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Post A hunkered-down engineer

Tuesday November 9, 2010

In a major victory for the University of Georgia, the state Board of Regents approved today three new engineering degree programs at UGA. Students will be able to enroll in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering programs in Athens as soon as 2012 and 2013.

The proposal had met with strong opposition from Georgia Tech officials and alumni who felt that increased investment at Georgia’s lone public engineering school was enough to meet the state’s future needs. The vote was a close 9-8 which reflected how much of a political battle the proposal had become. The governor and certain state legislators had become involved, and it remains to be seen whether opponents will try to find some sort of legislative roadblock when the legislature convenes in January.

But Georgia Tech is only part of the story. It’s also about Auburn, Clemson, Tennessee, and the other regional schools with engineering programs that attract engineering students from Georgia that for one reason or another don’t go to Tech. As Lee Shearer explains in the Banner-Herald this week, state schools are not producing enough engineers to meet the state’s needs. Even though Georgia Tech produces nearly 800 engineering graduates each year, “fewer than half Tech’s graduates remain in Georgia” following graduation. These programs at UGA (along with similar ones at Georgia Southern) will give Georgians quality in-state alternatives to going out-of-state with the goal of keeping more of them at home when they enter the labor force.

Of course there’s also a financial angle. As President Adams argued, “the new degrees will give UGA access to millions in federal grants and research money.” That’s not necessarily a zero-sum game with Tech; it’s likely a net increase of research money coming into the state. With a medical school and now an engineering program coming to Athens during this decade, the University of Georgia will be moving into a different class of public universities.

If none of that matters to you, just know that there are some fuming Yellow Jackets tonight, and count it as the first of several wins over Tech to come in the next month.

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