WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Naval Academy dean said Monday that he hopes cybersecurity, a field of increasing importance to national security and civilian computer networks, can be accredited as a major by the time the academy’s first cybersecurity students graduate in 2016. The academy wants to be among the first to receive such accreditation.

Andrew Phillips, the academy’s academic dean and provost, updated members of the academy’s Board of Visitors about efforts to create criteria for accreditation.

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Board members, who include members of Congress, have encouraged the academy to increase its cybersecurity training.

The academy is organizing a grassroots effort with other colleges and universities interested in creating accreditation criteria in consultation with ABET, a leading nonprofit accrediting agency for the disciplines of applied science, computing and engineering. Phillips said about 60 people from around the nation met to discuss cybersecurity accreditation during an ABET meeting in Arlington, Virginia, in July, and follow-up meetings are planned.

“Our goal is to try to get criteria in place in two years, which aligns with our graduating class of 2016,” Phillips said.

There currently are no ABET-accredited college degrees in cybersecurity. Accreditation by ABET is a way for academic institutions to demonstrate that their programs are performing at a level required by the professions they serve.

The academy has been working for several years to create a top-notch learning environment for cybersecurity. The class of 2016 has 30 students majoring in cyber operations, and they are the first ones to do so. There are 60 students in the class of 2017 who are majoring in cyber operations.

All students are now required to take two semesters of cybersecurity, a change to the academy’s core curriculum that was announced three years ago. The academy also is hoping to secure about $120 million to build a 206,000-square-foot building to house a cybersecurity program.

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Meanwhile, the academy also released figures at the board meeting showing how many students from each state attend the school. More than a third of the academy’s students are from five states: California, Texas, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

California had the highest number of students with 442. Texas came second with 331. Maryland, which is home to the academy, has 300 students. Virginia has the next highest number with 286, followed by Florida with 280.

Together, those states account for 1,639 of the academy’s 4,572 students. That’s about 36 percent of the Brigade of Midshipmen.

Vermont is the state with the fewest number of students at the academy with seven, followed by North Dakota with eight and South Dakota with nine. Wyoming, New Hampshire and Alaska have 14 students each.

The District of Columbia has four students at the academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

U.S. territories have 11 students at the academy. There also are 59 international students at the academy.

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