The situation in math, science and engineering is the one we face across all degree programs: demand for a college education is strong, but our enrollment capacity is limited. A 1999 SUNY report on the state of engineering at our campuses presented data showing that our engineering schools were already at capacity – six years ago. On a per faculty basis, the Schools of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook educate 40 percent more undergraduate students and 24 percent more graduate students than 48 AAU (American Association of Universities) institutions with engineering programs.
The engineering schools at two of our university centers, Buffalo and Stony Brook, illustrate this perfectly.
UB received 2,700 and 3,000 applications to its engineering program in 2004 and 2005, respectively but had to reject about 35 percent of applicants each year. Its School of Informatics, whose students study the connection between information, technology, and communication – key to the New Economy – rejected more than 40 percent of the applications it received for each of the past two years.
Given adequate resources in terms of additional faculty, teaching assistants, and upgrading of undergraduate teaching laboratories, Stony Brook University would be able to increase undergraduate enrollment in engineering and related disciplines by approximately 1,000 students. Over the past two years, its College of Engineering and Applied Sciences had on average 2,400 applicants for fall admission. Due to enrollment constraints, more than 50 percent were denied admission.
Excluded from these numbers are approximately 450 students who have expressed an interest in engineering and who meet the university entrance requirements, but because of limited resources are offered admission to the university, but not the engineering college. Given adequate resources, these students would be admitted directly to the engineering program.
Fields such as engineering and informatics are critical to developing a New Economy for our state. Going forward, if we are to be competitive, we need to invest in increasing the number of seats in our science and engineering programs. Demand for admission is strong, as is demand for graduates in these fields. What we need to do is meet both by providing the missing piece - the education itself. It will be a major investment, but it is the single best investment we can make in our New York.
It’s encouraging to see that this issue is attracting the attention of the governor and legislature. Your bill (Senate bill 3390), Senator, is promising. Any investment we make in math, science and technology is positive, and we certainly need to create incentives for our students to pursue careers in science and engineering. However, within SUNY, we are not currently lacking students to fill our seats, but the seats for our students to fill.
Last week the governor’s State of the State address presented several strong proposals to address our need for more science and engineering graduates. The Empire Innovation Program will enable both SUNY and CUNY to attract even more top-flight technical faculty and researchers to our campuses. This program will help increase our science/engineering capacity and quantity of research. We also support the governor’s proposals to encourage top students to become math and science teachers and to use our community colleges to encourage middle school students’ interest in science and math.
The second proposal is particularly strong because it will address another urgent need – increasing the number of minorities and women pursuing math, science and engineering degrees. For example, the University of Maryland at Baltimore has a Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering that provides academic support services and outreach programs designed to recruit, retain, and graduate African American, Hispanic American, and Native American engineering students. The center is a great success and provides a template for actions we can take to do the same at our campuses.
We also hope to expand programs along the lines of Stony Brook’s Women in Science and Engineering program (WISE). The WISE program includes a 3-year high school component, which enables girls to have a practical and hands-on science and engineering experience and engages them in the research experience. At the college level, WISE offers comprehensive support to its students, including scholarships, special classes that introduce women to diversity in science, priority registration and mentoring. Most importantly, the program offers a supportive community committed to helping women succeed in science, math and engineering.
Senator, thank you again for inviting my colleagues and me here to testify today. I look forward to working with all New York stakeholders and leaders in the next few months to ensure New York maintains its standing as one of the leaders in science and engineering production in the nation. With targeted investment in SUNY and other higher education institutions, we have the opportunity to lead the nation and emerge as one of the key global innovators in the New Economy.