UGA engineering plans offer needless duplications of superior Tech

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The availability of a world-class engineering workforce is a key ingredient of a state's attraction to investors of growth industries. For 125 years, the Georgia Institute of Technology has almost singlehandedly fulfilled the role of supplying the engineering talent to meet Georgia's needs. Georgia Tech has done so with spectacular success -- routinely ranking among the world's best, usually with little local notice.

So why would we dilute our efforts to maintain global, and national leadership by dividing our resources at a time when state budgets will continue to shrink?

Recently, the University of Georgia submitted a proposal to the Board of Regents to develop additional competing and duplicate engineering programs of its own. UGA already offers degrees in agricultural, biochemical, biological, computer systems and environmental engineering -- programs in their infancy, yet to achieve national prominence.

The request to expand into the more traditional disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering makes no reasonable sense. These new offerings would directly duplicate degrees already offered at Georgia Tech -- with all three programs ranked in the top five nationally. The Regents plan to consider the UGA proposal at their November meeting Wednesday.

The rationale and assumptions put forward by UGA for the creation of duplicate programs at a time of contracting operating budgets makes little objective sense.

- Fact or fiction? Georgia companies are unable to hire enough engineers to operate their businesses.

Last year, Georgia Tech graduated more than 1,500 engineers with bachelor's degrees, and more civil, electrical and mechanical engineers than any other school in the nation. Yet, only 800 of them could find employment in Georgia. Clearly there is significant current capacity for recruitment by Georgia companies.

We should, as a state, aspire to grow our industries that require additional engineers and scientists. Which institute is best prepared to graduate additional engineers? The clear answer is Georgia Tech. Scale matters in engineering education, and the incremental cost to grow a program is a fraction of the cost of starting a new one. Georgia Tech has made the long-term investments to continue to grow with our state's needs, and the institute has stated that it can add 1,500 more undergraduates on the Atlanta campus and 300 additional undergraduates on its newer and expanding Savannah campus by 2015.

- Fact or fiction? Georgia students with SAT scores of 1250 to 1350 cannot get into Georgia Tech, and are leaving to attend competing universities in neighboring states.

Entrance standards at all schools, including Georgia Tech, have risen and the median SAT score for the 2010 freshman class at Tech is 1370, which implies that half of admitted students have scores below 1370. It is reasonable to assume that a significant number of students with scores in the 1250-to-1350 range were admitted.

As for the assertion that Georgia students are going to engineering programs in neighboring states, it is curious that UGA focuses on a small fraction of those studying out-of-state. Only 10 percent of Georgia residents studying at Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Tennessee are majoring in engineering. If the goal is to keep additional Georgia high-school students in-state for college, then I suggest we focus on the 90 percent who studied out-of-state in non-engineering programs.

- Fact or fiction? Engineering programs in these disciplines would greatly enhance UGA's research capabilities.

University research programs reach excellence due to size and scale. Georgia Tech has risen to the No. 4-ranked engineering program in the nation, only behind Stanford, MIT and the only other state school, the University of California at Berkeley. What has permitted Georgia to outshine 49 other states? The single most important reason is that Georgia has, up until now, had the wisdom, discipline and foresight to focus nearly all of its state resources for engineering at one institution.

Engineering programs are extraordinarily expensive, and concentrated investment has allowed the state to grow and reap the benefits of a pre-eminent institution at Tech. The current funding model has provided the resources for Georgia Tech's programs to flourish by attracting world-class faculty and facilities.

The argument that a new and small engineering program at UGA will greatly expand the school's research activities is weak and inconsistent with practice. University engineering research is primarily based on the availability of graduate students, and it is unclear how adding undergraduate programs will have any impact in this area. Even if there are plans to add graduate programs in the future, it will take decades for such programs to be competitive in the current federal research funding environment.

At a time when state resources are limited and shrinking, the UGA proposal to launch new and expensive engineering programs make little common sense. Despite assurances that these programs will not dilute state resources, the facts are inconsistent with the promises.

Instead, we should celebrate the success that Georgia Tech has achieved, and recommit our state resources to maintaining the school's global pre-eminence in technology and engineering. It would be irresponsible and tragic to jeopardize that success. Let's find smart and efficient new ways to cooperate and leverage each school's existing programs for the benefit of the future of Georgia.

(The writer is chairman of the nonprofit Georgia Tech Alumni Association.)

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JM88
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JM88 11/08/10 - 11:57 pm
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Yeah, but UGA still has a

Yeah, but UGA still has a better football team.

catfish20
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catfish20 11/09/10 - 06:52 am
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It seem Adams wants to expand

It seem Adams wants to expand UGA at the expense of MCG and Ga. Tech.. I certainly hope he is fired soon and his decisions reversed.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 11/09/10 - 08:15 am
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This column is well thought

This column is well thought out and well presented. However, the decisions of most major schools haven't made much sense for some years, now. Why should UGA be any different?

