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Monday, April 30, 2012 - 11:46am

UGA Launches Engineering School

The University of Georgia’s new engineering school will begin admitting students this fall. University officials say the move will keep student engineers from leaving the state to study.

The new school will admit civil engineering majors beginning in August, and mechanical and electrical engineering majors in the fall of 2013.

The university already has about 600 engineering students who are part of other departments.

Dale Threadgill, director of UGA’s engineering faculty, says there’s student demand for the program and industry demand for graduates.

“There’s been demand on both sides of the higher education degree program," he said in a telephone interview. "One is from demand from high school who are seeking opportunities for engineering education at institutions in Georgia, and there’s simply been too few seats available to meet that demand by a huge margin."

Threadgill also says the number of slots hasn’t kept up with the state’s soaring high school population. Georgia Tech and Mercer University are among the colleges in Georgia that have long been offering engineering. Georgia Southern University began to offer it this fall.

One workforce expert, however, says there isn’t an engineer shortage in the U.S., which means some students could face tough job prospects.

Hal Salzman is with the Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He says some American engineering graduates can’t find jobs in the field.

“We graduate, oh, about 50 percent more engineers each year than are hired into an engineering field," he said. "So we don’t see any indication that industry can’t find enough engineers nationally.”

Salzman says there is unmet demand for petroleum engineers, tied in part to the increase in fracking. He also says there may be some students who just want to study engineering to gain a solid educational foundation and don't plan to pursue careers in the field.

He says the school's success will in part depend on its ability to poach students from other universities.

Threadgill of UGA says many prospective engineering students from Georgia wind up at Clemson University and other colleges in the Southeast because they can't land a spot at Georgia Tech.

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