WWU Awarded $1.6M to Increase Capacity for Computer Science Degrees

Also Will Develop New Program Offering Computer Science Teaching Certification

Western Washington University has been awarded $1.6 million in funding to expand capacity for students seeking computer science degrees as well as develop a new program offering computer science teaching certification.

WWU will receive the funding from the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), which supports low- and middle-income students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and healthcare degrees. The grant comes from WSOS’s Opportunity Expansion Fund, created by Washington state lawmakers to increase the number of STEM degrees awarded each year.

“We are thrilled to receive funding through a grant from WSOS for our computer science program. Computer science has undergone enormous growth over the last five years and is now one of the largest majors in the College of Science and Engineering. This support from WSOS is invaluable in helping us provide increased access for students to this high-demand major here at Western Washington University,” said Catherine Clark, dean of Western’s College of Science and Engineering.

WWU has seen the number of students pursuing computer science increase by more than 300 percent over the last five years. The university will use the funds to expand computer science degree capacity and hire four new tenure-track professors, two of whom will specialize in computer science education. They will teach introductory computer science courses and work with current and future K-12 computer science teachers to prepare them to obtain the new K-12 computer science endorsement under development in the state of Washington.

The Opportunity Expansion funding will allow the WWU to serve more than 140 additional CS students each year.

“Washington State Opportunity Scholarship is working to meet critical needs by investing in students, teachers and innovative programs to educate and inspire thousands of current and future STEM scholars,” said WSOS Executive Director Naria Santa Lucia. “These grants are part of that mission, and will allow colleges to help more under-resourced students succeed, expand computer science degree capacity, and develop a new cohort of K-12 STEM and computer science teachers.”

WWU’s Computer Science Department is one of three university initiatives across the state to receive funding from the Opportunity Expansion Fund, established by the Legislature to help Washington universities fund programming that helps students earn high-demand bachelor’s degrees in science, engineering, computer science or STEM education.  

The statute, which passed in 2011 along with the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) fund, allowed companies until 2015 to donate high-tech research and development tax credits to the expansion fund account. Microsoft, the only company to contribute to the expansion fund, donated a total of $6 million.