BOR approves engineering proposals

The University of Georgia (UGA) narrowly recieved approval to expand its engineering programs from the Board of Regents (BOR)  on Tuesday, Nov. 9 with a vote of 9-8. The vote also included a proposal to allow Georgia Southern University to transform existing technology degrees into full-fledged engineering programs.
The vote this week followed Governor Sonny Perdue’s Oct. address to the BOR in which he warned that the university system should not launch an engineering program at UGA without a careful consideration of the possible negative effects or an attempt to gain public approval.
The approval of the motion came as a surprise to many Georgia lawmakers who had initially questioned expanding such expensive education programs during financially difficult times. Since the beginning of discussions about expanding UGA and Georgia Southern engineering programs, there have been many editorial, personal, and group efforts to converse with the regents about voting on the engineering programs.
Much of the discussion that has been stimulated has occurred as a result of the overlap that will occur between degrees in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering that are currently offered at Tech. Both institutions have historically been the benchmark in education across the state, and appeal to many of the same students.
Other concerns were raised regarding the methods that the UGA will use to pay for the expensive engineering programs.  Many Georgia lawmakers expressed apprehensions about the UGA requesting funding from the State of Georgia to pay for the programs when state budgets are already tightly strapped for funds during current economic times.
“I am supportive of Georgia Southern’s programs, but that’s a completely different kettle of fish than the startup at UGA.  I don’t want to hear a word from UGA about any cries over budget cuts.  They have the money to do this.  They must have found a pot of gold to afford this expensive program,” said Earl Ehrhart, a state representative.
UGA President Michael Adams responded by saying that the college will put the programs into action using funds that already exist within the UGA budget.  Plans for implementation include a civil engineering program that will begin in the fall of 2012, and electrical and mechanical engineering programs that will begin in the fall of 2013.
“We are not oblivious to financial concerns…but I think five years from now, you will see new graduates,” Adams said.
The proposal for the expansion of engineering programs was initially brought up because of a perceived deficit in engineering graduates. According to the proposal, students who cannot gain admission to Tech are denied access to an engineering education and therefore decrease the amount of qualified engineers entering the workforce each year, particularly in the state of Georgia.
During discussions leading up to the regents’ vote, many questioned the need for engineers in the state.  Some, such as Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson, argued that Tech, as one of the highest-ranking engineering schools in the nation, is in the best position to expand an engineering program and increase the number of engineering graduates in the state of Georgia.
Finally, some of the regents expressed alarm in regards to the expedience with which the entire process was conducted, starting with the initial meeting last month.
Regent Doreen Stiles Poitevint said that she felt she was not given enough time to consider the decision, and that although she feels that more engineers are needed, there was no reason to vote so soon.
Regent Ben Tarbutton said that he believed that the BOR would have benefited from an independent analysis conducted outside of the group, which has historically been the procedure during similar expansions of educational programs within the state of Georgia.
When asked his opinion on the final vote, Peterson expressed respect for the decision made by the regents.
“We will continue to work with the regents, our state leaders and all other institutions in the state to ensure that we are able to serve the people of Georgia while providing the best possible education for our students,” Peterson said.

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