The decision Tuesday by the Anne Arundel Community College board of directors to eliminate three engineering degree programs and one certificate program follows several years of enrollment decline and rising program costs.
One college official said the drop in popularity of the four programs is part of a statewide trend that he can't explain.
"The decline is happening in engineering classes in community colleges across the state," said Dennis Galloway, the school's vice president of academic affairs. "To a certain extent it mystifies me because I know there is a demand for engineers."
Mr. Galloway told the board Tuesday that Catonsville Community College has cut at least one of its engineering programs and that Chesapeake Community College is seeing an enrollment decline. Even the Johns Hopkins University is "taking a harder look at their programs," he said.
The nine-member board of directors approved the systems engineering certificate program as part of the Anne Arundel curriculum about five years ago, but the program hasn't had a graduate since 1990.
When comparing fall semesters, the school's full-time-equivalent (FTE) enrollment in engineering courses has decreased from 22.7 students in 1989 to seven students in 1994, a 69.2 percent decline. Comparing spring semesters, there is a 53 percent decline in full-time-equivalent enrollment, from 23.4 students in 1989 to 11 students in the most recent class.
Every 15 credits taken by one student or group of students equals one FTE student.
"The enrollment was falling so low that you could say the demand was extremely low or nonexistent," Mr. Galloway said.
At the same time enrollment was going down, the cost of teaching those classes was among the highest at the community college. Engineering classes cost approximately $9,063 per FTE as of June 30, 1994. Other courses at the school cost on average $3,900 per FTE.
Mr. Galloway speculated that one reason for engineering enrollment decline may be that many four-year colleges do not accept all of the engineering courses students take at the school.
"They will count them as electives," he said. "Students see that as a waste of time."
Instead of completing all the engineering requirements, he said, some students will take the classes they want, switch to a general studies major with a concentration in engineering. That way, they lose few, if any, credits when they enter a four-year college.
The curriculum cuts are effective this fall. Students enrolled in those programs will be given about two years to complete their core engineering courses, but no new students will be allowed to enroll.
GRADUATES BY PROGRAM
.. .. .. .. .. .. . ..1990 ..1991 ..1992 ..1993 ..1994
Manufacturing .. .. .. .5 .. ..0 .. ..1 .. ..1 .. ..0
Engineering .. .. .. ..19 .. .17 .. ..7 .. ..8 .. ..7
Systems Engineering .. .0 .. ..0 .. ..1 .. ..0 .. ..0
Certificate .. .. .. ...0 .. ..0 .. ..0 .. ..0 .. ..0