Computer science education efforts are getting another boost. President Obama has officially signed the STEM Education Act of 2015 into law, expanding the STEM definition to include computer science.

“We must prepare our students for degrees in STEM subjects to ensure that they have the ability to thrive in today’s technology-based economy,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, who introduced the bill. “This means motivating more American students to study STEM subjects, including computer science.

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“Unfortunately, America lags behind many other nations when it comes to STEM education. American students rank 21st in science and 26th in math. The STEM Education Act expands the definition of STEM, encourages students to study these subjects, and trains more teachers.”

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. While computer science has never been a part of the actual acronym, it was thought to fall under the technology category. Officially including it in the definition signals the importance of a computer science education, according to Washington Partners’ vice president for legislative and public affairs Della Cronin, who handles federal affairs for

“Computer science advocates have long felt that STEM programs have ignored computer science,” she said. “They felt there needed to be a signal from Capitol Hill and a statute that governs some of these programs and says computer science is important, you as an agency should be supporting the teaching and learning of it, and investing public dollars in it.”

The STEM Education Act doesn’t bring any additional funding for computer science, but it does bring the option for schools that are running programs backed by a STEM fund to include computer science programs as part of that funding, according to Kelly Calhoun, research director of education at Gartner.

“The thought here was looping this in as part of STEM funding gave the maximum amount of flexibility for individual school districts to tailor programs to meet the needs of their local communications,” she said.

Computer science education has been an ongoing conversation in the technology industry because of the lack of people to fill computer science jobs. According to, there will be 1.4 million more computer science jobs than there will be people to fill them by 2020.

“It’s not just about IT, it’s not just the Silicon Valley companies; it is important to financial companies, it is important to the world of retail,” said Cronin. “You would be hard-pressed to get through a day without relying on some software designed by a computer scientist or some device that involved a computer scientist.”

Cronin added that even if you aren’t planning on pursuing computer science as a professional, it can help you make sense of what you are consuming as a user of technology.

“It is a great opportunity to have kids exposed to computer science at least at the entry level,” said Calhoun. “There are logic principles that are developed as part of studying computer science, and for a lot of kids this could be a great doorway into learning new ways of thinking, reasoning and problem-solving.”

However, students will not be the only ones to benefit from the new education act; teachers will also have more opportunities as well. The bill amends the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program to enable individuals pursuing a master’s degree to participate in the program, and it includes computer science as part of the scholarship program.

“The purpose of this is to pull more people from math and science into a teaching profession,” according to Calhoun.

Calhoun and Cronin both noted that while this is a step in the right direction, it is only one step, and there still needs to be more investment and work at the state level to improve computer science education.

“Enactment of our bipartisan STEM Education Act demonstrates that we can work together to help our students thrive and to help ensure that they are prepared for the careers of tomorrow,” said Elizabeth Esty, a member of the House committee. “More and more jobs of the 21st century require science, technology, engineering, and math skills. We need to make sure that all of our students have opportunities to thrive in STEM education.”