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State Grant Will Help Double CS Grads at Boise State

12/6/2013

$1 Million State Grant to Help Double Boise State Computer Science Grads
Boise State University |
By: Ellie Rodgers   Published 10:33 am / December 4, 2013

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With demand for computer science graduates increasingly high in the Treasure Valley, Boise State University has partnered with eight local high-tech companies to secure a $1 million state grant that will help double the number of CS graduates by the 2015-16 academic year.

The Idaho Department of Labor grant — which comes from the state’s Workforce Development Training Fund — begins in January 2014 and runs for two years. The money, as part of the department’s focus on creating high-paying, quality jobs for Idaho, will provide student scholarships and hire needed faculty and staff.

The grant allows Boise State to hire three full-time faculty, two new teaching assistants, a program coordinator and an IT specialist. This will enable the computer science department to graduate about 60 students a year, twice its current capacity of 30.

“This is exactly the kind of public-private partnership that the state of Idaho needs to boost its long-term economic prosperity,” said Boise State President Bob Kustra. “This grant allows us to double our graduates without sacrificing quality in computer science or any other program on campus. And the buy-in from our industry partners assures a steady supply of well-educated and experienced computer scientists for the Treasure Valley economy.”

Called EXPAND.CS, the partnership includes more than $280,000 in matching funds from local software development companies and about $30,000 in program costs from Boise State. Most of the money coming from the software companies is designated for scholarships to juniors and seniors.

Tim Andersen, chair of the Department of Computer Sciences, will provide oversight of EXPAND.CS. Boise State will continue to support the program as long as enrollment and the demand for students is sustained, said Amy Moll, dean of the College of Engineering.

The software companies also agreed to prioritize hiring Boise State computer science graduates and to provide competitive wages and medical benefits. Industry partners include: Clearwater Analytics, CradlePoint, Focus IP Inc., Hewlett-Packard, Impact Sales Inc., Keynetics, MetaGeek and WhiteCloud Analytics Inc.

MetaGeek’s Chief Geek Ryan Woodings said his company’s partnership with Boise State is critical. His company committed $150,000 toward 30 scholarships of $5,000 each. “Our success depends on the CS department having enough graduates for us to continue to grow,” Woodings said.

He said competition for graduates is so fierce that he hires interns as early as in their sophomore year. The students start out doing quality assurance and tech support, then as they progress through Boise State’s program, they can take on more responsibilities. If they’re a good fit for the company, Woodings said he will make a job offer.

MetaGeek currently employs six Boise State CS graduates and two interns, Woodings said. He even moved his company from West Boise to downtown to make it easier for Boise State student interns to get there.

Woodings said adding more faculty is an important part of the project. “If you simply added more students without faculty, quality would suffer. The quality of the program is so good now, you don’t want to lose that,” he said.

Given its central role in workforce development, Boise State’s computer science program is an essential part of Idaho’s software development community. Historically, more than 80 percent of graduates have gone on to Idaho jobs. For example, 22 of 27 graduates from the 2012-13 class work in Idaho, four went on to graduate school and only one left the state.

EXPAND.CS builds on ongoing investments in educational and technology infrastructure at the university enabled by the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) grant recently awarded by the State of Idaho Higher Education Research Council.

The overall impact is expected to be:

  • 127 new jobs filled by Boise State CS graduates, industry-wide
  • 34-42 jobs filled by EXPAND.CS industry partners
  • $33.39 average hourly wage of new-hire positions
  • 50 students supported by scholarships
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