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Amid tech layoffs, fewer students declare COS BSE

a white building with lots of windows, in front of a brick building, with a grassy area in front of it.
Candace Do / The Daily Princetonian

For the first time in four years, the number of students declaring a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree (BSE) in Computer Science (COS), the University’s most popular major, decreased.  


Data from this year’s Declaration Day shows that the most popular University majors remain relatively stable. The Class of 2025 is the first class admitted during the pandemic.

As in each of the past four years, the University’s top three areas of study remain the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), Economics, and Computer Science (BSE), though COS BSE saw the fewest number of students declared since the Class of 2021. While there was an increase in declarations for the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) track for Computer Science, it is not enough to make up the loss.

The drop in COS B.S.E. majors comes amid sizable layoffs for tech companies, as major tech corporations have laid off nearly 200,000 tech workers since the start of 2022.

In contrast, this year’s fourth-place major — History — saw a significant jump in new majors. History surpassed Operations Research & Financial Engineering (ORFE) and Computer Science (A.B.). 


Students also expressed increased interest in Molecular Biology and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), which pushed these areas of study ahead of a long-time favorite, Politics.

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Three of the four departments in which classes filled nearest to capacity this past fall also tallied the largest increases in the number of new students pursuing degrees in those departments. 

Psychology, which saw 94.3 percent of seats in its course opening filled in Fall 2022, had an increase of 40.0 percent in its year-over-year declarations. This gain represents a significant bounce back for the department, as it had been one of the two majors that experienced the largest year-over-year decrease last year, along with Mathematics.

Two of the top four most popular majors of the Class of 2025 had the greatest number of new faculty additions over the past two years. Computer Science (BSE), the most popular major among 2025s, and History, their fourth-most popular major, both added four new faculty positions during the past two years.  

The decline among COS BSE meant that more students are studying in the social sciences over engineering, as was traditional until last year.

The COS BSE decrease comes at a time of major investment in engineering. University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 said in a recent interview that “rebuilding and fortifying our School of Engineering and Applied Science” would be one of his top priorities over the next five years. The University is building a new complex for Environmental Studies and Engineering and Applied Science (ES & SEAS) in order to support the six BSE majors, Computer Science (A.B.), Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), and Geosciences. 

ECE is the only department within ES & SEAS recording an increase in the percentage of majors in each of the past five years. The department was renamed from the Department of Electrical Engineering to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2020, and has since seen a jump in declaration of majors. 

Other areas of study had a more selective appeal. Majors with the fewest new students include four language disciplines. German and Spanish and Portuguese each gained five students and French and Italian gained four while no students declared Slavic Languages and Literatures. In addition, four members of the Class of 2025 declared Near Eastern Studies, five chose East Asian Studies, Music, and Religion, and six selected the Independent Study: Linguistics option. 

However, a number of these smaller departments, including German as well as French and Italian, still experienced relative growth as compared to the Class of 2024. Psychology, Physics, Geosciences, History, and English also claimed significant increases, while Philosophy continued its multi-year oscillating pattern since the Class of 2021.

When compared to each major’s four-year average, the class of 2025 was an unusually strong year for majors in Comparative Literature, ECE, and Anthropology. Anthropology showed a significant jump among 2025s as compared to its eight-year average, as did ECE, Computer Science, and African American Studies.

Conversely, 10 majors experienced a 20 percent or greater reduction in declarations as compared to Spring 2022. 

When viewed in context of each major’s four-year average, notably fewer than usual students in the Class of 2025 selected Slavic Languages and Literature, Spanish and Portuguese, Mathematics, and East Asian Studies.

The ‘Prince’ tracked when people declared throughout the declaration period. Just over 14 percent of the class, 199 students, declared their major in the final week, with 55 students declaring on the last day.

The declaration period for BSE students in the Class of 2026 begins on April 24.

Madeleine LeBeau is a senior Data and News writer at the ‘Prince.’

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