Georgia Tech Redesigns Building Degree by Laura Diamond

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution, October 4, 2012

Georgia Tech redesigns building degree

By Laura Diamond

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Tech is phasing out its undergraduate degree in building construction because of declining enrollment and concerns raised by an accrediting agency.

Students who apply to Tech this spring or later no longer will be able to earn the degree. Instead, Tech will strengthen the construction courses students can take while pursuing a degree in civil engineering, said Reginald DesRoches, chairman of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Students also could choose to major in architecture or business.

“Alumni have wanted us to do more in the construction area and our civil engineering students have wanted to take some of these classes,” DesRoches said. “The other benefit is our civil engineering program is ranked among the top three in the nation.”

Transitioning undergraduate construction to engineering will distinguish Tech from competing schools, such as Auburn University, the University of Florida and Virginia Tech, said Daniel Castro, chairman of the School of Building Construction.

Enrollment in the undergraduate program dropped from 204 students in fall 2007 t0 58 now, Castro said. He attributed it to the weak economy and construction slowdown, noting other programs in the Southeast dropped. Also, Castro said the major isn’t as well-known to high school students as architecture or engineering.

In addition to declining enrollment, Provost Rafael Bras formed a group to look at strengthening undergraduate construction education after a report last fall from the American Council on Construction Education.

The report raised concerns about the curriculum and questioned the use of a “common first year” through which students in construction, architecture and industrial design take the same classes to learn different design disciplines and the skills and approaches that each use.

Castro said Tech considered this approach to be a strength, not a weakness.

Tech’s School of Building Construction will continue but Castro said the focus will be on graduate programs. These programs consistently enrolled more than 100 students every year for the past five years, he said.

Students already working toward the bachelor of science in building construction have until December 2016 to finish.

Some worry whether the degree will be valued.

“In my craziest dreams, I never would have imagined that my school would end the undergraduate program,” said Saba Loghman, who plans to graduate this spring. “Our biggest concern is the credibility of our degree.”

Castro and DesRoches said the degree will remain respected and the changes should not hinder students’ abilities to find jobs.

Loghman and other students also question what will be taught, wondering how the college can merge building construction, a management-based program, with a technical engineering degree. The current program teaches construction management, real estate development, project delivery and other skills.

“We were immersed in everything related to construction and now all of that will be lost,” Loghman said.

Civil engineering majors will be able to take about 10 classes to gain construction lessons, DesRoches said. Topics will include law, finance, management and real estate, he said.

“Students will have the proper balance of skills and knowledge to be successful in the construction industry,” he said.


Other degree options

Georgia Tech is phasing out the undergraduate degree in building construction. Officials say students interested in construction who are applying to attend Tech next year should instead consider one of these bachelor of science degrees:

Architecture, for students interested in the planning, design and performance of buildings and spaces.

Business, for students interested in careers in real estate development or integrated construction management.

Civil engineering, for students interested in the creation of highways, bridges, power plants and sewer and water systems.

Source: Georgia Tech School of Building Construction.

Georgia Tech redesigns building degree.

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