Archive for Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Statehouse Live: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signs measure to increase engineering graduates at KU and other schools

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks Wednesday after Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law two measures aimed at increasing the number of engineering graduates in Kansas.

May 25, 2011, 12:28 p.m. Updated May 25, 2011, 3:57 p.m.


KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, and Gov Sam Brownback on Wednesday share a laugh after Brownback signed into law measures aimed at increasing the number of engineering graduates in Kansas.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, and Gov Sam Brownback on Wednesday share a laugh after Brownback signed into law measures aimed at increasing the number of engineering graduates in Kansas.

— An initiative to increase the number of engineering graduates in Kansas, which had been dramatically resuscitated at the end of the legislative session, was given final approval Wednesday by Gov. Sam Brownback.

“This is a great day,” Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said after Brownback signed two higher-education engineering bills. “I’m happy to see us get to this point,” she said.

One bill authorizes KU to issue $65 million in bonds to build a 100,000-square-foot engineering classroom building next door to a $20 million engineering research building that is currently under construction.

The other bill allows KU, Kansas State and Wichita State each to receive $3.5 million annually from state gambling revenues. The funds, which must be matched by the schools, will be used to beef up engineering programs.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, called the initiative a “jobs bill” that would help cure an engineering shortage.

As early as 2008, higher education and industry officials had been pushing for funds to help achieve a goal of increasing the number of engineering graduates in the state from 875 per year to 1,365 per year by 2021.

“In a session marked with many tough choices, this initiative is a choice I am proud to make -- a choice to get our state back on the road to job creation and economic recovery,” Morris said.

But the initiative faced uncertain odds late in the legislative session.

The Senate had approved a version of a bill that would have allowed $195 million in loans for engineering programs.

The House balked at the price so the bill sat in committee for weeks.

But as the session wound down, negotiators hammered out a compromise and signed it May 13, the last day of the session.

Brownback was adamant that the Department of Commerce provide oversight for the initiative, rather than the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees higher education. Brownback said the Commerce Department was better matched toward making sure the funding commitment produced jobs.

The bonding provision included only KU because the school was ready to push forward with its building plans.

“This is something we’ve been working on for quite a long period of time,” Gray-Little said.


devobrun 7 years ago

As long as those newly minted engineers continue to engage in only "green" technologies, there will be no new jobs. The money from the state for classrooms and programs is money looking for innovation.

Somebody needs to tell the politicians that money follows innovation, not the other way around. Dumping cash into programs that continue to fail will not make them succeed. The problem isn't the lack of engineers, it is the lack of innovation. And dumping money into classrooms won't change that one little bit.

There is an old proverb that says: "Anything that should be done, should be done well". With innovation, the opposite is true. "Anything that should be done, is worth doing poorly."

The first airplane wasn't very good. The first PC wasn't very good. But in each case, 25 years of development yielded machines that were much better....but the first airplane and the first PC was worth doing, even if they weren't very good.

There are no new ideas that are worth doing poorly in today's idea pipeline. And dumping money into classrooms will not generate those new ideas. Top-down innovation doesn't work. Hear that? It is the sound of crickets in Learned Hall.

devobrun 7 years ago

Rained on your parade, did I, husker and KR?

Well, last I taught in KU's engineering department was 4 years ago. It was sleepy. There was a lab in Eaton Hall filled with microwave test equipment. There was nobody there. No teachers, no students, no research, nothing.....crickets.

Much of the equipment came from Anritsu (formerly Wiltron) donated by an alum. Network analyzers, spectrum analyzers, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth........all asleep. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

jpgs 7 years ago

It appears that devobrun has no idea of what goes on in Eaton, and just happening to be on campus when a lab is not scheduled doesn't mean it isn't used. Microwave engineering, radar, communication, and remote sensing is an area in which KU excels with multiple faculty, classes, and a vibrant research agenda; trivial surfing of the EECS and ITTC Web sites will show this. Learned is so heavily booked that we desperately need new classrooms, even without an expansion. Our graduates do not have problems getting gobs, and Kansas engineering employers have documented the need for more graduates, and were solidly behind this initiative.

MrMEtoo 7 years ago

You are drinking the Kool Aid. Of course the website touts its own 'world class' research. And Bud is the 'King of Beers', right? I'm a current Engineering Grad student and have been here for undergrad as well.

KU Engineers do struggle to get jobs and the employers (B&V, Burns and Mac, Wichita aero companies) are not actively providing jobs.

