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Universities Cooperate on Engineering Program

Universities Cooperate on Engineering Program


A recently accredited program allows students from the University of Missouri-St. Louis to earn engineering degrees by taking classes at Washington University.

Nine years ago the two universities forged an agreement that has allowed 119 students at the state school to earn bachelor’s degrees in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering. The partnership was the first of its kind in the nation between a public and a private university.

As far as anybody on either campus knows now, the program is the first like it to win accreditation.

The degrees have always been valid, but a few weeks ago the program earned approval from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. That lends an extra measure of prestige to the program and will make it easier for a graduate to qualify for certification as a “professional engineer.”

Accreditation requires a history, so it was last year before the two universities felt they had enough graduates to make a case, said William Darby, the program’s dean. One try was all it took.

The program was designed for part-time students who need to take courses in the evening or late afternoon at the rate of one or two a semester. Enrollment has stabilized at about 400 students, while costs have doubled since the beginning — to just over $2 million last year. Of that, $131,000 paid for an office staff at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The rest went to Washington University according to a complicated payment schedule that rises with the number of students and credit hours they take. The state provides $1 million, while students’ tuition payments and revenue has covered expenses.

So far women have made up 18 percent of the engineering graduates — one point shy of the national average. Fifteen percent of the graduates have been African American — three times the national average.

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