Our academic undergraduate programs have changed significantly in the past ten years. Driven by a strong job market at the peak of the oil boom in the 1980s, undergraduate enrollment ballooned to 1,500 students. Neither our faculty nor our facilities were adequate to support a program of this size over time. Thus, an enrollment management program was instituted to try to bring enrollment in line with the available resources and facilities. Students are now required to make a prescribed grade point average (GPA) on a specified group of freshman–level courses to be admitted to the upper division of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Initially, the required GPA was set at 2.5, but more recently has been raised to 2.85. The results of this program may be seen in enrollment figures holding steady at around 1,000 since 1995, with around 650 students holding upper level status each year. Our goal is to admit 200 students per year into the upper division, graduating approximately 200 students per year, the difference due to the attrition we experience in the upper division, usually the result of students changing majors. We must ration admission to the upper division when student demand for places in our program is so strong, and when the demand for our graduates is so high; however, this has resulted in an even higher caliber graduate, since only the best students are able to enter into the program. Today, enrollment at Texas A&M University is 44,521, with 8,808 students in the Dwight Look College of Engineering. Our undergraduate students are among the top in the university. For the 2004-05 school year, the department admitted 14 National Merit Scholars. Freshman scored an average 1282 on the SAT. The fact that we make most national corporations’ short list for preferential recruiting gives us confidence that our undergraduate program continues to be one of the best in the country. The success of our graduates is the best indication of the quality of our program, as is the recent increase in total scholarships and dollars awarded to our undergraduates.
As our graduate program becomes one of the premier mechanical engineering graduate programs in the U.S. (ranked 10th among public mechanical engineering graduate programs in 2009, according to U.S. News & World Report), our enrollment has reached 455 in 2009. Our diverse graduate student body is made up of outstanding students from 21 states across the U.S. and 29 other countries. Approximately 40% of our graduate students are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, and 22% of these students are from under-represented minority groups. Nearly 75% of our students are supported as graduate research or teaching assistants. Substantial competitive university-level, college-level, and departmental fellowships are available for truly exceptional students. During the past decade, as Texas sought to diversify its economical base from oil and agriculture to high technology and manufacturing, our department has been able to provide highly trained mechanical engineers with postgraduate degrees to support this economic development. The presence of strong graduate/research programs in engineering in the state is also a critical factor in persuading major national and international corporations to locate in Texas.