March 25, 2011

Legislation Would Address State’s Engineering Workforce Shortage & Boost the Kansas Economy

(TOPEKA) – This week the Kansas Senate approved multi-year legislation that would address the state’s engineering workforce shortage by expanding the capacity of the engineering schools at Kansas State University (KSU), the University of Kansas (KU), and Wichita State University (WSU). 

The “University Engineering Initiative Act” (Senate Substitute for House Bill 2149), which was approved on Wednesday by a 28-11 vote, would:
• Establish a goal to increase the number of engineering graduates to 1,365 graduates per year (up from the current average of 875 graduates per year – an annual increase of 490 graduates) by the year 2021;
• Build upon the initial $1 million investment that was included in Governor Sam Brownback’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget recommendations;
• Create a “Kan-Grow Engineering Fund” to be administered by the Board of Regents. Dollars appropriated to this fund would be distributed to the three engineering schools; 
• In Fiscal Year 2013, transfer $4 million from the State’s Expanded Lottery Act Revenue Fund (ELARF) to the Kan-Grow Engineering Fund;
• In Fiscal Year 2014, and each fiscal year thereafter, transfer $7 million from ELARF to the Kan-Grow Engineering Fund; and
• Require a $1-to-$1 match, from non-state sources, by the three engineering schools to access the funding available in the Kan-Grow Engineering Fund.

“At the urging of Senate President Morris a few years ago, the Board began working on this initiative with our campuses and industry leaders and we have made it a priority. We appreciate the Senate recognizing the significant economic return of engineering programs, the vital role higher education plays in boosting the Kansas economy, and the value of our three engineering schools collaborating on a shared goal,” said Board of Regents’ Chairman Gary Sherrer. “We applaud the Senate’s vision, value its support, and look forward to working with the House to make this important initiative a reality.”

“I am hopeful the Legislature will support investment by the state in engineering education in Kansas,” said Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz. “Such investments would help convince donors to make a commitment to advancing engineering education in Kansas. The state is giving us a resource and help from donors could make this happen.”

“Kansas clearly needs more engineering graduates if we’re going to have a robust economic recovery,” said University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “We’re working hard to graduate additional engineers, but as industry leaders have made clear, an additional investment in engineering must be made. Kansas businesses shouldn’t have to go to other states to hire the engineers they need to expand and grow.”

“Wichita State is always looking for new tools to help meet the needs of local industry,” said Wichita State University President Don Beggs. “This program will go a long way to help us do that.”

A March 10 announcement from the Senate President’s Office described the “University Engineering Initiative Act” as follows: “The program would authorize the Regents to approve plans developed by the Schools of Engineering at KU, KSU and WSU to increase the number of engineering graduates by 60 percent. The plans would be developed in concert with private industry, in consultation with the Board of Regents, to ensure industry partners find the new talent, designs and techniques needed to fuel economic growth and business success. The program would require each university to put forward matching funds from private funds, foundation/endowment funds, grants or other non-SGF sources.”

The Senate President’s announcement also noted that: “Entry-level engineering jobs are high paying and have the potential to carry the state forward by increasing the size of the tax base. The economic impact from engineering professionals also provides a significant benefit to other segments of the Kansas workforce. A 2009 study by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research showed that for every one engineering professional, there are an additional 1.78 persons employed in Kansas, and state fiscal outlays associated with an increase in engineering graduates have a benefit-cost ratio of 2.07.”

A recent economic impact study, entitled The Impact of the Kansas Board of Regents System to the State’s Economy, and produced by Dr. Ernest Goss from the Goss Institute of Public Research of Denver, Colorado, noted that the payback period, or years to recover taxpayer support, was only two to three years for a number of engineering fields.

In addition, language contained in the legislation creating the “University Engineering Initiative Act” points out that “engineering intensive industries represent approximately one-third of the statewide payroll and tax base.”


Links to Additional Engineering Resources:

“University Engineering Initiative Act” (Senate Substitute for House Bill 2149):

“University Engineering Initiative Act” Announcement Poster (contains the logos of 19 private companies who support the initiative): EngineeringPoster.pdf

A White Paper on Increasing the Engineering BS Graduates in the State of Kansas (prepared by the KSU, KU, and WSU Engineering Deans):

The Impact of the Kansas Board of Regents System to the State’s Economy:


About the Kansas Board of Regents:
The nine-member Kansas Board of Regents, founded in 1925 and established in the Kansas Constitution, is the governing board of the six state universities and the statewide coordinating board for the state’s 32 public higher education institutions (six state universities, one municipal university, 19 community colleges, and six technical colleges). In addition, the Board administers the state’s student financial aid, adult education, GED, career and technical education programs, and the state university retirement plans. The Board also approves private proprietary schools and out-of-state institutions to operate in Kansas, and administers the Kan-ed network, a statewide network that provides broadband Internet access and distance learning capabilities for schools, hospitals, and libraries.

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