Techfan
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Techfan 11/09/10 - 09:40 am
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cat: I agree, they obviously

cat: I agree, they obviously want to send just about everything to Athens. It wouldn't surprise if they come up with a plan to have HVAC repair, cosmetology, and auto repair to compete with the technical schools.

ramble
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ramble 11/09/10 - 10:17 am
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Couldn't agree more. This is

Couldn't agree more. This is all about Adams' ego, not the people of the state of Georgia, the students at UGA or anyone else but himself.

Chillen
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Chillen 11/09/10 - 10:20 am
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UGA is on a power trip, they

UGA is on a power trip, they want to offer every degree & specialty known to man.

I say if you can do it with NO ADDED COST to the taxpayer, then onward ho! If there is cost associated with this attempt at more power, then they should be denied.

Riverman1
84119
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Riverman1 11/09/10 - 01:12 pm
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Joe Bowles thinks it's a good

Joe Bowles thinks it's a good idea.

moderate321
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moderate321 11/09/10 - 02:13 pm
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Just by the title of your

Just by the title of your article, it was perfectly clear that the writer was biased and thus this simply an opinion based article. The use of the word "fact" is up to a liberal interpretation. For example, "only 800 of them could find employment in Georgia" leads the reader to believe that the remaining individuals could not find employment inside the state. That is simply not true. Most GT grads leave the state on their own free-will for job opportunties or graduate school.

The simple fact is that if Georgia wishes to move ahead with economic opportuntiies for its citizens, then we must expand public education to be comparable to states with similar populations. For example, Virginia and Michigan has 5 universities which offer engineering degrees, Georgia has one.

Profoundly Vague
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Profoundly Vague 11/09/10 - 04:09 pm
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moderate321: You're wrong

moderate321: You're wrong about Georgia only having one university with engineering programs. Southern Poly and Mercer University both have established engineering programs.

moderate321
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moderate321 11/09/10 - 05:22 pm
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The engineering schools that

The engineering schools that I mentioned are public schools; Mercer is private. Southern Tech offers degrees in Engineering Technology which is similar, but very different from a pure Engineering degree...ask any Georgia Tech engineering graduate if a Southern Tech degree is the same as theirs. They won't be able to stop laughing.

But Profoundly Vague, even if you are correct, we have only 2 public university's which offer engineering degrees. Can we compete with states such as Michigan and Virginia which have 5! By the way, Virginia as a population of 7.8 million, Michigan has 9.9, Georgia has 9.8 million. Should we be second class to these and other states in the public education that is offered to our citizens? Should we tell our high school graduates that if you want engineering and don't have a 1200 SAT, you should leave our state and go somewhere else? I don't think so. I think that we owe our citizens more than that!

ameliaf
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ameliaf 11/09/10 - 06:06 pm
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This is not the time to

This is not the time to expand UGA into programs that are powerfully offered elsewhere in the state. Rather than use money to build buildings and facilities, hire staff, UGA should save the money and just cut the tuition increase.

Same goes for competing with the Medical College, except.... I think the state government should do more to increase the number of primary care doctors. Yes, even if that means using tax payor dollars. Does Medical College have the capacity?

ameliaf
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ameliaf 11/09/10 - 06:56 pm
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Well, I just went to the

Well, I just went to the University System of Georgia web site and there doesn't seem to be an email address where I can send a little protest. Did I miss it. They give a street address, as if I were going to actually write a letter, put a postage stamp on it, and mail it. If not email, how quaint and pointed a message that they really do not want to hear from the likes of you and I.

So, I sent an email to my State Representative and State Senator. Don't know if they really have any power in this, but I tried.

Profoundly Vague
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Profoundly Vague 11/09/10 - 11:43 pm
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moderate321: As someone who

moderate321: As someone who is getting an engineering degree at Tech, I feel like I'm in a position to make the following obvious statement here: engineering is *hard*. Some people are simply not going to be able to handle the academic demands....it's just a fact of life. Do you like the idea of driving over a freeway interchange and wondering if the person who did the design work got a watered down degree? I don't. Had UGA said "Hey, we're here to build a program to compete head to head with Georgia Tech" I think I would have respected the idea a little bit more. The fact is, they've said they want to produce a program that will be second-rate compared to Tech. I think we owe our citizens a bit more than that.

Also, if the issue is about keeping more *qualified* students within the state to study engineering, this new program isn't the most effective way of doing it. Everything I've read says that UGA will have about 500 people in their engineering program by 2015. As it says in this article, Tech can add 1,500 students in the same time frame. Considering I have friends with Tech engineering degrees who are still looking for work, I still find this claim of a huge demand for engineers in the state a bit hard to believe.

moderate321
321
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moderate321 11/10/10 - 02:09 am
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Profoundly Vague: Did you

Profoundly Vague: Did you actually read the proposal that UGA put before the Academic Affairs sub committee? Where did it say that they were intentionally trying to put together a program which is "watered down"? Your arguement simply doesn't make any sense. By the way, is an engineering tech degree from Southern Tech the same as an engineering degree at Georgia Tech?

