The College of Professional Studies enrolled 233 students in its undergraduate programs in 2018 – the highest number in nearly a decade.
The school has seen a nearly 250 percent enrollment increase for its undergraduate programs over the past five years, according to institutional data. Faculty and officials said the enrollment jump aligns with the flexible structure of the programs and increased professional demand in areas like cybersecurity.
Christopher Deering, the interim dean of CPS, said the overall enrollments in the school for both undergraduate and graduate students have been “pretty stable” during the past five years.
The number of undergraduates enrolled in CPS jumped by 35 percent this fall, while graduate enrollment slowed by about 6 percent, according to institutional data.
CPS currently offers three undergraduate degree programs that are hosted on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus and were created for nontraditional students, Deering said. The programs are all degree-completion programs and last for two years, according to CPS’ website.
“The welcome increase in CPS undergraduate enrollments is primarily attributable to the recent addition of the undergraduate degree-completion program in cybersecurity,” Deering said in an email.
He said the cybersecurity program has done “very well” under the leadership of Scott White, the director of the cybersecurity bachelor’s degree completion program and an associate professor in CPS.
The cybersecurity program has increased fourfold since 2016, enrolling 33 students in 2016 and 126 students in 2018, according to institutional data. The two other undergraduate programs – including police and security studies and integrated information, science and technology – have also seen an uptick in enrollment.
The police and security studies program enrolled three fewer students in 2017 than this year, with a total of 38 students, and the integrated information, science and technology program enrolled 22 more students in the last year.
White said the two-year structure of the cybersecurity bachelor’s program has prompted more student interest in the school. He said students enter the program as juniors with 60 credits and complete 60 credits in CPS, which he said allows students to spend less money on the degree than they would in a typical undergraduate program.
“Students are able to spend less money because they’re attending the first two years at a community college or often maybe a state university,” White said. “When we add our fee on top of it, it still becomes a very attractive George Washington degree because of cost.”
White said the enrollment increase prompted the school to hire five faculty this academic year to accommodate more students. He added that CPS built a new computer lab on VSTC, which provides a space for students to learn the ins and outs of topics like encryption in a hands-on learning environment.
“We have built a program that meets the needs of our adult learner, in terms of schooling,” he said.
Eva Vincze, a professor of cybersecurity and police science, said topics like cybersecurity and police science are in “great” demand in the professional world. The demand for cybersecurity jobs in D.C. will further increase when a new Amazon headquarters opens in Arlington County, Va. in 2019, she said.
“Both the programs, police science and cybersecurity, not only teach people critical thinking but also give them really practical applications of it so that they can use it right away, which is really, really attractive to most students,” she said.
Thomas West, a professor of cybersecurity, said the enrollment uptick is the result of an increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals.
More than 313,000 jobs in cybersecurity opened in the United States between September 2017 and August 2018, and more than 44,000 of the jobs are available in the D.C. area, according to a report from the National Institution of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“The growing trend right now is cybersecurity, especially in the private sector,” he said. “Students want to get the best education they can in that field so that they can try to land a good job in the private sector.”