October 13, 2000

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714
Source: Tom Anderes, 541-346-5795

OUS Proposes Eight Year, $85 Million Engineering Investment

PORTLAND - After months of detailed fiscal and program analysis, the Oregon University System is proposing an $85 million plan to enhance engineering education throughout the state over the next four biennia.

The recommendation and details of the plan will be discussed Monday, Oct. 16 during a telephone conference call of the State Board of Higher Education's Budget and Finance Committee.

Developed from among four alternatives, the recommendation links ongoing efforts through the Oregon Engineering Educational Investment Fund (EEIF) and new public-private investments to build toward Tier1/Spires of Excellence. The goal is to qualitatively improve engineering education in Oregon to a level of national stature and increase the production of engineers statewide to meet workforce needs.

Known as Option D, the plan envisions building upon existing program strengths in engineering and computer science at Oregon State University, Portland State University, the Oregon Institute of Technology and the University of Oregon, and in similar curricula at the regional universities, by making strategic investments in new faculty and staff, sponsored research, scholarship/assistantship support and facilities.

Funding is projected to come equally from both state and non-state sources over an eight-year period beginning in 2001-2003. It would require a state commitment of $10.63 million per biennium matched by an equal amount from increased research grants and contracts, student tuition and fees, and private gifts.

OUS officials believe the recommendation offers the most cost-effective way to improve the quality of engineering education statewide. It is reinforced by conclusions reached in a statewide engineering assessment report recently developed for OUS by MGT America, an independent consultant.

The firm was asked to look at the state's current engineering and related educational programs, assess the strengths and ambitions of the major campus providers, and estimate the overall costs associated with reaching campus aspirational levels.

In recommending that future investment "be distributed as broadly as possible" to improve statewide infrastructure, MGT concluded that both OSU and PSU - the state's major engineering education suppliers - are well behind the nation's top engineering programs in total faculty, enrollment, degrees conferred and research expenditures. The firm estimated it would take nearly $113 million dollars in additional funding on a biennial basis for both schools to attain higher national levels in engineering excellence.

Monday's teleconference meeting is the first of several meetings that members of the State Board of Higher Education will hold next week to review and discuss the new engineering recommendation. The Board also will meet Thursday, Oct. 19 and Friday, Oct. 20 at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. A decision is expected during Friday's meeting when the Board will confirm its engineering request budget for the 2001-2003 biennium.

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