Georgia Southern University has received approval by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents to offer baccalaureate degrees in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering with classes set to begin in fall 2011.
“There are defining moments in the life of every major university. The approval to offer engineering degrees at Georgia Southern is definitely one of the most notable in our institution’s more than 100-year history,” said Brooks Keel, Ph.D., president of Georgia Southern University. “An adequate supply of engineers is critical not only to the goal of fostering a statewide environment that nurtures high-tech industry, but to the future prosperity of Georgia.”
Prior to the approval, the state of Georgia had only one engineering school and many in-state students were forced to explore out-of-state alternatives.
“We are very grateful for the support that we have received from the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, the Chancellor and his staff during this entire process,” Keel said.
Building on a tradition of engineering education
Georgia Southern University has been offering nationally accredited baccalaureate degrees in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering technology for more than 30 years. In addition, Georgia Southern has offered the Regents Engineering Transfer Program (RETP) and Georgia Tech Regional Engineering Program (GTREP) for nearly 20 years. The unique programs have offered students who successfully completed freshman and sophomore level university core and engineering science courses the opportunity to transfer to Georgia Tech to complete their engineering studies.
Georgia Southern’s existing engineering technology programs have seen a steady increase in enrollment in stark contrast to national trends. In addition, the in-state work retention percentage (or the number of graduates that begin their professional careers in-state following graduation) at Georgia Southern University is estimated at 78.9 percent, far above other competing institutions.
“Georgia Southern’s new engineering degrees will retain the applied nature of their engineering technology roots, but will allow the University to fulfill its evolving mission of teaching and research,” said Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D., dean of the Allen E. Paulson College of Science and Technology (COST). “These new programs will enable Georgia Southern to not only train engineering graduates that will be in high-demand by employers, but it will also allow us to significantly increase our ability to promote and develop the economy of Georgia.”
The new degree programs will initially be housed within COST, but it is envisioned that Georgia Southern University will create a new College of
Engineering to accommodate expected increases in student interest. Georgia Southern’s existing engineering technology programs will be phased out as the three new engineering programs become established, allowing students currently enrolled in these degree programs to complete their program of studies.
Supply vs. demand
During the past 20 years, the U.S. has not produced enough engineering graduates to meet employment demands. The Engineering Workforce Commission found a 19.8 percent decrease in the number of engineering degrees awarded between 1986 and 1998. During the same period, the total number of college degrees awarded in the U.S. increased by 20 percent.
Similarly, the historic shortfall of engineers within the state of Georgia is projected to continue, as the overall number of engineering graduates has decreased, and the aging engineering workforce continues to retire at a faster rate than can be replaced. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during the 2008-18 decade, overall engineering employment is expected to grow by 11 percent.
“There is definitely a demand for well-trained engineers with hands-on experience and Georgia Southern University is the perfect place to offer engineering programs,” said state Sen. Jack Hill. “Georgia companies and those considering Georgia for their manufacturing operations or high-tech businesses continue to need well-trained engineers and supply continues to be an issue. Georgia Southern now joins a select few universities to offer engineering in the state and will help support not only one of the fastest growing areas in Georgia, but in the country.”
Supporting economic development in Georgia
The addition of engineering programs at Georgia Southern will make an immediate impact on economic development activities in the state. By creating an increased supply of qualified engineering graduates, Georgia companies will have the opportunity to attract, hire and retain entry-level engineers that meet their requirements without having to recruit out-of-state.
Additionally, a review of U.S. Census records reveals that the more engineers working in a state, the wealthier the state. Prior to Tuesday’s approval, Georgia had less than a third of the number of public engineering schools found in a typical state, and fewer than half the number of public engineering schools found in even the nation’s poorest states.
Today, a number of Georgia Southern’s students come from coastal and rural areas of Georgia and will return to those areas as engineers, supporting the economic development of these fast-growing regions. The Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development at Georgia
Southern University recently performed an Economic Impact Analysis of the benefits of transitioning the University’s existing engineering technology programs to engineering programs.
In just a five-year span of time, the additional regional economic output to the counties surrounding Georgia Southern University would experience more than a $7 million increase.