persuasively that it needs more space to address the demand both from students and employers.
The state Legislature should appropriate funds this year to help pay for a new 130,000-square-foot computer science and engineering building.
The university asked lawmakers for $40 million of the $105 million total, with plans to raise the remaining costs from private donors. So far, the Senate’s capital budget set aside $32 million, while the House budget appropriated only $6 million. The final capital budget should be closer to the Senate’s amount.
The building could open for classes by fall of 2018, university officials estimate — that is, with the state money in hand. The Computer Science and Engineering department would then be able to double its graduates, from about 300 per year to 600.
Washington is already behind in preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Only 9 percent of children born in Washington end up working in STEM jobs, according to a 2014 Boston Consulting Group study. Students educated here deserve more access to fast-growing and well-paying jobs.
The university is already doing some things right — about 90 percent of the school’s graduates with the job title “software engineer” are employed in Washington. Three-quarters of the department’s students are in-state.
Washington is fortunate to have a thriving technology industry. State lawmakers and educators must enable more homegrown students to prepare for and seize these opportunities.”
Earlier this year, the National Center for Women and Information awarded the department a $100,000 prize for enrolling more women undergraduates in computer-science classes. This year, 32 percent of computer-science bachelor’s degrees were earned by women — double the national average of 14 percent, according to a story by Seattle Times reporter Katherine Long.
Increasing capacity would also allow the department to offer more courses to students from other departments and expand computer-science instruction to other disciplines, such as medicine, education and energy. This is the wave of the future.
Washington is fortunate to have a thriving technology industry. State lawmakers and educators must enable more homegrown students to prepare for and seize these opportunities.