N&O Reports

March 21, 2003

No new engineering school

March 21, 2003
The News & Observer
By Jane Stancill, staff writer
Copyright 2003 The News & Observer Publishing Company. CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina does not need another engineering school in its 16-campus UNC system, according to consultants who studied the feasibility of new programs proposed at East Carolina University, Western Carolina University and UNC-Asheville. The UNC system already has major engineering degree programs at N.C. State, N.C. A & T State and UNC-Charlotte. The state now produces more engineering graduates than the market demands, according to a report released Thursday by the UNC system. The report's findings come from the National Center for Higher Educational Management Systems and a separate team of engineering deans from other states. East Carolina, Western Carolina and UNC-Asheville have lobbied for their own engineering schools, contending that the programs would help economic development in their regions. In 2001, the General Assembly required the UNC Board of Governors to study the feasibility of starting schools at those campuses. Last year, some members of the General Assembly tried to establish the engineering programs by law, but the legislation failed. Even if the law had passed, money would have been a big question. Engineering schools are extremely expensive -- about $36 million for startup equipment and facilities alone, not including new faculty hires, the report says. The UNC Board of Governors' educational planning committee agreed that the system should not create new stand-alone engineering schools, but did not rule out some limited expansion in engineering. Among the report's suggestions to consider in the future:
  • UNC-Asheville could study the feasibility of a cooperative computer engineering program with N.C. State.
  • Western Carolina could explore joint degree programs in electrical or computer engineering with UNC-Charlotte.
  • East Carolina could prepare a proposal for a general engineering program or cooperative programs with the state's three engineering schools.
ECU Chancellor William Muse said the campus has no need for a traditional engineering school with specialties such as mechanical, electrical or civil engineering. Instead, ECU wants a general engineering program that would mesh well with its other academic strengths -- health sciences, teacher education and art. The university is working on the details of such a program. Muse said businesses in Eastern North Carolina have a hard time attracting engineers who will stay in the region. They need workers with good general technical skills, he said. Staff writer Jane Stancill can be reached at 956-2464