Amazon donates $3M to Seattle-area colleges to support computer science degrees

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Bellevue College computer science program chair Fatma Cemile Serçe, center, works with students. (Bellevue College Photo)

Amazon is donating $3 million to Seattle-area colleges to bolster their computer science programs.

Bellevue College, located east of Seattle, will receive $1.5 million over three years to support its bachelor of science in computer science. There are 187 undergraduates currently enrolled in the degree program, which launched in 2017. The gift will increase financial support for enrolled students and college outreach to K-12 students.

The Seattle College Foundation will also receive $1.5 million to help fund its newly launched bachelor of science in computer science. This fall, North Seattle College admitted its first class of 20 students pursuing the degree.

Amazon previously donated $1 million towards the effort, which helped fund the hiring and training of a lead faculty member.

“At Amazon, we know the importance of access to computer science education. This investment will help remove barriers historically under-resourced populations have faced and provide greater opportunity for local students to pursue careers in the technology sector,” said Victor Reinoso, global director of Amazon’s philanthropic education initiatives, in announcing the Seattle College Foundation gift.

The colleges receiving funding from Amazon provide a less expensive route to tech degrees compared to universities and typically reach a more racially and ethnically diverse student body.

Computer science degrees are in high demand from students in Washington state. The nationally ranked Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington accepts about 7% of the direct applicants to its undergraduate program. The UW branch campuses and other universities also offer popular computer science degree programs.

Bellevue College was the first Washington community college to offer a bachelor of science in the field. Last year the state began allowing all of the community colleges to offer the degree, leading to North Seattle’s program. The Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges expects additional schools to join them next year.

Tuition at the colleges is significantly less, in general, than at the universities. The annual in-state tuition and fees for a computer science student at Bellevue College is $7,266 compared to $12,076 per year at the UW.

Educators expect the demand for computer science degrees to continue growing, driven in part by high wages and employment opportunities.

Washington state has 333,000 tech jobs, including roles requiring tech skills and a variety of jobs at tech companies, according to a 2022 report from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). Workers specifically in tech roles had a median salary of $124,653 — an income 147% higher than the state median.

Editor’s note: North Seattle College is offering a bachelor of science in computer science, not a bachelor of arts. The story has been updated to correct that information.

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