STEM Engineering

Annual update for Engineering and Computer Science Initiative

The Technology Initiative and Advisory Board (TIAB) recently released its 15th annual update to the Engineering and Computer Science Initiative. Established in 2001 with support from then-Governor Leavitt and the State Legislature (SB 61, Sen. Hillyard), the initiative’s primary objective is to increase the number of students graduating from engineering, computer science, and related technology programs.

To date, the initiative has increased the number of students in these programs annually by 114% –  a doubling of graduates over 15 years. This progress reflects three primary factors influencing outcomes related to these types of programs:

1) STEM Programs are Expensive

Computer science, and related technologies are some of the most cost-intensive programs at a college or university and require the most up-to-date technologies and faculty who are in tune with highly technical and rapidly-changing industries. The original legislation recognized the need to not only fund students but to also fund additional instruction and equipment to ensure support in keeping pace with rapidly-evolving fields.

2) State Funding

State funding for the initiative was steady in the early years (2001-2008). However, since the recession, funding increases have been significantly curtailed – with only two increases in ongoing funds since 2008. Below is the history of ongoing, one-time, and scholarship funding since the initiative began:

3) Institution matching funds for faculty

The legislation requires USHE institutions to provide a 1:1 match for all funds allocated to faculty positions. This requires institutions to ensure ongoing funds are available outside of any state funding related to this initiative, including tuition. Wisely, USHE institutions have avoided rapid tuition premiums for students enrolling in these related programs and have only sought funds that can be sustained with an ongoing funding match. Beginning with funding appropriated for FY2013, institutions have been required to account annual compliance with the matching requirement. The following table shows these matching funds by institution:

Transfer of credit between USHE institutions

One measure of the initiative’s success is the transfer of students from one institution to another as students complete degree requirements. A USHE study conducted of FY2013 computer science and engineering degrees awarded, approximately 36% were awarded to students who transferred credit from other USHE institutions. This data suggest that each USHE institution contributes to degree completion by enabling students to earn credits that are part of their overall educational pathway. In other words, the ease of transferability between USHE institutions assist students and serve to meet key state objectives – like increasing the number of graduates in engineering, computer science, and related technology programs – and likewise support students in complete their own educational goals.  

The TIAB plays a critical role in overseeing the initiative each year, it recommends each year’s allocation of available funds to USHE institutions. The TIAB is comprised of influential Utah STEM industry leaders who collectively understand the need to increase the number of students graduating in key STEM programs to support Utah’s fast-growing economy. The Engineering and Computer Science Initiative demonstrates the integral tie between higher education outputs and the state’s economic performance.