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Should ­niversities Offer Cobol Classes?

By Computerworld

April 10, 2013

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There are billions of lines of Cobol code still in use at large businesses and in government agencies, and many experts say that will be the case for years. However, Cobol is only taught as an elective at most universities.

Syracuse University professor David Dischiave wants students to emerge from college as critical thinkers with practical skills, including having experience with Cobol. "Employers are knocking on our door trying to hire as many [Cobol-trained students] as they can," Dischiave says.

A recent Micro Focus survey of 119 universities found that 73 percent do not offer Cobol programming as part of their curriculum, 18 percent have Cobol as a core part of the curriculum, and 9 percent offer Cobol as an elective. The survey also found that 71 percent of respondents believe businesses will continue to rely on Cobol-based applications for at least the next 10 years.

Carnegie Mellon University professor Ray Scott sees value in a familiarity with Cobol, noting that it helps students understand, for example, how a legacy backend system puts out a payroll. "They really don't see that, so much of what they do is Web interface," Scott says.

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