Burn Rate

Courant, CAS and CS: How Do They Relate?

Surprisingly, this isn’t another complaining post. Instead, let’s answer an incredibly common question: how the heck do Courant, CAS, the CS department relate to each other?

NOTE: This is correct as of October 2021. Except it might not be. This is convoluted and confusing enough that it’s unlikely to be fully correct. Please verify this info on your own.

Let’s start with Courant. The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences is, well, an institute of mathematical sciences. Courant is primarily known for its applied and theoretical math, but it also contains computer science1.

The director of Courant, Russ Caflisch, is effectively a dean. He reports to the NYU president directly.

The CS department used to be part of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences (FAS) in that the tenure process would go through FAS, while the math department followed Courant guidelines for tenure. Somewhere along the line, NYU decided to simplify this process and make CS also under Courant. Therefore the tenure process goes through Courant and not FAS.

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is where undergraduates are enrolled and is the institution that grants undergraduates degrees. Its graduate equivalent is the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).

When you take courses as a CAS CS major, you are taking Courant CS courses. Courant gets a certain amount of money per student from CAS. This is relatively new. Courant used to get money from defense2 grants, but that ran dry.

What’s also interesting is that because the CS department is in Courant, professors who work at other institutes, such as the Center for Data Science (CDS), are still Courant faculty. This often means you’ll see that a professor is associated with CDS but appointed to Courant CS.

Tandon CS is not CAS CS. This may seem like a vacuous statement, but it’s not because the Tandon and CAS math departments merged in 2017. This took a lot of effort and it’s unclear if CS will follow. There’s a lot of logistical concerns with merging the departments, but it would simplify degree requirements and consolidate classes. I have a post on this precise issue that may be published soon.

With math, both Tandon students and CAS students take classes from the Courant math department. Students receive their degree from their respective schools and have different sets of requirements. For the first two years of Tandon math, students take Tandon specific courses. Past that point, there aren’t really that many advanced math courses specific to Tandon, so they take cross-listed CAS/Tandon math courses.

You may ask, why is it that Tandon has a separate CS program from CAS? It’s a good question. A lot of schools don’t actually have separate CS degrees for engineering versus Arts & Sciences. They have one degree with then additional engineering or Arts & Sciences requirements tacked on. There’s a few reasons. For one, Tandon is a relatively new part of NYU, having joined in 2014. The other reason is that Tandon makes money off of their programs. Again, funding is tied to students in each respective program. If Tandon were to nix programs, it would lose money or have to negotiate a money-sharing scheme with Courant.

If you want a confusing summary, technically Courant doesn’t have students and CAS doesn’t have a CS department.

  1. Like how the McDonalds menu contains Filet O’Fish 

  2. At one point during the Vietnam War, protesters put an improvised explosive near a supercomputer in Courant. Peter Lax, one of Courant’s most highly regarded mathematicians, actually disabled the explosive with the help of a few others. You can read about it here 

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