Students in the engineering program at The University of Texas-Pan American regularly pass the national engineering certification exam at a rate at or above the state average, say two UTPA engineering faculty members.
"We have been consistently at or above the state average, and that includes the private schools," said Dr. Heinrich Foltz, assistant professor of engineering, adding that the average pass rate on the exam in Texas is generally above the national average.
In Texas, the Fundamentals of Engineering exam is administered by the Texas Board of Professional Engineering. According to numbers released by the board for October 1998 - the last test for which scores are available - UTPA had a 83.3 percent pass rate, compared to a state average of 70.6. Among public universities in Texas, UTPA had the same pass rate as Lamar University and was behind only The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.
"What we think is really exciting is that a lot of these students came in when we were still an open admissions university," said Dr. Robert Jones, assistant professor of engineering. "We don't filter as heavily as (UT) Austin - we can take kids who on average aren't as well prepared coming in, so the change in their ability from when they came in to when they graduate is larger."
Jones stressed that the high pass rate for UTPA students last November was "not a one-shot deal."
"We had one down semester (spring 1998) when we were right on the average," he said, but in November 1997, UTPA students had an even higher pass rate, 85.7 percent, compared to a state average of 70.9 percent, and other years have seen similar results.
Results from the last administration of the exam, which was in late April, are not expected to be available until the end of the summer.
The Fundamentals of Engineering exam is a test of the fundamental knowledge of engineers in their last year of study. The all-day test is comprehensive in scope, covering all areas of basic knowledge an engineer is supposed to have, with a general section and a section focusing on the student's engineering specialty. The same exam is given everywhere in the United States and is the first step toward being licensed as a Professional Engineer (PE).