Saturday, May 10, 2003

Western regents OK joint engineering degree programs with UK and U of L

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Western Kentucky University regents Friday formally approved joint engineering degree programs with the state's two largest universities.

Under the arrangements, which have been in the works for several years, Western will team up with the University of Kentucky to offer bachelor's degree programs in mechanical and civil engineering. Western will forge a partnership with the University of Louisville for a bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering.

Western President Gary Ransdell hailed the partnerships, saying that producing locally trained engineers would become a "primary economic development driver" for the region.

Western's regents had authorized development of the joint programs in recent years after extensive negotiations with UK and U of L. Students at Western have been enrolling in engineering-related classes in anticipation of the joint programs.

University of Kentucky officials say they are still discussing the program and haven't approved it yet.

Ransdell said enrollment has grown to about 300. The first engineering graduates are expected to get their diplomas next May. The graduates will be allowed to take the state licensing examination, Ransdell said.

"And we're on the road to accreditation in these programs," he said.

Most of Western's start-up costs will be covered by state appropriations of $375,000 in the current fiscal year, and the same amount the following year. Western has agreed to make funding for the engineering programs a priority in future state budget requests.

The engineering programs will be housed in a building now under construction on campus. Western has hired a new department head for the engineering program and several faculty members.

Ransdell said the engineering programs have been well received by the region's corporations and manufacturers. Western has raised about $5 million in private contributions, he said, enough to create two professorships and one fully endowed chair, he said.

The school also has obtained "lots of scholarship money" for engineering students, Ransdell said.

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