Budget Expands Cybersecurity Degree Options as Cyber Threats Grow

Recent geopolitical events – including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have elevated the need to protect our nation’s systems and networks. President Biden recently warned companies about possible Russian cyberattacks, and urged them to ensure their own protection. The president’s infrastructure bill, which Congress passed last November, includes $1 billion in grants to help states prevent cyberattacks. 

In addition to federal action, our state has also been looking to beef up its virtual defenses. On March 31st, Governor Inslee signed the $64 billion 2022 supplemental operating budget. Citing the need for more cybersecurity professionals, the budget seeks to remedy the shortage by investing over $18 million in cybersecurity training programs at the public four-year colleges and universities and community and technical colleges to expand current programs and build new ones. This includes $4.5 million for WSU for their cybersecurity degree program (including a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity operations), $2.8 million to EWU to establish a professional masters of science cyber operations degree option in addition to a bachelor of science in cybersecurity degree option through the computer science program. Other investments include $2.3 million for CWU to expand their cybersecurity capacity, $1.2 million for WWU for cybersecurity training, nearly half a million dollars to Evergreen for a cybersecurity certificate program, and $7.2 million for the community and technical colleges to expand cybersecurity enrollments and establish a Center of Excellence in cybersecurity.  

Recent years have also seen Washington colleges and universities recognized as leaders in this area. In 2021, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency (NSA) designated EWU as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (NCAE-C). The same year, WSU was one of only three universities in the country to be selected as the recipient for a Department of Defense (DOD) grant. This grant established  a new cybersecurity education and research program, called the Northwest Virtual Institute for Cybersecurity Education and Research (CySER). Offerings include four-year degree and certificate programs in computer science and other majors in cyber basics, operations, and defense. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts strong growth for information analysts, with estimates predicting “growth of 33% from 2020 to 2030”. The BLS also records high wages for this position, with medial annual wages in 2020 over $100,000. 

Cyber-attacks have been on the rise in recent years, and news stories have documented the impact on Washington in particular. After a major breach in 2020, Washington created the State Office of Cybersecurity, which “provides strategic direction for cybersecurity and protects the state government network from growing cyber threats”. OCS helps to prevent these attacks from happening, and to mitigate their impacts. 

In November 2021, Washington state’s Office of the Attorney General released its sixth annual Data Breach Report for 2021. In it, the Office noted the records broken for incidents included the highest number of data breach notices sent out to Washingtonians at 6.3 million, with another 280 reported data breaches, 245 reported cyberattacks, and 150 reported ransomware attacks. Among factors for these increases, they note an increase in cloud storage and more people working from home, targeting of large data processors, and new reporting requirements that took effect in 2019 for notifying consumers. The Attorney General’s office maintains a list of all data breaches since 2015, here. Businesses can find information for reporting data breaches here

Cybersecurity and computer science programs can be found at CWU, The Evergreen State College, EWU, UW, WSU, and WWU. Our sector remains committed to meeting state and workforce needs in this and other critical areas. 

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