Today, 40 percent of undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology major in computer science, up 10 percentage points over the past five years. But just 7 percent of the school's professors teach the subject.

That imbalance in resources has created glitches in MIT’s academic wiring, Provost Martin Schmidt said.

"Problems of exploding classroom enrollments in machine-learning classes, problems of faculty that are teaching these courses feeling overwhelmed,” Schmidt said. “This was not a dot-com bubble. This was a really transformative thing that was occurring, and it was occurring organically across the campus.”

So MIT is elevating computer science to the same level as engineering by giving the academic discipline its own college, starting this fall. The creation of a computing college signals a broader trend in American higher education. Undergraduates are voting with their feet, and their education is shifting towards technical fields and away from the humanities. While computer science has seen enrollment spike across the country, fewer undergrads are majoring in history and philosophy.

"I think higher education is in transition, and we're going to see things change pretty dramatically," said Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif. and also a computer scientist.

MIT's Schwarzman College of Computing, launched with a $350 million gift from Stephen Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of The Blackstone Group, is hiring 50 new computer science professors. Some will teach artificial intelligence courses. Half will have joint appointments in other departments like political science, anthropology, music and economics.

The goal, Schmidt said, is to integrate computing into each department, offering students more dual degrees.

“They can choose the major which is their passion and be confident they’re going to gain the skills that are necessary to advance that passion,” Schmidt said.

Klawe predicted other colleges will soon follow MIT’s lead.

“Whether it’s joint degrees, or whether it’s simply having more courses taught around computational techniques, that’s the way we’re all going,” Klawe said.

Melissa Nobles, dean of MIT’s school of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, said faculty reaction to the new computing college initially varied from excitement to deep concern.

“If you did a public survey of how most people feel about technology, we love it, sometimes we hate it, fear it, wonder about its relationship to our existence, and so the faculty thought about it similarly. But we also recognize that computation is changing how we do research,” Nobles said.

Nobles said professors from different academic disciplines do need to be in more frequent contact.

“I think this college is exactly the place where those kinds of conversations can happen, because at the moment we’re over here and the computer scientists are over there,” Nobles said. “We need to be in the room together."

At a campus event celebrating the new college, students from across the university showcased some of their computing work. Graduate student Justing Swaney from Wisconsin developed audio editing software that has a search function.

"I was frustrated with file explorers and trying to go through unorganized files to get my samples,” Swaney explained, “so I decided to use machine-learning to do the hard work for me."

Swaney said he hopes to find a job at the new college. "I'm a chemical engineer, but I use computer science. You don't have to be a computer scientist to use computers, so I think it totally brings it to another level," he said.

Other students were not as enthusiastic. Joanne Lee, a senior from Chicago, is studying computer science, but she said elevating the field from a department to a college seems excessive.

"We already have a lot of attention as computer science students, but I think I would actually enjoy less focus on computer science and promote more diversity of majors," Lee said.

To do that, MIT administrators say the new college will also explore the social impacts of computer science and artificial intelligence, with professors teaching ethics and public policy alongside robotics and coding.

The college is scheduled to open in September before moving into its own building in 2022.

This story has been changed to reflect the correct spelling of Maria Klawe's first name. It is Maria, not Marie.