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Turning The Tide On Nuclear Engineering Undergraduate Enrollment

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1072.1 - 6.1072.6

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Paper Authors

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Ron Hart

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Marvin Adams

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K. Peddicord

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Ian Hamilton

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Beth Earl

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Alan Waltar

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Turning the Tide on Nuclear Engineering Undergraduate Enrollment Alan E. Waltar, Marvin Adams, Ian Hamilton, Ron Hart, Lee Peddicord, and Beth Earl Texas A&M University

The steep drop in undergraduate enrollments in nuclear engineering since the early 1990s is a serious threat to nuclear engineering in the U.S. and to the leadership that the U.S. has shown in nuclear matters around the globe. Without a feedstock of fresh nuclear engineers into the national nuclear infrastructure, America is on a clear course of self-destruction of an extremely valuable capability.

As a consequence, substantial efforts have been expended to determine the causes for this precipitous drop (65% reduction in students between 1993 and 1998). Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico) has sounded the alert from the U.S. Senate and Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-Michigan) is sounding a similar alert in the U.S. House. A recent study by NEDHO (1) revealed that the gap between the number of jobs available and the qualified applicants is large and growing (projected to be about 3:1 in the next few years).

Given this backdrop, the recent rise in undergraduate nuclear engineering enrollment at Texas A&M University has been quite gratifying—our undergraduate enrollment having doubled from 1998 to 2000. Whereas this could be simply a spurious spike that cannot be sustained, we felt an obligation to share some of the efforts that have been employed to achieve this upward surge in the hopes that at least some of these techniques might be employed elsewhere. It is important that all strong nuclear engineering programs in the nation experience similar success if we are to produce the qualified manpower that our country needs.

Listed below are the 8 steps that we at Texas A&M have employed over the past two years.

1) Building the Case: In order for any product to sell, the basis for sale must be solid. With regard to careers in nuclear engineering, the case today is probably as strong (if not stronger) than it was in the heydays of the 1960s and 1970s. The fundamental reason for this is that the job market is growing and the student supply is low and dropping. Students should be asked when to buy stock—with the obvious answer “Buy when the price is low!” The recent NEDHO study (1) makes it crystal clear that there currently exists a mismatch between demand and supply, and this gap is increasing rather dramatically (up to about a 3:1 ratio within the next few years). Further, nuclear power in the United States is now very stable. The plants currently on line are highly valued on Wall Street and plant lifetime extension is likely to keep most of them on line so that

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Hart, R., & Adams, M., & Peddicord, K., & Hamilton, I., & Earl, B., & Waltar, A. (2001, June), Turning The Tide On Nuclear Engineering Undergraduate Enrollment Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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