Editor’s Note: The letters below were sent in response to Kenneth Burbank’s Another Angle column in the Summer print issue of Prism.
Response from the ASEE Board
ASEE is a large organization that strives to provide a “big tent” to accommodate the views and concerns of the many stakeholders of the engineering and engineering technology community. Ken Burbank’s column in the Summer 2018 issue of Prism decrying the treatment of ET graduates has generated a fairly strong reaction from several quarters. The views of NCEES and NSPE are reflected in other letters in this issue.
ASEE’s institutional councils have historically expressed views on issues of particular concern to them. While we strongly support their ability to do so as members of the Society, it is important to recognize that such views are not necessarily the official views of ASEE as an organization, which can only be expressed by the ASEE Board of Directors.
The ASEE Board is supportive of the free expression of views and believes that constructive dialogue can contribute to the resolution of seemingly intractable conflicts. We were pleased to hear that representatives of ABET, NCEES, and NSPE are to be invited to the Engineering Technology Leaders Institute, October 11-13, 2018, in Arlington, Va. Our hope is that coming together for face-to-face dialogue may clarify areas of misunderstanding and identify areas of concordance. Progress is made one step at a time.
On behalf of the ASEE Board of Directors,
ASEE President (2017-2018)
The ET Cause is Hurt by an Adversarial Approach
As the incoming president of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and as a professional engineer licensed in 29 states who graduated with an engineering technology degree, the issues raised by Kenneth Burbank in his column, “ET Graduates Are Treated Unfairly” (Prism Magazine, Summer 2018) are near and dear to my heart. They are worthy of constructive dialogue, engagement and action by the engineering and licensing communities.
It is therefore deeply disappointing that ASEE, both in this column and in recent actions by the ASEE Engineering Technology Council, has chosen to approach the matter in an adversarial fashion, rather than reaching out to those entities (NSPE included) whose policies it objects to. This approach, rather than advancing dialogue, is counterproductive. It can only serve to encourage the parties to dig into entrenched positions and close their minds to alternative perspectives—the very antithesis of academic integrity, freedom, and openness.
The column urges a boycott of NCEES over the conditions contained in its Model Law for professional engineering licensure. Separately, the ASEE Engineering Technology Council has taken it upon itself to intrude on ABET’s independent but open processes, inserting itself as self-appointed gatekeepers over which persons and opinions are allowed in ABET’s deliberations on accreditation standards, demanding that NSPE and NCEES be expelled from its activities.
ASEE has never approached NSPE seeking consideration of possible modifications to our professional policy statement on educational requirements. Speaking only for NSPE, we are and always have been open to such dialogue, as long as it is approached in an open-minded spirit of mutual respect. (I have no direct knowledge of ASEE’s experience with NCEES or ABET, but NSPE has always found them equally open to diversity in points of view and respectful engagement in the free competition of ideas.)
ASEE’s Engineering Technology community has damaged its cause by assuming that these issues cannot be openly raised and constructively addressed in good faith between the parties. I believe there are much better ways of advancing our profession.
Michael E. Aitken
National Society of Professional Engineers
Inequity for ET Graduates?
In the summer 2018 issue of Prism magazine, Kenneth Burbank expresses the view that the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and its member boards discriminate against graduates with degrees in engineering technology. Dr. Burbank cites the NCEES Model Law and the NCEES Engineering Education Standard as examples of this discrimination. I feel that some additional history and background is needed to better understand NCEES’ position.
Since its inception in 1920, NCEES has promoted uniform standards as a model for the licensure of both professional engineers and professional surveyors in the United States. Although the model language is developed and adopted as best practices by the NCEES member boards, the specific requirements for licensure remain in the hands of the local legislatures for each licensing jurisdiction (all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). The NCEES recommended educational requirement for licensure as a professional engineer has always been a four-year degree in engineering. Also, for many years now, NCEES has recognized graduates from engineering programs that have been accredited by ABET’s Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) as the benchmark to be used by member boards when qualifying applicants for licensure as a professional engineer.
The preface of the NCEES Model Law states that intent of the document is “to present its member boards with a high-level benchmark—and yet a sound and realistic guide—that will provide greater uniformity of qualifications for licensure, raise these qualifications to a higher level of accomplishment, and simplify the interstate licensure of engineers and surveyors.” The Model Law is presented as an ideal; the actual requirements for licensure are set by each individual jurisdiction. As such, many NCEES member boards provide alternate paths to licensure, including ones for graduates from engineering technology programs accredited by ABET’s Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission (ETAC).
NCEES strongly advocates quality education for engineers and has established the following educational objectives:
- Advocate quality education that adequately prepares candidates for licensed professional practice. Licensed professional practice includes, but is not limited to, all aspects of engineering and surveying regulated by state and territorial licensing boards or regulated by government agencies.
- Recognize institutional indicators of quality education, which may include the following:
- Program educational objectives and outcomes that include a focus on preparing students for licensed professional practice as described in paragraph A above
- Program educational objectives and outcomes that are assessed in part by nationally validated content examinations
- Curriculum requirements that equate to the standards for licensure eligibility
- Establish program indicators of quality education for licensure eligibility, which include the following:
- Nationally validated assessment methods
- Program educational objectives that specifically direct the educational standards toward licensed professional practice
- Compliance with prescribed pass rates on nationally validated content examinations
- Assist member boards in evaluating the indicators and metrics as established for licensure eligibility.
Dr. Burbank notes that ASEE’s mission is “about serving the engineering profession through our students.” NCEES’ mission is “to advance licensure for engineers and surveyors in order to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” We do not believe our missions are at odds with one another, and we certainly do not believe NCEES’ guidelines are discriminatory when it comes to ensuring the welfare of the public.
There have been a significant number of improvements in engineering education in recent years in how programs are accredited. As the education of engineering students has evolved, so has the licensure process for professional engineers. If there is a belief among ASEE members that ETAC/ABET graduates should be treated as the equivalent of EAC/ABET graduates, we would recommend that ASEE request this matter be placed on the agenda for discussion by ABET’s Engineering Technology Area Delegation. NCEES would welcome the opportunity for further discussion on this topic.
Patrick Tami, PLS
ASEE Should Stand Up for ET Programs
I enjoyed Ken Burbank’s article concerning the treatment of engineering technology (ET) graduates within ASEE. From my experience, I have found the (ABET) Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) representatives a bit aloof when on dual visits with Engineering Technology Accreditation (ETAC) reps. I’m not sure of the reason—perhaps the greater number of academic Ph.D.s—but it is obvious.
I could have applied as a program evaluator (PEV) for EAC, but have found my interests more aligned with technology-oriented engineers. Thus, I have spent the past 25 years as an ETAC PEV and a Committee on Engineering Technology Accreditation Activities member, and am now a team chair for ETAC. I have found that ET graduates come up to speed more quickly that EAC engineers; somehow the practical experience of the ET graduate is just better.
It would be nice to see ASEE take a stronger position on the benefits of the ET programs. Otherwise we are doing the ET graduate a disservice.