Silicon Valley’s top 10 feeder colleges — Stanford yes, but Harvey Mudd?

Turns out Stanford University is every bit The Farm you always thought it was — as in a place to grow Silicon Valley’s workforce.

Thanks to a nifty piece of work by the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Jon Xavier with the help of start-up Upstart, we have a crude gauge of where the techies come from.

(Upstart offers a way for investors to invest in college kids. An investor puts up much-needed cash and the student agrees to fork over a percentage of his or her future earnings. Upstart can track the students’ careers, which was the basis for the rankings, Xavier explained.)

Stanford’s top rating comes as little surprise in the valley, where every other Tesla that cuts you off on Sand Hill Road bears a Stanford decal. The school and its students are huge on computer science, with nearly every Stanford student taking at least one computer science course. And it’s got an OK business program, too.

But Xavier expressed some surprise at No. 2, Harvey Mudd College, one of the Claremont colleges in southern California.  Yet, Mudd’s ranking isn’t such a big surprise. For one thing, Harvey Mudd’s president, Maria Klawe, is a computer scientist. (A little New York Times background.) For another, every student at Harvey Mudd is required to take at least one computer science course.

Many agree that exposure to computer science is key to getting young people to pursue a CS career. It’s a particularly important way to encourage women and some minorities, who enter the computer science field in very small numbers.

In fact, Harvey Mudd (which also encourages women with early research projects and by promoting the broad applications for computer science and by providing an intro class for neophytes) is something of a gold standard in encouraging women to study CS.  Consider that nationally, about 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees go to women, while at Harvey Mudd 40 percent of CS majors are women.

True, the school has a small enrollment, but it is encouraging that it is such a key pipeline to the valley, a place where women are sorely underrepresented in tech companies.

Here’s the rest of the Top 10, according to the Business Journal:

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4. Yale University

5. Duke University

6. Dartmouth College

7. Princeton University

8. Harvard University

9. Brown University

10. University of California, Berkeley

Update 2 p.m.: Jon Xavier asked that I clarify that the schools’ rankings are weighted by total enrollment. The list reflects the schools’ contribution to the tech industry as a proportion of the schools’ enrollment.

(Photo of Stanford’s Hoover Tower by Mercury News photographer Gary Reyes)



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  • Roland Alden

    “Many agree that exposure to computer science is key to
    getting young people to pursue a CS career.” It’s a brilliant insight. I suppose torture might work as well.

    • jeff

      The original wording is odd – of course exposure to CS makes people more likely to pursue a CS career. It’d be fairly difficult to pursue a CS career otherwise. I suspect that the author was trying to work in the fact that HMC’s broad core requirements (each student takes 2 years of math beginning with multivariable calculus, intro programming; 2 years of chem; systems engineering; relativity and E&M) encourage students to develop CS skills that make them more likely to enter work in SV, even when their primary major is in other technical fields (such as biology, physics, or chemistry).

  • Matt Slavik

    Can it really be the case that Duke, Dartmouth, Brown or Harvey Mudd produce more Silicon Valley employees than do San Jose State or Santa Clara?

  • Eric Busboom

    Although I suspect it isn’t unique to Mudd, there was a feature of the college when I was there that made it a training ground for entrepreneurs and startup junkies: a celebration of failure. Students were actually proud when they failed, got the lowest score on a test, or were kicked out of the school for low grades.

    It took a while to get used to seeing pink ITR slips ( “Ineligible to Return” ) posted on dorm room doors or parties thrown in honor of D’s and F’s, but I think that the relentless lesson that you aren’t a failure until you stop trying is one reason why Mudd has a very large percentage of people who gravitate to startups.

  • champ

    Marie Klawe is out to destroy Harvey Mudd’s hard-earned reputation as a STEM school with her monomaniacal drive to get “womyn” into computer science…