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U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20548
FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY
HARRY S. HAVENS
ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL
FOR PROGRAM EVALUATION
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
"FEDERAL GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT
IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION"
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
We are pleased to be here to discuss GAO's work in progress
on Federal involvement in engineering education.
During the past
few months we have worked closely with your staff on engineering
Today we will briefly address three questions:
--What is the nature and extent of Federal involvement
in engineering education?
--How will proposed budget cuts affect Federal involve
--How does Federal involvement relate to current concerns
about engineer supply, faculty shortages, obsolete in-
To address these questions, we have developed a comprehen
sive overview of Federal civilian agency activities that help
support engineer ing education.
We included fiscal year 1980
activities and their program and budget information for fiscal years 1980, 1981, and 1982. We did not include programs that focus primar ily on continuing education, technician training, post-doctoral study, women and minorities, or international
student and faculty exchange. Although the Department of Defense
and the Veterans Administration have relevant programs, we did
not include them because of time and resource limitations.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Based on our analyses to date, we can summarize our findings
in three statements:
--Federal involvement in engineering education is generally
a by-product of 40 different activities in ll civilian
agencies that were designed with other objectives in mind. --The proposed fiscal year 1982 budget, as of September 15,
1981, would increase total Federal civilian agency support
for engineering education by about 16 percent over 1980 levels. However, student financial assistance programs account for nearly all of this increase; other programs
would be reduced by one-third.
--Most civilian agency funding for engineering contributes
to the supply of engineers; much less relates to engineering faculty, equipment, and curricula.
FEDERAL INVOLVEMENT IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION
Federal activities that support engineering education can be characterized in two ways: in terms of their objectives and in terms of the kind of assistance they provide.
In terms of objectives, Federal activities either support broad educational objectives or agency-specific missions.
Programs that have broad educational objectives provide the most support. In 1980, 11 programs, located in 3 different agencies, provided more than $193 million for engineering education. Two other programs, for which exact funding information for engineering education is not available, also provided support. The General Services Administration distributed over $118 million (original acquisition valve) in surplus Federal property for general education purposes. The Cooperative Education Employment program (coordinated by the Office of Personnel Management) employed over 1,600 engineering students at 8 agencies.
The remaining civilian agency support for engineering
education is provided by mission agency education programs and
by R&D grants to academic institutions. Eight agencies with a total of 24 programs support engineering education in particular subfields of science and engineer ing related to their missions (e.g., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration supports training in aeronautical engineering and mechanical engineering; the Department of Transportation supports training in mechanical, electrical, and sanitary engineering as part of
its highway technology and safety programs; and the Department
of the Interior supports training in mining, metallurgical,
ceramic, petroleum, geological, and environmental engineering as part of its mining and minerals programs). In 1980, these 24 programs together provided approximately $35 million for engineering education. In addition, the National Science Foundation
and the Department of Energy each operate programs that distribute used scientific equipment to academic institutions. Insufficient data prevented us from determining what portion of this equipment was used for engineering instruction in 1980. Civilian agency R&D programs supported approximately 6,900 graduate engineering students in 1980 and provided an undetermined amount of instructional equipment to engineering schools. (Dollar amounts for the contributions of R&D funding to student
assistance and instructional equipment are not available.)
In terms of the kind of assistance provided, we identified
several different types of support:
financial assistance for
engineering students; new and used instructional equipment; support for an institution's general operation; and development
funding for particular departments or areas of study, curricula,
The largest source of Federal civilian agency support for
engineering education is student financial assistance programs.
of the estimated 158,000 engineering students who received sup
port from Federal civilian agencies in 1980, about 93 percent received financial aid from the Department of Education's stu
dent assistance programs.
The rest of the students are supported
through R&D funding (4 percent), mission agency training programs
(2 percent), and the Cooperative Education Employment Program
Most of the instructional equipment is provided through R&D fund ing. and through used equipment programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, and the
General Services Administration.
Precise data on the total
value of equipment provided through these activities are not available. In 1980, approximately $6 million was provided for new instructional equipment by the educational programs of mission agencies and NSF. About two-thirds of that amount went
to the coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and State Maritime acade
of the civilian agency funds for institutional support,
about 77 percent are expended in the operation of the U.S.
Merchant Marine and Coast Guard Academies and the State Maritime Academies. Most of the remaining funds go to land-grant colleges.
Civilian agency support for development of particular
departments or areas of study, curricula, and faculty is considerably smaller than support for students, equipment, and
In 1980, civilian agencies supported such
development with approximately $7 million scattered across 12 programs in 7 agencies.
EFFECTS OF PROPOSED FY 1982 BUDGET
The proposed fiscal year 1982 budget, as of September 15,
1981, would increase overall Federal support for engineering edu
cation by approximately 16 percent over 1980 levels. This increase is due almost entirely to the planned 24 percent increase in the Department of Education's student financial assistance
These calculations do not take into account the three