University of California finally allows computer science to count towards admissions science requirement

The University of California has finally updated its admissions guidelines to allow high school computer science classes to count as a student’s recommended third year of science (UC category D) for admission to the University. The change, which has been over 5 years in the making, will have a seismic impact on computer science in the State of California and beyond.

Previously, the UC considered most computer science courses as electives (UC category G), causing students and high schools to assign lower priority to computer science than to “core” academic categories. Ironically, computer science has counted towards UC core graduation requirements for 95% of Bachelor of Science degrees, but was not similarly recognized in university admissions.

With this change, high school computer science can now be on a similar level as other core academic disciplines, giving California students a new incentive to enroll in computer science classes. This policy will also increase diversity in computer science, because history has shown that when computer science counts towards core academic requirements, young women and underrepresented minorities are more likely to study it.

The impact of this change will be felt beyond California. The UC is the largest public university system in the U.S. to adopt a policy which allows computer science to satisfy a core, non-elective academic requirement for admissions. Because of the size and influence of the UC, we expect other universities will follow suit.

Details for California educators:

  • Computer science courses must still meet the UC science (category D) criteria, which have been adjusted (in alignment with the Next Gen Science Standards), enabling certain computer science or engineering courses to qualify.
  • The updated UC course criteria and guidance is here.
  • The UC will provide an update for statewide counselors and advisors later this month.
  • If you teach a Code.org course in a California high school: Code.org has submitted our CS Principles and CS Discoveries courses for Category D approval by the UC, and we’ll update you when we hear back.

So many people to thank!

There are so many people to thank for their effort and leadership. Numerous local champions in California have taken the charge on leading this effort, including:

  • Henry Sanchez, chair of the UC system-wide faculty Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) that ultimately recommended the change in 2018, as well as Monica Lin, Director of Academic Preparation at UC Office of the Presidents & BOARS staff consultant, and Eddie Comeaux, current chair of the UC BOARS that just recently approved these changes
  • Trish Williams, former member of the California State Board of Education who spent years advising BOARS on this issue
  • Professors Dan Garcia of UC Berkeley, Helen Quinn of Stanford, and Debra Richardson of UC Irvine
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom, who served on the UC Board of Regents during his tenure as Lt Gov of California
  • Claire Shorall, the Oakland teacher who led a popular petition to the UC (3 years ago)
  • Jake Baskin of the Computer Science Teachers Association, Julie Flapan of CSforCA, and Jill Grace, president of the California Science Teachers Association who offered letters of support
  • The College Board, Microsoft, and other members of the Code.org Advocacy Coalition
  • Pat Yongpradit, Alexis Harrigan, and previously Amy Hirotaka from Code.org, as well as Code.org co-founder Ali Partovi (my identical twin brother), for their tireless advocacy

There are many others who played a role. Code.org and our advocacy partners began asking the UC to revisit the categorization of computer science since as early as 2013, and so this change has been over 5 years in the making. Of course, with an important change like this it takes time to get it right, and we’re thankful to the UC BOARS for their diligence on this issue.

Small changes can often have a very large impact. We believe this change by University of California will make a major difference in computer science in the state of California and beyond. We are thankful to all of the supporters of the movement to give every student in every school the opportunity to learn computer science.

Hadi Partovi, Code.org