An expansion of the University of Kansas School of Engineering endorsed by the Kansas Legislature early in the morning on May 13 moves Kansas forward on the road to economic growth by meeting the state’s growing need for engineers.
“Kansas needs more engineers if we’re going to grow the economy and create jobs,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who traveled to the Statehouse on Thursday for another round of meetings with policymakers. “We’re ready to educate those engineers, and thanks to the legislature we’re a major step closer to meeting this critical workforce need.” Engineering-intensive industries account for one-third of Kansas’ payroll and two-thirds of its exports. Leaders of firms ranging from Cessna to Black & Veatch have called for a 60 percent increase in the number of engineering graduates, saying that the growth of their businesses in Kansas is hampered by a shortage of engineers. That forces projects and jobs out-of-state.
The Legislature sent two bills to Gov. Sam Brownback that address the engineer shortage. The first devotes $10.5 million in gaming funds annually starting in 2013 to engineering programs at KU, Kansas State University and Wichita State University. The schools will leverage these state funds by matching them with private donations and other resources.
The second gives KU bonding authority to begin the process of constructing an engineering education building. This complements the federally funded engineering research facility currently under construction. Both bills must be signed by Brownback to become law.
“When added to our already strong engineering program, the teachers, researchers and students housed in these two buildings will greatly enhance KU’s academic stature and research productivity,” said Gray-Little.
Dean of Engineering Stuart Bell has been leading KU’s efforts to expand the school’s enrollment capacity. He thanked legislators and industry leaders for their recognition of the importance of higher education to growing the economy.
“This is an example of the kind of partnership that can exist between businesses, universities and state government,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous support from our advisory board members and colleagues around the state. We want to thank them and the legislators who voted for these bills for helping us educate the students who will be the leaders of tomorrow.”
Passage of these measures took place the same day as the announcement of a major private gift to the School of Engineering, which will take place at 1 p.m. today in Eaton Hall.