Meeting Demand for Computer Science in Seattle

  • Education
  • 2017

At the University of Washington in Seattle (the city that is home to Microsoft, Amazon, and many other technology companies), computer science is the most sought-after major among the more than 30,000 undergraduates. In a country with a serious shortage of trained computer-science professionals, that’s an encouraging trend. Problem is, U.W. has to turn away most of those potential majors for lack of facilities. Only about a third of the students who apply get into the computer department.

Microsoft co-founder and major philanthropist Paul Allen has been helping with that problem for many years. He gave the lead $14 million gift that created the main building where U.W.’s computer training has been based since 2003. Then in 2017 he donated $40 million (with Microsoft kicking in an additional $10 million in Allen’s honor) to endow the department and turn it into a full-fledged school within the university. A major new building is under construction (mostly funded through philanthropy), and important enhancements of the student body and faculty are unfolding.

Allen is not a Washington graduate. Like many other technology titans he dropped out of (a different) college. He and Bill Gates did, however, get hooked on computers by sneaking into the U.W. computer lab while they were high-school students. He has since paid for those seminal trespasses with more than $100 million of total gifts to the University of Washington.