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Dean plans structural development, faculty support for enrollment hike

Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013

Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 01:01


Jenna Rabel

A renovation is planned for the Zachary Engineering Center in summer of 2014.

Students received the announcement of the University’s goal to raise engineering enrollment from 11,000 to 25,000 students by 2025 with concern for the feasibility of supporting such an increase in the student population. However, University officials insisted that through the expansion they have students’ best interest at heart.

A popular concern expressed by both engineering and non-engineering students is how the already crowded campus will accommodate the dramatic increase in student population.

“I think 25,000 people in the engineering buildings would be too overcrowded,” said senior civil engineering major Ryan Henry.

Henry said it is a good goal to shoot for, but that the University will need more buildings, as it can’t fit that many students into the current engineering buildings.

“Before we decided to take a step of this magnitude, we ran scenarios to make sure we have the space and the instructional needs met before we began,” said vice chancellor and dean of engineering Katherine Banks.

Banks said there are plans in place to increase instructional faculty, traditional faculty and lecturers. She also said there is a renovation planned for the Zachry Engineering Center. Officials plan to begin a complete remodeling of the building in the summer of 2014 with an estimated re-opening in 2016.

Banks said the Zachry Engineering Center will be a state-of-the-art center, housing all fields within the college of engineering. The center will be dedicated to undergraduates only.

Banks hopes to set an example for other universities throughout the country looking to expand engineering programs.

Another concern is how the college of engineering will maintain a high quality of education after accepting a significantly higher number of students into the program.

“An engineering degree from Texas A&M is highly valued and admired because standards are high and space is limited,” said Skyler Helmich, a senior civil engineering major.

Helmich said when the University increases enrollment by such a drastic number, the engineering degree will be devalued due to greater accessibility, limited resources and lower standards of entry.

“We have many students who have equivalent qualifications denied admission to engineering because we cut off the number of students we take in at a certain level,” University President R. Bowen Loftin.

Loftin said even though the application deadline for the engineering college was extended into December, the 1,600 spots available were already filled by November. Many qualified students are turned away simply because there is no room for them– not because they don’t meet admission standards.

Along with an increase in qualified students, Banks said she hopes to increase the quality of education through highly qualified professors, and through utilizing technology and collaboration among students in different engineering fields.

“We will not sacrifice the quality of the graduate by expanding our program size,” Banks said. “If we see a decrease in quality, we will slow it down and fix the problem. I don’t want the students to be worried. I have their best interests at heart.”

The initiative will increase undergraduate enrollment by 6.5 percent a year starting in fall 2013, graduate enrollment by 15 percent and Ph.D. enrollment by 4 percent.


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