IU informatics, computing school sees enrollment surge

An Indiana University school devoted to information technology and its applications to other fields has seen its enrollment nearly triple in the last seven years, university officials said.

IU's School of Informatics and Computing has grown from about 400 undergraduates in 2007 to just under 1,200 students last year, said Bobby Schnabel, the school's dean. The school was created in 2000 as the School of Informatics, but merged with the computer science department in 2005 and the School of Library and Information Science in 2013.

Schnabel said informatics used to be the major IU students might have heard of but didn't know what it actually was.

"Now, if you don't know, there is probably someone down the hall that does," he told The Herald-Times. "There is an increasing awareness of informatics."

A well-paying job market that has more positions than applicants has helped fuel the Bloomington school's growth, Schnabel said. But a bigger factor is that the school is attracting a wide range of students who can blend informatics with business, health, art and other fields.

And the school's appeal could continue to grow. Schnabel recently led an internal IU committee that assessed possibly adding information-technology systems engineering. A blue-ribbon committee will review the panel's complete report before making recommendations to the university, he said.

Whatever the fate of that proposal, Schnabel expects the school's growth to continue, bringing with it a larger budget for hiring faculty with new specialties. The school currently has about 100 faculty members, but over the next four years he said the school plans to add nearly 30 more, plus additional career services staff.

Kate Caldwell, the school's director of career services for the Bloomington campus, said she's worked in the field for 15 years, but informatics is a standout for job placement. She said it's not unusual to see students nearing graduation who need help deciding between multiple job offers.

"Employers come to us at a much higher rate than anywhere I've been," she said.

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