A Challenging Time of Energy and Hope
by Glenn Mroz, president
As you read this, the class of 2013 is settling in on campus. It's a time of excitement, energy, and hope for the future. And it will be a time when we tell them about you who have gone before them. We'll tell them that past generations have gone to school in difficult economic times and that you are living proof that they can make it—that their best shot at success in any economy is with an education. We'll also tell them that those prospects increase with an education based in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); that their education will lead to an almost unparalleled opportunity to serve humanity. And we will tell them that what they do and how they do it will be in great demand. Two news stories this summer made this point: Forbes noted that, for the second year in a row, the hardest jobs to fill in America are now in engineering. And the Boston Globe cited a Pentagon statement that the shortage of STEM-educated graduates is a threat to our nation's security.
As the current stewards of Michigan Tech, our challenge is to navigate the present economic situation to grow the capacity, quality, and value of our programs for our students. Difficult decisions are not hard to find. This past year, we had the highest enrollment in twenty-five years with over seven thousand students, even as high school student interest in STEM fields nationwide has decreased. At the same time, state support for Michigan Tech is the same in inflation-adjusted dollars as it was forty years ago, when we had 40 percent fewer students. And while in-state tuition and fees top $11,000 per year, financial aid is now the second-highest category of expense in our budget.
These challenges to quality and value come with opportunities, and we have been making progress in making a Michigan Tech education even more distinctive. Our students are competitive for high-visibility national scholarships; in the spring, three students were awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships. We are hiring new faculty at a time when others are not, last year in the area of sustainability, this year in computational innovation, next year in the growth areas of energy, health sciences, and engineering. Our Peace Corps Master's International Program is the largest in the nation, providing volunteers with scarce STEM skills. A new Rail Transportation Institute has been launched in cooperation with major railroads, IBM, and Motorola. And a pilot program offering free classes in hybrid vehicle technology to displaced workers, in cooperation with GM and the Engineering Society of Detroit, will be expanded with help from the US Department of Energy.
These accomplishments are testimony to the progress that can be made when the interests, passions, and sense of legacy of students, alumni, faculty, and staff are aligned. Thanks for your example. Thanks for your support.