CU-Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science sets sights on top 20 ranking

Tremendous growth in enrollments and a changing economic, technological and reputational landscape have prompted the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder to set two ambitious new goals for the year 2020. Improvements in the college’s “Best Graduate Schools” rankings, released in mid-March by U.S. News & World Report, indicate good progress in the right direction.

In a newly published revision of its strategic plan, Engineering 2020: Vision for Excellence, the college reveals aspirations to double engineering enrollments and make the list of the top 20 engineering programs in the country at both the graduate and undergraduate levels by fall 2020.

“Our refreshed outlook for Engineering 2020 raises the bar for growth, performance and culture within the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder,” said Dean Robert H. Davis. “It embraces our expanding student body, faculty, staff and research programs that enrich the lives and education of our students while delivering an excellent return on investment for the people of Colorado.”

CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science currently ranks 32nd among undergraduate engineering programs and 34th among graduate engineering programs nationwide, and is the top-ranked engineering school in the Mountain Time Zone. Its aerospace engineering graduate program jumped from 14th to ninth this year in the newly posted 2015 U.S. News rankings, while graduate programs in chemical engineering and in civil engineering each moved up four spots to 14th and 15th respectively. Programs in electrical engineering and in environmental engineering also saw gains.

“As the needs of our nation evolve we are one of many companies looking to schools like CU-Boulder to recruit and train the next generation of engineers,” said Kathryn G. Tobey, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s vice president and general manager of the Special Programs Line of Business in the Space Systems Co. and a member of the college’s Engineering Advisory Council. “In order for our company and our country to compete in challenging global markets, we require a new generation of thought leaders who are well-rounded engineers prepared with technical, leadership and business skills needed to transform our business.”

The college is well on its way to doubling from just over 4,000 students in 2007, the Engineering 2020 baseline, to its target of more than 8,000 students by fall 2020. From 2007 to 2013, CU-Boulder’s undergraduate engineering enrollment increased 25 percent, graduate enrollment increased 35 percent and research grant awards increased 80 percent. The college has made good progress in diversity as well, with 56 percent more women and 87 percent more underrepresented minorities among its undergraduates in fall 2013 compared with fall 2007.

CU-Boulder is one of many universities across the nation responding to rapid growth in its engineering enrollments in recent years. According to data from the Engineering Workforce Commission, the college’s growth is reflective of a strong resurgence in interest in engineering education and careers after 25 years of flat or declining U.S. engineering enrollments. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted up to 62 percent job growth during this decade for various engineering disciplines.

To accommodate the projected student enrollment growth and meet additional teaching and research demands, scenarios in the revised plan include the addition of 125 tenure-track faculty and 300,000 assignable square feet of building space. Future ideas include completion of the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building and construction of new aerospace and civil, environmental and architectural engineering facilities on CU-Boulder’s East Campus, as well as conversion of the former Fleming Law Building’s library into design project space coined the “Idea Forge” and renovations to the existing Engineering Center on the main campus.

An aggressive goal of $135 million in research awards in 2020 to fuel projects in areas key to societal needs and new educational programs that promote active learning and global engineering will further move the college toward its vision of being a recognized leader for excellence and innovation in engineering research and education.

A copy of A Fresh Look at Engineering 2020: Vision for Excellence is available online at

Courtney Staufer, 303-492-7190 or 303-834-0483 (mobile)