Job hopes fuel growth in College of Engineering and Science
Enrollment increase highlights college’s heightened role in economic development
CLEMSON — If Clemson University’s engineering and science students formed their own city, it would be larger than most others in South Carolina, including Travelers Rest, Williamston and Pickens. New numbers from Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science show that enrollment has grown nearly 54 percent since 2007 and stands at 7,167 students this semester. The university as a whole grew 21.1 percent in the same period, reaching an enrollment of 21,303.
The numbers’ release comes on the heels of a Georgetown University study showing that the majors students choose have a big impact on future salaries. Four of the study’s top 10 highest-earning majors in terms of median salary are offered by Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science. They are mathematics and computer science ($98,000), chemical engineering ($86,000), electrical engineering ($85,000) and mechanical engineering ($80,000).
The College of Engineering and Science now represents more than a third of Clemson University’s enrollment. The college’s swelling ranks underscore the heightened role Clemson is playing as the state strives to attract high-tech industry, while leaders nationwide increasingly link engineering and science to economic prosperity.
While the college’s quantity of students has increased, so has the quality. The average SAT score among the college’s incoming freshmen has increased from 1244 in 2002 to 1290 this year. A third of the college’s freshmen have the prestigious Palmetto Fellows scholarship, up from 22 percent in 2005.
Randy Collins Jr., associate dean for undergraduate and international studies, said a combination of factors is driving the enrollment increase. Most importantly, students are attracted by the quality and breadth of Clemson’s programs, he said. Additionally, the LIFE and Palmetto Fellows scholarships include enhancements for students who choose certain majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Collins said. Those majors also lend themselves to growth industries where the jobs are plentiful, he said.
“The state is recruiting high-tech industry to locate here,” Collins said. “They need a qualified, educated workforce. Clearly, we are supplying that workforce for the state.”
While the brightest students can study anywhere, Clemson has invested heavily in keeping them at home. The efforts include innovation campuses across the state that provide world-class opportunities for engineers and scientists to do research in advanced materials, the automotive industry, biomedical engineering, wind turbine drivetrain systems and the electric grid.
“We are creating the next generation of engineers and scientists,” said Anand Gramopadhye, the college’s dean. “This is addressing the needs of the country, the state and community.” The college’s enrollment has increased 8.1 percent since last year. The largest increase within the college was from those seeking bachelor’s degrees, rising 9 percent to 5,406. Those seeking doctorates went up 4 percent to 874, while students seeking master’s degrees increased 7.8 percent to 869.
The college’s efforts aren’t for big industry only, Gramopadhye said.
“The needs are similar for small industry,” he said. “We are also in the business of creating the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators who will be at the forefront of creating jobs.”
Cindy Lee, interim associate dean for research and graduate studies, said the growth among undergraduates has carried over to the graduate level. Once graduates reach the Ph.D. level, their opportunities in industry are often limited to a few jobs in research and development, she said. But those graduates are critical to educating the next generation of engineers and scientists who are needed to fuel the economy, Lee said.
Even Clemson alumni who travel across the nation will still have South Carolina roots that will enhance the state’s reputation, she said.
“They’re going to have students they’re mentoring, and they’re going to say, ‘I got a great education in South Carolina — at Clemson — you should consider that,’” Lee said.
As Clemson has invested in engineering and the sciences, the university has left its Tiger paw prints across the state. Innovation campuses include the Advanced Materials Center in Anderson, the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, CUBEInC. in Greenville and the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston.
“That kind of investment in infrastructure, investment in people, investment in students is needed,” Gramopadhye said. “Only when you do that can you produce the talent that will be absorbed by the industry and keep our industry vibrant. It takes a lot, but we are doing that.”
Clemson has also established the Residents in Science and Engineering (RiSE) living-learning community. The program helps ease freshmen into college life by offering academic support in the same building in which they live, while enriching their university experience through organized activities.
The college is also looking into the future by working with 51 school districts across the state, providing financial awards to classrooms and technical colleges to broaden the reach and focus of the curriculum, said Kris K. Frady, assistant director of the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development.