I agree that engineering is a rigorous and demanding program. Further, and I do not believe that any school which aspires to any reasonable standards and wants to be accredited by ABET (which UGA already holds for their current engineering programs) are going to intentionally create a new program which produces sub-standard engineers. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing their current accreditation.

However, it is impossible to have any reasonable debate with people who cannot leave the emotions of their respective alma mater and unfounded beliefs about in-state rivals aside to look at the larger issue of keeping up the demands and needs of our citizens.

By the way, I am not a graduate of either GT or UGA, but hold a PhD in Electrical Engineering from MIT and thus know the rigors of the profession.

fireball5485
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fireball5485 11/10/10 - 11:23 am
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Moderate: Yes, the author is

Moderate: Yes, the author is "chairman of the nonprofit Georgia Tech Alumni Association" as stated at the end of the Article, but he raises many good points. I am a Tech fan, and spent two years at Georgia Tech before deciding it wasn't the school for me, but that doesn't automatically mean my argument should be discounted. It should be weighed on its logical merits.

Your outright dismissal of the author's claim that Ga Tech students are unable to find in-state jobs borders on ludicrous. I personally know 20 or so graduates of Ga Tech who are UNABLE to find Georgia jobs in spite of wishing to do so. In fact, in the current economy, 10 or so out of those 20, including my wife (who graduated with a BS in Industrial Engineering and a minor in Spanish with a 3.9 GPA), are UNABLE to find jobs in engineering AT ALL. By the way, Ga Tech has THE #1 industrial engineering program in the country, which the author doesn't mention, and yet she has been unable to find a position ANYWHERE in today's market.

Yes, Virginia and Michigan have 5 or so programs that have engineering, but where exactly do they rank nationally? I don't have time to look it up at the moment, but I know Ga Tech ranks higher. I also know from my familiarity with Ga Tech that it currently has the facilities to support a larger engineering program, and they're currently undergoing renovations to expand their infrastructure even more. Why should the state take money away from a successful, sustainable, proven, top-tier program and give it to a start-up when money to be budgeted is extremely scarce? We would risk hurting our national prominence in Engineering in exchange for needless speculation.

Also, as an aside, Michigan? Michigan, who's economy is in shambles? Michigan, who can't support the failing city of Detroit? Michigan, who can't attract industry in spite of once being the global center of the automotive industry? This is what we should aspire to? No thanks.

Or, as another alternative, why not expand the Ga Tech program offered at Ga Southern? That program has also proven viable and successful, and with the facilities, faculty, and system already in place, it would be much cheaper to support and get the same, if not better, results.

To summarize, the University of Georgia proposal is simply unfeasible, and nonsensical. I don't think we need more engineering graduates if the ones we currently have can't find work. However, if I were to concede that point and assume we DO need more graduates, the best way in which to provide them is to expand the current program. If I also concede THAT point and assume we must start up a new program in spite of the incredibly high costs associated with even a very marginal return, then UGA isn't the place to it. Ga Southern presents a much better opportunity.

moderate321
321
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moderate321 11/10/10 - 01:59 pm
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I am sorry that your wife is

I am sorry that your wife is unable to find employment. This is a tough economy and graduates of all programs nationwide are finding it hard at the moment. I know that this must feel hopeless for you and your family. However, the current economy should be temporary and smart governments plan for the future. If this were not the case, then we should be figuring out how to scale back or outright close many of the state's higher ed institutions. Why not start with ASU, I will bet they have a lower placement rate than GT or UGA combined.

You asked about rankings. Here is a link to rankings of the top engineering programs in the country. In any collegiate rankings, most people in academia will agree that there is little difference between 1 and 10. That is, the top ten tend to shift around but they all stay in the top ten over time. MIT is number 1, GT is number 4 and Michigan is 8. The entire top ten has multiple schools of engineering in their states with the exception of Georgia. Thus, it did not hurt their schools to have competition within the states.

Say what you want about Michigan (I am not from there); there are lots of reasons why their economy "is what it is." However, they do have roughly the same GSP (gross state product) as Georgia does with roughly the same population. But I do believe that if we do not diversify and plan for the future, then we will be a loser over time. And again, not all of our population can afford, want, or can go to Georgia Tech. Just like not of all the population in Michigan can afford, want, or is allowed to go to the University of Michigan.

Here are the links for my assertions of fact:

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP

DMB112
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DMB112 02/03/13 - 06:25 pm
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I guess nobody here noticed

I guess nobody here noticed the disclaimer at the bottom of this poorly written article:

(The writer is chairman of the nonprofit Georgia Tech Alumni Association.)

What a joke.

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