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$1M Hofstra grant to address engineering grad shortage

(L-R) Hofstra first year engineering students Geoffrey Rohberder

(L-R) Hofstra first year engineering students Geoffrey Rohberder and Ciaran Quinn work on their project as they get ready to participate in an engineering design competition. (Nov. 22, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The state gave final approval Thursday for a $1 million grant to help Hofstra University address the shortage of engineering graduates on Long Island.

The money, from Empire State Development, reimburses some of the university's costs for a new bioengineering laboratory at the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The $4-million project includes building renovations and equipment.

In return for the state assistance, Hofstra has promised to add three "teaching-related positions" and provide documentationthat at least half its engineering graduates will work in the state initially, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The board of directors of Empire State Development, the state's primary business aid agency, unanimously approved the funds after hearing about the dearth of engineering graduates in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Barry Greenspan, program administrator in Empire State's Hauppauge office, said the shortage of engineers had led manufacturing and technology companies to leave Long Island or expand elsewhere.

"They cannot invest in production capacity in a region that lacks the engineering talent," he said.

After opening a medical school in 2011, Hofstra reorganized its existing undergraduate engineering and computer science programs into a separate engineering school. Hofstra and Stony Brook University are collaborating to boost the number of local engineering graduates.

Yacov Shamash, dean of Stony Brook's engineering college, has estimated there are three jobs for every one engineering graduate on Long Island.

Stony Brook also has been awarded a $1-million state grant to expand its engineering program.

Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said the money "affirms the role higher education will play in fueling the region's emerging innovation-based economy."

Rabinowitz is co-vice chairman of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, appointed by Cuomo in 2011, to devise a five-year job-creation plan for the region. The council endorsed the Hofstra and Stony Brook engineering expansions for state funding in 2011. State officials said Thursday that Rabinowitz did not vote on Hofstra's funding application.

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