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UK's Paducah engineering program raising enrollment

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UK's Paducah engineering program raising enrollment

By David Zoeller
The Paducah Sun

A unique partnership that began 20 years ago to provide west Kentucky students access to an engineering degree close to home - and area employers access to engineering talent - continues today with plans to increase enrollment by 50 percent.

That partnership, better known as the University of Kentucky College of Engineering's Paducah campus, is paying dividends for the region and the rest of the state, according to Larry Holloway, interim dean of the UK College of Engineering.

Holloway was the featured speaker at Thursday's Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce Power in Partnership breakfast at the Julian Carroll Convention Center.

"For those of you who don't know, the UK Paducah engineering program started with the vision and effort of community leaders and industry leaders," Holloway said. "The program was established on the campus of what is known as West Kentucky Community and Technical College and in full partnership with them and the involvement of Murray State."

According to Holloway, "The purpose of developing it was really two-fold: The recognition that area employers needed to have an engineering workforce, and second, to stress the need for students in the west Kentucky area to go into engineering and be able to do so nearby."

Holloway stressed the UK College of Engineering is really one college - with two campuses in Lexington and Paducah. A bachelor's degree is offered in both mechanical and chemical engineering.

Both campuses have been successful and can expect more growth, according to Holloway.

"This past year the Paducah campus had almost 200 students enrolled," he said. "And this spring the program graduated 35 engineering students, 70 percent of whom typically end up working within your communities for your industries."

The College of Engineering currently has just under 4,000 students, graduate and undergraduate combined (including Paducah's 200), Holloway said.

"Our target is to be over 6,000 students in the next eight years with 1,000 students (bachelor's degrees) graduating each year," he said. "Paducah is expected to be a part of this growth. Just as we're looking at the college as a whole to grow over 50 percent, we're looking for Paducah to be growing over 50 percent to an enrollment of 300 students."

According to Holloway, projected growth in the engineering program helps fill a growing demand in the industry and spur economic development, among other benefits. "Industry looking for engineering talent will locate and expand where they have access to engineering talent," he said. "And our engineering grads area paid well. Engineering graduates typically have starting salaries between $60,000 and $70,000 right after finishing their bachelor's. These graduates then spend in their local economies leading to broader economic development in communities where they work."

Strategies to achieve the targeted growth include an emphasis on both attracting and retaining students and "making sure people understand what a great opportunity the partnership between the College of Engineering can be for students, for industry, for society, the state and for our communities," Holloway said.

"We appreciate the involvement and support of Paducah in the past for our program and are looking forward to growing our Paducah program as we are our Lexington program," he said. "It is very much an exciting time on both campuses as we move forward."

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