Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

California senators passed a bill on May 5 which may allow high school students to use computer science to meet the general A-G requirements needed to gain admissions into a CSU or UC. If approved by the State Assembly, the computer science courses could be substituted for math courses to meet general college admissions mandates.

The bill, SB 1200, was proposed by state senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and passed unanimously on a bipartisan vote of 37-0. This bill would allow high schools to place greater emphasis on computer literacy classes, which are often seen as electives — extra classes that are often dwindled down during periods of budget cuts, especially in poorer school districts.

“More high school students will take advanced computer science courses if the classes qualify as meeting a core math requirement for undergraduate admission. These courses should be recognized as fundamental in the 21st century economy,” said Padilla in a press release.

Computer science and computer-related jobs are one of the fastest-growing job fields in California. According to Padilla, California will need to fill half a million computing-related jobs by the year 2018. At UCR, the department of computer science and engineering brought in over $10 million in research grants in 2013.

“I think (this bill) is great. The youth need to be more computer literate. Computers are not magic,” said Gustavo Blanco, computer engineering major and president of the UCR Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. He added that he never had any kind of computer literacy courses in his own high school.

Marek Chrobak, a UCR computer science and engineering professor said there are many high school students with an interest in pursuing computing as a career, but may find the topic itself “intimidating.”

“(Computer literacy) courses will help such students familiarize with this field and make informed decisions as to whether they should pursue careers in information technology,” he said in an email interview.

Chrobak also noted that computer science has now become a fully developed academic field of study, and that computational thinking now permeates all areas of science and engineering. Participation in the computer science course electives in high school decreased in the last 20 years, from 25 percent to 19 percent, according to the federally based National Center for Education Statistics.

“I would not blame the students for the lack of interest in the computer science electives,” Chrobak concluded. “Not many kids at this age think long-term. A course in computer science could be challenging, and if it does not meet any requirements, why (should they) take it? This new law will motivate more students to take this course.”