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Students Are Shunning Technology’s Fast Track


Forget starting salaries above $40,000 and a choice
of companies come graduation day. Freshmen may be toting laptops and
chatting by e-mail, but they’re shunning majors that would put them on
a fast track for computer jobs.

Instead, they’re sticking with business, psychology, health
services, law, and other career paths where opportunities or pay are
less promising, according to a survey of college-bound teens.

“Students’ current career aspirations seem to be somewhat out of
sync with the jobs that will be available for many of them,” said
Richard L. Ferguson, president of the ACT Inc. testing group, which
surveyed the high school class of 1998.

Only 3 percent of high school graduates who took the ACT test
picked computer and information science as likely vocations. Less than
1 percent said they want to be computer engineers.

A survey last year by the University of California-Los Angeles and
the American Council on Education found only 3 percent of the 1.6
million freshmen nationwide planned computer science majors, although
close to 5 percent expected to become programmers or computer analysts.

Yet, companies have hundreds of thousands of openings for
programmers, engineers, and systems analysts. The average salary for
jobs offered to 1998 college graduates in computer science jumped this
year to $41,561, up nearly 12 percent from a year earlier, according to
the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

PCs Required

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Beginning next fall, freshmen and junior
colleges transfer students in Mississippi State University’s
engineering program will be required to have access to a personal

This fall, thirty-five freshman engineering students are
participating in a project that puts them in classrooms equipped with
connections that allow them to use the same software simultaneously as
their teachers. They also can send and receive e-mail and even access
the Internet when necessary.

Engineering school Dean A. Wayne Bennett said the decision to
require computers for engineering majors began with feedback from the
people who will hire them after graduation.

The new requirement also resulted from a study made by faculty
members from each college department and a representative of the
Engineering Student Council. Mississippi State also received input from
Virginia Tech University, a recognized leader in engineering education.

Bennett said Robert Green, the college’s undergraduate coordinator,
has helped reduce the financial impact by persuading Dell Computer to
provide machines to engineering students at a discount.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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