CS 61A course enrollment reaches an all-time high at 2,000 students

John DeNero/Courtesy

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UC Berkeley’s introductory computer science course hit the class maximum of 2,000 enrolled students this semester, seeing an increase from the previous maximum enrollment of 1,961 during the fall 2018 semester.

As of print, 1,949 students are enrolled in CS 61A, according to BerkeleyTime. The professor of CS 61A, John DeNero, said in an email that that despite the large class size, 25 waitlisted students may still join the course.

“It’s exciting to see so many students interested in learning about computer science,” DeNero said in the email. “Teaching a very large class involves planning, technology, and help from the university.”

DeNero added that there are 57 undergraduate student instructors, or UGSIs, for the class this semester. Besides CS 61A, four other courses in the electrical engineering and computer sciences department, or EECS, have over 1,000 students. CS 61A was held in Zellerbach Hall for the first two weeks of the semester to accommodate the large class size.

DeNero said he is offering alternate evening lectures in Wheeler Hall for students who would rather attend lecture. DeNero added that many students prefer to watch recorded lecture videos rather than attend live lecture, which helps relieve the problem of holding lecture in a hall with a capacity smaller than the enrolled class size. Due to his recorded lectures, DeNero said he does not expect any significant lecture crowding.

Bennett Agnew, EECS director of external relations, said the high enrollment in CS 61A is not a new trend — the major’s popularity has been growing for years. Enrollment in EECS and computer science has increased in recent years, from 2,857 students in 2017 to 3,172 in 2018. DeNero also added that the number of women graduating from the program increased by 47 percent from 2016 to 2018.

“This isn’t anything truly new,” Agnew said in an email. “It’s been slowly building for years at Berkeley and at comparable institutions.”

Campus sophomore and EECS student Rami Hijab said he thinks the high enrollment in CS 61A is “great.” Hijab said the increased enrollment in the course allows more students to understand the basics of the modern day technological evolution.

Hijab notes, however, that the large enrollment number presents a challenge for the department to properly allocate resources for students.

“(The administration) must proceed with caution to ensure the appropriate resources are available for students to succeed and collaborate in a productive learning environment,” Hijab said in an email. “The administration has done well at ensuring as such. I hope to see the same trends follow.”

Campus freshman and intended chemistry and computer science major Marvin Du is currently in CS 61A. He said that having such a large class is a great experience. Du added that classmates could turn out to be a source for new, diverse friends.

He added that there are many resources to help students if they are struggling, despite the large class size.

“The class size may seem to impede the ability to learn,” Du said in an email. “But there are many resources available to help if students struggle, such as the office hours of the professor and GSIs, class forums such as Piazza, and the many friendly classmates in such a large class.”

Leon Chen is a crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.