Battling over a 100+ year educational monopoly
When the University System of Georgia was created, the designers aimed to economize. Teaching medicine is expensive, so we’ll do it in only one publicly funded institution in the state. Teaching engineering is expensive, so Georgia Tech was the only publicly funded engineering school in the state (and had been since it was created in 1885). Since then, other USG schools were allowed to offer engineering programs, as long as they didn’t overlap with Georgia Tech.
Now, the University of Georgia (UGa) has proposed to offer the same core engineering degrees that Georgia Tech has, and Tech is fighting it (below). Even if I wasn’t here, this would be a fascinating battle. Because of this separation of concerns, UGa can’t have engineering, and Georgia Tech can’t have an education school, and neither campus can have a medical school. Tech’s president is arguing that the economizing still makes sense.
This separation has always been a headache for me, as someone who bridges CS and Education. UGa has great education researchers, who are 45-90 minutes away, depending on traffic. That’s enough of a gap that it’s hard to build collaborations. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Since 2005, UGA has offered degrees in five engineering disciplines, none of which overlap our own degree programs in any meaningful way. UGA is now proposing an expansion of its program by adding mechanical engineering, civil engineering and electrical engineering. Last week, after considerable debate, the Regents voted to allow the UGA proposal to move forward for consideration at its October Board meeting.
We are, by any measure, one of the world’s premier institutions for engineering education and research. The state legislature and the Board of Regents have been instrumental in that success, with investments in alignment with institutional strengths. To try and duplicate academic programs as expensive as engineering at a time when the University System has taken more than $600 million in cuts to its state budget appropriation over the past two years is not the best use of scarce resources.