David McKinney/University Relations

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little looks on during an announcement of increased support of engineering education at the Kansas Statehouse. Legislators, industry leaders and higher education officials gathered for the announcement of a plan that will aim to increase the number of engineering graduates in Kansas.

Senate approves plan to increase funding for engineering education

KU officials are applauding the efforts of leaders in the Kansas Statehouse to support engineering education.

The state senate approved a plan March 23 that will allocate $4 million next year and $7 million per year in following years from gamblin revenues that can support engineering departments at KU, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.

“Kansas needs more engineers to grow and prosper, and we’re ready to meet that need,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “There is broad agreement between business leaders and policymakers that the engineering shortage is hampering the economy. If we make this investment in engineering at KU and our fellow schools, it will pay dividends in the form of new jobs for our state.”

Several industry leaders with ties to KU agreed that the proposal comes at a crucial time for businesses in the state.

“Perceptive Software’s success is built on bringing new and innovative products to market,” said Scott Coons, president and CEO of Perceptive Software and a member of the KU School of Engineering Advisory Board. “Talented engineers are one of the keys to our strategy. We must increase the engineering opportunities at our universities to meet the needs of growing and entrepreneurial companies like Perceptive Software. This initiative is an important move forward for the state.”

Jack Pelton, chairman, president and CEO of Cessna and a past member of the school’s advisory board, said additional engineers are key to the firm’s competitiveness.

“A shortage of creative, tech-adept engineers is among the greatest threats to profitable growth,” he said. “If Kansas’ aviation industry, as well as the state’s avionics and navigation industry, is to remain competitive it can’t be hampered by a constriction in the pipeline of innovation. I believe additional support for engineering education in Kansas is essential to the economic progress of this state.”

Leaders of two of Kansas City’s engineering design and consulting powerhouses also shared support for the Senate initiative.

“This Senate proposal is a wonderful step forward for the state of Kansas and the region,” said Greg Graves, CEO of Burns & McDonnell, who also serves on the school’s advisory board. “Burns & McDonnell’s ability to deliver the design and planning services and construction expertise the world needs is dependent upon our ability to find top talent at all levels of the job market. This initiative by leadership in Kansas will set the stage for future success, not only for Burns & McDonnell, but for a number of Kansas’s major employers.”

Jim Lewis, chief administrative officer for Black & Veatch and a member of the schools advisory board, concurred that the proposal will help fuel the Kansas economy at a critical time.

“Black & Veatch was founded by KU engineering graduates and you can see where that early investment in education has taken Black & Veatch,” he said. “Black & Veatch continues to hire engineers from the universities in Kansas and those engineers create a positive impact on the Kansas economy. Efforts that support educating and graduating more engineers are important investments that will serve industry and deliver great benefits for the state. In February, Black & Veatch announced a long-term commitment to support engineering education in Kansas through our Building a World of Difference charitable foundation. It is gratifying to see the Kansas Senate leadership shares a similar vision of how best to move our economy forward.”

KU Dean of Engineering Stuart Bell said data show that investments in engineering provide significant returns.

“We know that engineering graduates are among the highest paid entry-level employees,” he said. “These are people who not only are entering the industry payroll, but they are working in businesses that create new wealth for the state and the region. This initiative is an important step forward for Kansas. It demonstrates support for the young people of our state by giving them access to strong engineering programs that will lead them to rewarding careers. It also helps ensure the state’s economic engine has access to the talent it needs to thrive and grow.”

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Andrew Shoemaker, associate director, Disability Resources
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