The UC system will begin to accept high school computer science, or CS, courses as a way for applicants to fulfill the UC’s curriculum prerequisites.
The UC requires applicants to have completed a number of high school courses in order to apply to the nine campuses with undergraduate students. CS classes were previously considered merely supplemental, but they will soon fulfill the third-year science recommendation under the UC’s A-G requirements, which include courses in several subjects and are used to determine applicant eligibility based on high school classes.
“It is a game changer in a lot of ways, but it’s also a long time coming because when you get into a UC, a lot of the science majors have a computer science requirement,” said David An, a college adviser at Berkeley High School. “The fact that they treated CS until now as an elective is strange.”
An said that while the third year of science in the A-G requirements is only recommended, the competitive nature of many of the UC schools effectively makes it a requirement. An favored the decision, saying it would make CS more accessible to a wider student population. Despite Berkeley High School’s diverse student population, CS courses often do not represent those numbers, according to An.
“This is one more option for us to get students into that tech field, especially for students who are in the Bay, where those opportunities are all around,” An said.
The decision follows statewide efforts to bolster the availability of CS courses and their significance in high school curricula. In 2014, state legislators passed SB 1200, which requested that the UC regents develop guidelines for high school CS courses to be recognized for admissions requirements to the UC and CSU systems. In 2015, now-California Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote to the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools to accommodate CS courses in its math requirements.
While the push for CS requirements in higher education has been making headway, the lack of courses in high schools may prove to be another barrier to efforts to make CS more accessible. According to Code.org, a CS curriculum advocacy organization backed by tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook, only 32 percent of all public high schools in California teach CS courses. Out of all California students who took Advanced Placement exams for CS, only 30 percent were female, and the percentages were even more disproportionately low for Black and Latinx students.
“I think it’s also true, is like, the more experience you have in computer science in high school, the more likely you are to study CS later,” said Zeke Medley, a campus freshman studying electrical engineering and computer sciences. “So, you’re really given the bad end of the stick if your high school doesn’t have a CS program.”