Engineering Students Rare in High-Tech Times

As the U.S. prepares for a possible war with Iraq, American weapons, stealth bombers and fighter jets are taking center stage.

They protect us during times of heightened security, but are we producing enough engineers to maintain and create advanced technology in the future?

According to the statistics, younger generations are making high tech jobs a low priority. An industry publication called, "Engineers," says in 1986, the number of engineering graduates peaked at 78,178. The numbers have dwindled ever since. The average today is about 65,000 graduates per year--studies show Asian countries produce three times as many.

In response, Texas colleges like The University of Texas at Tyler are initiating programs that might help high school students prepare for rigorous science and math courses. UT-Tyler's program just received a three-year grant from National Science Foundation to recruit and attract more students.

Students say most of their classmates leave the program after becoming discouraged with required science and math courses.

"I also think there's a lot of people who never give it a shot, because they think it's too hard to begin with" says Charles Clinton, an electrical engineering major at UT-Tyler.

Mechanical engineering professor and chair Christine Hailey says schools are hoping to decrease the shortage by attracting more female and minority students. Currently, women make up 20 percent of the student population.

"Students can go into the law field, they can go into the business field," says Professor Hailey. "Even though, the dot-com bubble has burst, we still have a problem attracting the best and brightest because there's so many options."

"I think we probably do overemphasize, you've got to have a lot of math and a lot of science," she says. "Rather than showing, in the end, these are the important things you'll do as an engineer."