Southern Arkansas University aims to ramp up in engineering

Feb 4, 2014

Southern Arkansas University can move ahead in starting a new bachelor’s degree in general engineering in the fall semester. The school in Magnolia got the go-ahead for the degree Friday from the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board. SAU president David Rankin said there are already more than 20 students who plan to enroll, and local industry helped SAU make a strong case for the value of these graduates.

Southern Arkansas University president David Rankin speaks with Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, at the district meeting of the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Credit Aaron Street

"This is a real breakthrough for us because we had had an engineering physics program, but had not had a general engineering program," Rankin said. "It's a real step in the right direction for us because of the need for industry to have some help.”

As part of SAU’s commitment to the degree, according to Rankin, it hired an architecture firm to draw up plans for a $2.7 million engineering facility that will be adjacent to its newly constructed science center. Currently, in Arkansas, there is no general engineering degree south of Little Rock. Rankin hopes this four-year program keep more talent close to home.

“If you have a student that grew up in El Dorado, Magnolia, Texarkana, or any of these other areas, and they study here, they’re very familiar with the area. They’re happy here and would like to stay. We feel like it will really stabilize the employment of qualified engineers in south Arkansas," Rankin said.

The university plans to seek program accreditation through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Rankin expects to achieve it in about three years. He said construction of the engineering center will begin next year.

SAU saw record enrollment growth last year, and Rankin believes new program offerings have helped drive the expansion.