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Universities adding thousands of new majors, hoping new degrees will spur demand

Aug 12, 2018 by

When Western Nevada College launches its new program in cybersecurity this fall, it will have spent about $130,000 on planning and to build a state-of-the-art computer lab.

The college projects that 70 students will eventually enroll in the certificate program. So far, five have committed to it. Western Nevada is hoping that a total of 20 will show up for the inaugural class, but won’t know until the semester begins.

Administrators at universities and colleges across the country have been spending the summer in the same level of suspense as they invest scarce resources in large numbers of new programs they hope will bolster sagging enrollment.

Largely unnoticed federal figures show that, even as their finances have become more and more strained and their student populations have declined, public and private higher education institutions have added 41,446 degree or certificate programs since 2012. That’s a 21 percent increase in the number that existed when the dramatic slide in enrollment began.

Some, like cybersecurity, seem good bets, which is why more than 400 programs in it now are being offered, with more added each semester. There is huge demand for cybersecurity experts, with more than 300,000 high-paying job openings in the last year, according to the market research firm Burning Glass and the technology industry association CompTIA.

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