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Engineering Education in the United States, Quo Vadis?

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy II

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.506.1 - 23.506.16



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Paper Authors


Mickey R. Wilhelm P.E. University of Louisville

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Dr. Mickey R. Wilhelm is Dean Emeritus and Professor of Industrial Engineering at the J. B. Speed School of Engineering, University of Louisville in Louisville, KY. He was Dean of the Speed School from 2003-2011, and has been a faculty member at U of L for 37 years. He received the BSE in Electrical Engineering, and the MSE and Ph.D. degrees in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He is a Fellow of both the Institute of Industrial Engineers and the World Academy of Productivity Sciences. He is a licensed professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is an Emeritus member of the Kentucky Board of Engineers and Land Surveyors (its Chairman in 2010). He is an Emeritus member of the National Council of Examiners of Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES), and currently a member of its Education Committee. He is also currently a member of the Board of Directors of ABET.

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Engineering Education in the United States, Quo Vadis? How many B.S. graduates in engineering are needed in the United States over the next 20years? The answer to this simple question ranges from “as many as we can possiblyproduce” to “about the same number that are being produced by U.S. universities today”.There are apparently huge efforts underway across the nation to stimulate the number ofstudents in K-12 who prepare themselves to enter STEM programs in colleges anduniversities following graduation from high school. But this seems to be an open-endedeffort with no targets set for measuring success.But, suppose these stimulative programs were wildly successful and large numbers ofqualified high school graduates gain admission to engineering education programs in thenear term. Do U.S. colleges and universities have the physical capacity and resources toprovide high quality, ABET accredited engineering education to hordes of people? Didn’twe recently read studies with the premise that the engineering professoriate has grayed,balded, and retired, or are about to retire (i.e., baby boomers), in record numbers?Haven’t we seen reports that state supported colleges and universities are essentially nowjust “state located” with financial support from the states in steep decline?Perhaps there is no problem for industries, governments and service organizations whomust acquire the engineering talent needed over the next 20 years, after all. In fact, theU.S. Congress is considering liberalizing the visas and green card policies for foreignnationals who hold degrees in STEM fields. And, this solution should pose no difficultiesin terms of credentialing since ABET is now heavily involved in accrediting foreignengineering programs and NCEES is following along after ABET to provide routes toprofessional licensure for foreign nationals.Further, limited resources at U.S. colleges and universities should pose no problemsbecause of the existence of distance learning technologies, and financial incentivesprovided by institutions to faculty members, departments and schools that teach or offerentire engineering degree programs on-line.So, what does all of this mean for the engineering educational system? The authorbelieves that there are huge policy issues that need to be identified, studied and analyzedin order to develop plans for the future of engineering education in the U.S. This paperwill discuss some of these issues and attempt to bring them into sharper focus.

Wilhelm, M. R. (2013, June), Engineering Education in the United States, Quo Vadis? Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19520

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