Meeting Infrastructure Needs – Rose-Hulman Speeds Up Graduate School

Meeting Infrastructure Needs – Rose-Hulman Speeds Up Graduate School

By Dr. James Hanson, Department Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent Infrastructure Report Card, the nation’s infrastructure rating is only a C-. Indiana is among the lower half of states with respect to roads, energy, and dams. Our drinking water infrastructure needs are roughly $7.5 billion, and 6% of our bridges are structurally deficient. Fixing these infrastructure issues requires investment. Fortunately, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, IIJA, invests $550 billion in a broad range of infrastructure programs over the next few years. There are programs for safe drinking water, electric vehicle charging, mass transit, safe streets, bridge repair and replacement, and many others.

A key problem remaining is that many of the programs funded by the IIJA are dependent upon Civil Engineers for design and construction. The U.S. Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) projects 24,000 job openings for Civil Engineers each year for the next decade. However, the U.S. Department of Education (National Center for Education Statistics) shows that we have averaged less than 14,000 graduates each of the past ten years with a high of only 15,000. The gap is being felt by design and construction employers across Indiana and throughout the country.

The timing of available new Civil Engineers is complicated by another factor: graduate school. In some sub-disciplines of civil engineering, the technical complexity of the work necessitates a graduate degree. Traditionally, a master’s degree required two years of coursework and thesis research. In response to the marketplace, one year course-based master’s programs in civil engineering have started to become available in Indiana. But can we do better?

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has made a commitment to help the marketplace by accelerating the time to completion for a master’s degree. Students can now double-count three graduate-level courses as both undergraduate electives and as part of their master’s requirements. That means a student entering Rose-Hulman without any AP or other college credits can complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four and two-thirds years. Quicker time to completion means less financial burden on the students, so more students can achieve this level of preparation to meet workforce needs.

For students who have four or more AP, dual-credit, or community college courses when entering Rose-Hulman, they can complete the two degrees in four and one-third or even just four years. Federal and state financial aid programs only apply to the undergraduate degree, so as students shift from primarily undergraduate courses to primarily graduate courses that aid goes away. That’s where Rose-Hulman has upped its commitment. The Rose Squared Program allows students to complete both degrees without losing their federal and state financial assistance. Rose-Hulman makes up the difference as students become ineligible for federal and state aid.

Indiana’s infrastructure needs are greater than any time in its history, but through the combination of financial investment and more civil engineering graduates we can make a significant impact.

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