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6 The Two-Tiered System Beginning in the 1950s, the federal government initiated a compre- hensive system of support for academic research and graduate educa- tion in the sciences. As the system grew, some engineering fields were included. The purpose of this support system was to develop knowl- edge and to improve research techniques across a broad spectrum of disciplines, as well as to ensure a flow of graduate-level manpower to meet the research needs of the nation. Rapid growth in funding occurred during the 1950s and 1960s and remained fairly level from 1969 until about 1975. Then another upswing in the late 1970s slowed to a modest increase in the 1980s. The federal government's support for academic research and development in 1981 was about $5 billion. Effects of Federal Funding The impact of this comprehensive program of federal funding has been substantial. Three decades of rising annual funding fostered a group of research universities or institutions whose graduate and research programs became heavily dependent on contract research. This system of government grants and contracts has been of very great benefit to many engineering colleges, but the focus has been almost exclusively at the graduate level, so that government funding has been the driving force in graduate engineering education. The strong influence of governmental support on faculty and disci 86

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THE TWO- TIERED S YS TEM 87 plinary efforts affects projects ranging from fundamental research to those with a strong mission orientation. A number of sophisticated laboratories have been established and equipped, so that approximately 20 schools now have several first-rate laboratory facilities. The process has also resulted in a focusing of educational goals and approaches especially at the graduate level, but the influence has been felt at the undergraduate level as well. Industrial Support The rise of the government-funded research university also had an effect on industrial support for engineering education. Several compa- nies that had traditionally given graduate fellowships began to reduce these programs. In fact, when some engineering schools attempted to establish joint projects with industry, they encountered a complaint from industry that because of large and continuing government fund- ing, the universities were no longer interested in working with indus- try. The industrial share of university R&D support dropped signifi- cantly from just over 6 percent in 1960 to below 3 percent in 1965. Not until after 1970 did the percentage rise above 3 percent to 3.8 percent in 1981. In response to the "crisis in engineering education," some major corporations have recently made sizable grants to a relatively small number of institutions. However, many of these initiatives have focused on the graduate research level at the institutions that have been the dominant recipients of government funding. Such industrial sup- port for academic R&D expenditures amounts to about 4 percent of the total. Thus, the federal government plays the dominant role in this area with its 80 to 85 percent funding of academic R&D. Graduate Centers The First Tier The major recipients of government-funded graduate education and research enjoy a distinct advantage, which influences both graduate and undergraduate engineering education. Their recruitment of faculty is enhanced because the young assistant professor can continue work- ing in a research environment similar to that of graduate school. Their policies thereby continue and maintain the academic value system. Teaching loads at research universities are relatively low, and a faculty member has a cadre of research assistants. The research infrastructure includes laboratory facilities, access to modern machine shops, and extensive library holdings, and most recently it includes extensive computer equipment. Typically, the benefits include special secretar

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88 ENGINEERING UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION ial and technical support as well as travel funds. Taken as a whole, these benefits give a powerful emphasis to academic research in graduate . . . engmeermg ec .ucatlon. The Second Tier At the undergraduate level, no set of national policies or programs recognizes the important role of undergraduate engineering education in contributing to the imperatives of a technology-based world econ- omy. The focus of government and industry on research and graduate education has created a two-tiered or bifurcated system of engineering colleges. This two-tiered system has had a strong influence on the character of engineering education. For the purposes of this study, the bifurcation index is taken as the point that separates those institutions awarding 14 or more Ph.D. degrees per year in all engineering disci- plines {the first tier) from institutions in the second tier. Approximately half of the B.S. engineering degrees come from pro- grams that are basically undergraduate schools those that award fewer than 14 Ph.D. degrees a year. Government, industry, and aca- deme will continue to depend upon graduates from these colleges for at least half of their engineering work force. Yet, because both govern- ment and industry focus their funding on graduate study and research, these colleges are forced to depend on other, appreciably smaller sources of funding. The Need for Balance In order to provide a measure of balance to this two-tiered system, the needs of primarily undergraduate institutions require recognition. Funding for modern laboratory equipment is an urgent need. At the present time, many undergraduate students never have access to the latest equipment and modern data-handling systems. Colleges are experiencing a wave of computerization at the undergraduate level, but they lack the resources to respond in a timely and comprehensive man- ner. Tax incentives at both the federal and state levels are urgently needed to assist industry with equipment grants to engineering educa- tion. Faculty who carry heavy undergraduate loads need support and access to creative programs of faculty development. Release time is especially valuable because it enables the faculty member to keep cur- rent in a professional field and to develop new teaching techniques at the undergraduate level. Recognizing that the number of advanced

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THE TWO- TIERED S YS TEM 89 academic research laboratories will necessarily be limited, faculty members in primarily undergraduate programs need access to major research centers in order to remain vital. Thus, programs and policies are needed to enable these faculty members to take advantage of such advanced facilities. The separation in the two-tiered system will widen unless both gov- ernment and industry introduce imaginative programs accompanied by more than token support. Without strong public policy in support of a balanced system, undergraduate education will not be able to main- tain the pace required to meet national economic and strategic objec- tives. The Panel on Undergraduate Engineering Education recommends that, if the quality of engineering education at undergraduate-oriented colleges is to keep pace with the quality at graduate research centers, these colleges must have access to special, new sources of income. And if the program qualityoflow-researchinstitutionsis to keep pace with that of research institutions, faculty at the former will need to gain access to some of the facilities and programs of the major centers of research. Reference National Science Foundation. 1982. University-Industry Research Relationships. Fourteenth Annual Report of the National Science Board (Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation).