CS Department FAQs

Dear Parents,

A recent communication from our Computer Science Department to students regarding pre-registration has sparked concern on campus and among our communities of parents, alumni, and friends. While there is no question that our campus CS department is facing challenges from rapidly increasing enrollments, as are CS departments across the country, I want to assure you that the College had already begun to address this concern prior to the spring—and we are accelerating our responses. Below is an FAQ that addresses several of the questions that we have heard to date. I’m hopeful that this information will be of use to you, and reassure you that we are dedicating resources to see that the needs of our students are met. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly with further questions.


Lisa M. Sullivan
Dean of the Faculty

Has there been a change in the way in which the CS department allocates enrollment in courses?

No. The department did send out an email in which possible future changes were discussed, but no changes have been made and no decisions have been finalized about any future enrollment policies.

Will a CS major be able to graduate on time because of tight course enrollments?

Absolutely. Every CS major will be able to graduate on time; we will ensure that sufficient enrollments will be provided in required courses and electives.

Will every CS major get every elective course he or she would most prefer?

That’s not something the CS department (or any other HMC or Claremont department) guarantees. We believe upper division electives gain from relatively small class sizes and close working relationships with professors, so there will always be course size limits in those courses. But we believe that all CS electives are excellent and all students will be able to take the number required to graduate.

What is the CS department doing to ensure enough faculty members are available to teach courses?

The department is already in the process of growing the number of tenure track faculty, with two new faculty joining this year and two searches scheduled for next year. We have added two additional courses in the fall that will be taught by visitors and we have shifted the teaching load of two department members so that they will be teaching CS rather than some non-CS Core courses like Writ 1.

Why do you not bring even more instructors? Even more quickly?

As you might imagine, the market for excellent CS PhD’s with interest in academic careers is quite tight. We recruit aggressively but carefully to ensure that the quality of our extraordinary department remains high. We’re also looking for very high quality adjunct instructors, but we are sensitive to the fact that our liberal arts setting demands excellent and experienced teachers as well as subject matter expertise. Not every person who is an excellent practitioner of CS is well-qualified to teach.

What about HMC students who are not CS majors or joint majors? Will they be able to access the courses they need or want?

All HMC students are already guaranteed enrollment in CS 5. There has never been any difficulty for HMC students gaining access to CS 60, and we anticipate that this will continue to be true. Sophomores, as a class, have preferred access to CS 70. Non-major HMC students should continue to have the same access to electives that they do now—that is, most are able to take some electives, but not necessarily the electives that are the most popular. We are looking hard at constraints in this area and will be working to improve access over the next year.

What about the other Claremont Colleges?

Pomona has a CS department which is also growing and accommodates off-campus enrollment. Our other partners in Claremont have and will continue to support demand through provision of resources to hire faculty at HMC and through the development of CS courses on their own campuses.

HMC students have trouble getting into off-campus classes—Why don’t we limit enrollments?

HMC, like the other Claremont Colleges, does not guarantee enrollment in classes for non-majors. Our enrollment in CS 5, for example, is not unlimited for off-campus students. But once a student has declared a major, he or she will have the same access to classes as home-campus students.

What about Clinic?

At present we expect no difficulty in providing access to clinic experiences for all interested CS students.

Could we not have seen this crunch coming?

We did and have created consortial arrangements, planned hiring, and done fundraising to support increased demand for CS. But the growth in demand has been even faster than we had anticipated—something that we and colleges and universities across the country are experiencing. We’re working quickly to come up with good short-term solutions while planning, together with the consortium, for the long haul.