K-State Graduates Most Engineering Students Ever in 2020

While 2020 will be remembered on many fronts, largely related to a global pandemic, the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering at Kansas State University has marked the year in celebratory mode by recording its largest-ever number of graduates and the most of any engineering school in the state.

In awarding a total of 782 bachelor’s degrees from spring, summer and fall 2020 graduation classes, the college exceeded its previous record-setting years of 2017 with 630 graduates, 2018 with 684 and 2019 with 719.

When looking for an impetus or reason behind this surge in numbers, a good place to start is the college’s response to and benefit from the University Engineering Initiative Act, or UEIA, enacted by the Kansas Legislature in 2011 to increase the number of engineering graduates from the state’s three engineering schools to 1,365 students per year by 2021. The goal for the Carl. R. Ice College of Engineering was 587 graduates per year by 2021, a number it first exceeded in 2017, year six of the 10-year program.

During this time period, each engineering college was required to provide a one-to-one match from non-state sources, or $3.5 million per year for each school, for a total match of $105 million over the 10 years in support of engineering education programs. The initiative ends in 2021 unless it is renewed by the current Kansas Legislature.

“The college’s response to the UEIA has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Matt O’Keefe, dean of engineering and LeRoy C. and Aileen H. Paslay chair in engineering at K-State. “This investment by the state legislators targeting engineering education efforts was met by our implementation of enhanced recruitment and retention programs to increase the size of the student body and support student success.

“In addition, we leveraged the funds to increase our facility size by more than 100,000 square feet of new space for classrooms, laboratories and student design team areas, as well as adding to the number of faculty serving our students.”

The initiative directed the secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce to work with the Kansas Board of Regents, as well as the three state universities, to develop a plan to target engineering education efforts to fuel economic growth and business success in Kansas.

“Demand for our graduates remains strong, with our record-setting class of 2020 continuing the tradition of a high percentage either employed or seeking additional professional education,” O’Keefe said.