Bridging Computer Science Pathways From K-12 to Postsecondary

Postsecondary & Workforce

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This post continues our exploration of computer science education as a part of our 2022-23 Chair’s Initiative.

Several states are ramping up to expand students’ access to computer science courses and career pathways, and 50 governors signed the Governors’ Compact for Computer Science. Comparably, in the postsecondary education space, computer science has flown under the radar.  

To meet employers’ growing demand for individuals with technical skills, more states may consider policies that harness the interest and development that the K-12 system is creating. Two options available to state and postsecondary leaders are admissions requirements and transfer and articulation agreements. 

Admissions Policies 

Some state and postsecondary system policies allow students to use computer science courses for high school graduation and admissions requirements. For example: 

  • Under Mississippi’s admissions policy (Board of Trustees Policy 602), students applying to higher education institutions must have one credit in computer science or technology, which aligns with the state’s high school graduation requirements. 

Transfer and Articulation Agreements 

Some states and systems have adopted student transfer policies and programs that are tailored to or include computer science. For example: 

  • Indiana’s Ivy Tech Transfer as a Junior Pathway program is for community college students who plan to transfer to a public Indiana four-year university as a junior and pursue a companion bachelor’s degree, including for computer science 
  • In North Carolina, the community college system’s Comprehensive Articulation Agreement includes an associate in science degree for students interested in a four-year degree in computer science and other programs that require strong math and science backgrounds. 
  • Oregon’s statewide transfer agreement and the Major Transfer Maps identify the community college courses students need to transfer to a state university as a junior seeking a bachelor of science in computer science.  

In addition, states can encourage collaboration among education systems and the business community to expand student’s access to computer science courses, credentials and degrees, and work-based learning programs. Louisiana and Ohio, for example, have taken this approach through task forces related to computer science.  

To support incoming postsecondary students interested in computer science, state and postsecondary leaders also may need to address the supply of computer science faculty to ensure students are prepared to enter and succeed in the workforce.   

States have focused their K-12 computer science policies on issues such as equity, instruction, graduation requirements and career pathways. Policy and education leaders can build on these efforts with policies that support students’ successful transitions to and within postsecondary and to the workforce. Creating a more seamless computer science pathway is one way to increase students’ career opportunities in high-demand fields and boost states’ economic growth. 

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Mary Fulton is a former senior policy analyst at Education Commission of the States.

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