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College Offering Scholarships for Accelerated B.S. to Graduate Program

By: 

Toby Weber

NSF grant will fund more than 30 students over the next five years

The University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has won a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships for students in the college’s accelerated B.S. to graduate degree program.

The program combines coursework for the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and/or Ph.D., thereby reducing the number of credit hours needed to earn multiple degrees. Under the program, students can apply a total of six credit hours toward both a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree.

According to the grant’s principal investigator, Karolos Grigoriadis, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the college's Aerospace Engineering Program, the funds will support students in the Departments of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. In particular, the grant will award scholarships to academically talented students with financial need who are focusing on the areas of energy engineering, biomedical engineering and aerospace engineering.

The NSF funded the program, Grigoriadis said, because of the lack of U.S. citizens and permanent residents pursuing graduate-level engineering degrees in the United States, a problem that is exacerbated by the high demand for engineers in the job market.

“Many students are hesitant to pursue graduate school because they often have opportunities to find a high-paying job after earning their bachelor’s degree. Sometimes they have a desire to pursue a graduate degree but they are putting it aside because they already have debt from their undergraduate studies. This program will provide an incentive for these students to pursue a graduate degree and allow them to earn an M.S. or Ph.D. in an accelerated curriculum,” he said.

From the fall of 2008 to 2011, Grigoriadis anticipates awarding about 15 scholarships per year to both new and current students. Over the course of the five-year grant, Grigoriadis and the rest of the investigators will provide reports to the NSF on the program’s success. These assessments will include the number of students who apply for and receive a scholarship, as well as retention and graduation rates.

If the scholarship program proves successful in producing more engineers with graduate degrees, other universities may use it as a model for their own accelerated graduate degree offerings, Grigoriadis added.

“The NSF was very positive about this project. It sees this as something that could be duplicated and benefit similar programs at other universities,” he said.

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