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ASEE PRISM
  American Society for Engineering Education
American Society for Engineering EducationJANUARY 2007Volume 16 | Number 5 PRISM HOMETABLE OF CONTENTSBACK ISSUES
FEATURES
21st Century Prof. - BY THOMAS K. GROSE
Counting on Them - BY THOMAS K. GROSE
A Man of Vision - BY PIERRE HOME-DOUGLAS

DEPARTMENTS
COMMENTS
E-MAIL
BRIEFINGS
DATABYTES
REFRACTIONS: Making Changes - BY HENRY PETROSKI
CLASSIFIEDS
LAST WORD: Lessons From the Sandbox - BY JACQUELYN F. SULLIVAN

TEACHING TOOLBOX
Monsters on the Move - A slew of schools are preparing students to work in the computer game industry. - BY CORINNA WU
BOOK REVIEW: Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century - REVIEWED BY ROBIN TATU
YEAR OF DIALOGUE: Getting the Word Out - BY LARRY G. RICHARDS
ON CAMPUS: A Living Laboratory - BY LYNNE SHALLCROSS


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In response to “Trouble on the Horizon” (Prism, October 2006), China has recognized the importance of technological advancement and the maintenance and improvement of the national economy and infrastructure, as reflected in about 50 percent of its current college students chasing careers in engineering. In comparison, only about 5 percent of U.S. college students are choosing careers in engineering. The record clearly shows that the U.S. engineering profession does not have an effective national program to create interest in the profession; and the national leadership allowed two national programs to die that were greatly effective in creating interest in engineering: The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) program, which provided hundreds of engineering scholarships, and the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS), which provided hundreds of engineering scholarships and established hundreds of active high school clubs throughout the nation. The public has the general opinion that the nation does not need any more engineers and that engineering work could always be outsourced to China and India.

The only explanation that I can see is that the NSPE and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) leadership has been taken over by self-serving individuals who want to keep engineering enrollments down in order to reduce competition for contracts to provide professional services. Further evidence of this self-serving is the current drive to reactivate the previously failed trial to require a fifth year of college studies for the first degree in engineering. This will certainly further reduce enrollments. Requiring a fifth year is inconsistent with the concept of lifelong continuing education now being required for renewal of professional licenses; it is inconsistent with the need to reduce college costs, which have risen 500 percent in the past 10 years and are averaging $40,000 a year in private universities and $25,000 in public universities, creating a lifetime of debt for many students; and it is inconsistent with the need to eliminate the waste and duplication in pre-college public education to emulate the highly articulated educational system of England where quality bachelor’s degrees are awarded after three years of study.

The engineering profession should be proud of its achievements and proclaim the benefits to the nation that would come from increasing enrollments. The profession should elect leaders who will take steps to kill the unjustified movement to add a fifth year, attempt to reactivate the very successful NSPE scholarship program and the JETS program, increase the number of fairs and open houses held during Engineer’s Week, and a leadership that has increased enrollment as a priority should be able to create new programs to accomplish the goal.

Murray Mantell
Professor Emeritus
University of Miami

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American Society for Engineering Education