KU needs to invest in elite faculty, and tighten its standards to produce better engineers, not more engineers. These initiatives are all about numbers and dollars. The result will be a watered down program with less respect and more problems ahead for graduates. Good professors lead to true innovation by teaching core understanding of principle subjects.

I'm happy to see money come engineering's way, but I think the focus of where it is going is off.

notanota 7 years ago

If the program sucks so much, why go to grad school there?

jpgs 7 years ago

I meant actually looking at the web pages of faculty and research groups to see what was going on, not a cursory look at a top page. And the job market depends on discipline. Our EECS graduates are having no trouble getting jobs. Jobs in the information technology sector (which includes our EE, CoE, and CS graduates) is very hot now.

notanota 7 years ago

Yes, they should stick with coal-fired engineering technology and old classrooms! I'll have to tell my friend working at Garmin that his EE is totally worthless because there are just no jobs for KU grads there. It's a failed program.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

So, what's the magic secret to innovation, then, Devo?

We breathlessly await the Revealed Truth.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

This is a good move on Brownback's part.

It is measures like these that will create jobs and help the economy in the long run, not shots in the culture wars dealing with abortion, which do nothing but divide and anger.

devobrun 7 years ago

Unless these dollars do nothing but build empty rooms. But by the time anybody notices, he will not be in office. And then who will be angry, nightmare? Wasted money chasing a dream. Another politician chasing a legacy for his own gain.

CreatureComforts 7 years ago

I am no Brownback supporter, but if he found a cure to cancer, I am pretty sure 90% of LJWorld commentators would find a way to say he didn't do it fast enough...

GovJunkie 7 years ago

This is fantastic news for KU and for Kansas... engineers are involved with all aspects of our lives, from PE's that work with contactors, municipalities and the like to the engineers at manufacturing plants like Boeing, Spirit and etc. KU provided the leadership to get these bills passed this session and its vision will benefit both KU and our state!


devobrun 7 years ago

So Junkie, what new gadgets have you used lately that came from Kansas engineers?

Boeing is moribund. I'm not sure who Spirit is, but if you mean Sprint.....they didn't engineer a thing. Garmin would be a better example. And their innovation came 25 years ago.

notanota 7 years ago

Smell that? It smells like an ex-adjunct with the grumpy bitters.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

Exactly. It is rather unbecoming. I certainly wouldn't put those bitters in my Sazerac.

LogicMan 7 years ago

Just a few roads, bridges, buildings, airplanes, water systems, other utilities, and so on.

If a team could create a new FTL for my ship that would be awesome.

devobrun 7 years ago

Roads, bridges water systems, and other utilities are called infrastructure. Those are all government projects involving government funding for a handful of government engineers. 50 maybe. And none of it is new. New was plastics, electronics, airplanes, etc. New stuff from innovative engineers. Engineer and ingenuity are from the same Latin root. It is new stuff that generates jobs. The areas of engineering that you list are replacement jobs. Yes, the old guys working for KDOT must have replacements when they retire. But we don't need $68 million to do that.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

better tools lead to better innovations. Simple as that.

Only 0.1% of innovation is of the "Eureka!" variety, where an individual, or small group, comes up with an entirely different way to solve a problem.

The other 99.9% of innovation is of the "Tweak It" variety, where people learn to improve those "Eureka" innovations in order to solve ever harder problems, ever more efficiently.

(those percentages are absolute fact, btw)

And that other 99.9% is made possible by access to resources... i.e. better tools.

I believe you're right in your observation that it doesn't require tens of millions of dollars for brilliant people to make "Eureka" innovations. But investment in exploration and improvement of those innovations is what allows average people, like you and me, to improve upon them.

Someone with your attitude about the value of investment (or lack thereof) would never, ever, lead a successful tech firm. I guess it's a good thing that you're just another impotent internet anonymity that nobody takes seriously, rather than actually being in charge of allocating resources :-)

Robert Schehrer 7 years ago

On one hand Brownback cuts funding for higher education to so call balance the state budget and on the other hand he authorizes KU to go into debt $65 million. If Kansas and local governments had to report their expenditures the same way as the federal government, it would be easy to see that state and local governments are just as quilty at defict spending as the federal government. This just another accounting trick.

gudpoynt 7 years ago

Good work Guvnah! I don't agree with most of your politics, but when you do something cool, I'm behind you 100%.

Now! The next factor in the equation of increasing engineering graduates is to improve math and science scores of Kansas students, from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

After all, who's going to apply to engineering school if they suck at math?

So.. instead of cutting funding for public education, let's focus on it., scrutinize it, and do our best to make it work for all Kansans regardless of skin color or income level.

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