- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

GAUTIER, Miss. (AP) - Leaders at Mississippi State University and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College now have a timetable and other solid plans for their joint engineering degree.

Now, business leaders are looking to see how they can parlay the degree into increased economic opportunities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The two schools announced the joint degree in August. It would allow students to receive Mississippi State University degrees in electrical or mechanical engineering while attending school at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Gautier campus.

Students would be enrolled at MGCCC for their first two years and Mississippi State for the remainder of their studies but would remain on the coast for the duration of their education.

“This provides a lot of opportunities for students to stay here, get degrees and take jobs on the Coast,” said Jason Keith, the interim dean of the College of Engineering at Mississippi State.

Keith presented details about the program Tuesday to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council’s Higher Learning Study Committee.

Mississippi State University will hire at least one faculty member and an adviser to be located in Gautier. Students would take classes face-to-face on that campus and remotely from other Mississippi State professors. The Gautier campus will have a distance learning classroom for students to use.

Keith expects the faculty and staff to be in place by August. The school will begin ordering lab equipment in June and offer the first Introduction to Electrical Engineering class in the spring semester of 2016. Mechanical engineering will follow in the fall.

University leaders expect to eventually have somewhere between 100 to 150 students per degree on the Gulf Coast, spread out through the four years, but said they could expand the program or begin offering other engineering degree options if there is enough interest.

A 2013 demand assessment found about 2,775 open engineering jobs on the coast and projected almost 3,300 by 2020.

The partnership - and its economic implications for the coast - fit in with the Business Council’s attempts to forge more partnership that could grow opportunity.

After Keith’s presentation, Gerald Blessey, who leads the committee, asked him, “How can the business community help?”

“Word of mouth,” Keith said. “It’s all about creating opportunities for these students.”

That could include providing jobs, internships, scholarships and money for lab equipment, Keith said.

“The possibilities are endless in opportunities to provide support,” he said.

___

Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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