Further proof that the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is growing up came Friday from the Board of Regents.
Meeting in Colorado Springs, the nine-member governing board of the four-campus CU system approved a request to split the engineering Ph.D. program into three separate programs: engineering, security and computer science.
That will increase doctoral programs at UCCS from five to seven starting next fall .
“The number of undergraduates is swelling, we’ve built new dorms and new buildings, but the biggest recognition that we’re becoming a bigger and more prestigious institution is the other kind of growth that comes from publishing new research and innovation from the Ph.D. programs,” said professor Jugal Kalita, who chairs the computer science department.
“Slowly, we’re starting to get that recognition,” he said in an interview. “I see this as a stepping stone to becoming better known nationally and internationally.”
Enrollment in the engineering Ph.D. program has grown from 11 in the fall of 2009 to 92 this semester.
Dividing the engineering tracks will increase research output and student enrollment, Kalita said.
“It’s time; it shows maturity, our growth,” he said. “A good, responsible university normally has a Ph.D. program in every department on campus.”
The action will allow for more accurate information on enrollment, curriculum and finances, along with student recruitment and degree identification, campus officials said. It will not involve hiring new employees or offering new courses.
The proposal now goes to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for state approval.
UCCS offered its first engineering doctoral programs with CU Boulder in 1986 and established its first standalone engineering doctoral program, computer science, in 1997.
In addition to engineering, UCCS also has doctoral programs in nursing, education, psychology and natural sciences.
Friday’s action completes a major goal in the UCCS 2020 strategic plan, which called for expanding degree offerings. Since the plan was implemented in 2012, the university has added 10 bachelor’s and four master’s programs, and the engineering split will add two new doctoral programs.
The school’s computer science Ph.D. program started in 2010 with 14 students and this semester has 32 enrolled, Kalita said. A large influx in foreign students makes UCCS a “destination school.”
Demand also has increased for its security program, which began in 2010 with nine students and now has 36, because cybersecurity is becoming a popular and needed profession, he said.
UCCS’ cybersecurity programs are scheduled to move to the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs in 2020, when the building renovations are finished.
A bill approved in the last legislative session allocated $1.8 million to UCCS for scholarships to students studying cybersecurity, research, faculty and technology.
The regents also approved a $45 million building addition that will physically connect CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science to the Leeds School of Business. Construction is slated to begin in the spring
In a report to the regents on campus affordability, UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy told the regents that diverse students attend UCCS, from traditional college students living in dorms to working adults.
Nineteen percent of students, which topped 12,500 this semester, are connected to the military, and one-third are first generation, meaning they are the first in their family to attend college.
Many students are low-income; 63 percent have adjusted gross income in the bottom three levels of the scale, Reddy said.
But concurrent high school enrollment, in which high school students can take college classes for free while still working on earning a diploma, has helped mitigate college costs for some, he said.
UCCS’ tuition and fees, at about $25,000 this year, haven’t exceeded inflation in the last three years and institutional aid has increased 15 percent over that time, he said.
The campus will work on maintaining student affordability and “meet students where they are,” Reddy said.
Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.