From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 2, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-8393

Texas Senate Passes Ellis High Tech Education Plan

Senate passes engineering scholarship plan one day after approving record investment in college aid

(Austin)// The Texas Senate today passed SB 353, legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to boost the number of engineering and computer science graduates in Texas.

Senate Bill 353, affectionately known as the "Texas Needs Nerds" bill, will address the growing shortage of high tech workers in Texas by increasing the number of electrical engineering and computer science graduates from Texas universities. The legislation creates the Texas Engineering and Technical Consortium, which will be made up of all public engineering and computer science programs, plus private companies. Those companies will contribute money into a special pool to fund targeted programs for students enrolled in or interested in electrical engineering and computer science studies.

"Texas needs nerds," said Senator Ellis. "Unfortunately, Texas is not doing enough to produce the fuel that powers the high tech economy -- engineers and computer scientists. Senate Bill 353 will substantially increase the number of electrical engineering and computer science graduates we need to fuel the digital economy."

Under SB 353, Texas would commit up to $5 million annually to match $5 million raised annually from the technology industry and other private sector sources - for a total of $10 million. The fund would be administered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, guided by a public-private advisory committee. The consortium would make grants to public universities to increase enrollment and improve retention rates in those programs, specifically encouraging participation by women and minority students as part of the overall effort to increase the number of technology workers.

Technology is perhaps the driving force behind Texas' economic growth. Today, high tech industries employ more Texans than the oil and gas drilling, agriculture, food products and petroleum refining sectors combined. Between 1993 and 1998, high-tech employment in Texas jumped 48 percent; more than 132,000 new technology jobs were created in the state. But just as the need for high tech training has increased, the number of engineering and computer science graduates has decreased. Between the 1993-94 and 1998-99 school years, the total number of electrical engineering or computer science graduates increased by less than 10 percent, and the number of electrical engineering graduates actually dropped. Today, some 34,000 high skilled technology jobs are now vacant in Texas.

"If Texas wants to remain a national and world leader in high tech, we must do more to recruit and train engineers and computer scientists," said Ellis. "Governor Perry and Lieutenant Governor Ratliff have shown tremendous leadership on this issue. Thanks to their efforts, our state will have a better chance to compete in the digital age."