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Rowan's new engineering building critical to N.J. economic growth, its president says

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Rowan University is scheduled to break ground today on an engineering building that will help the university more than double enrollment in its engineering program, to 2,000 students, officials said.

That increased capacity is critical for Rowan, which has been inundated with applicants eager to take part in its engineering program, said the university's president, Ali Houshmand.

"If you look at the demand for our engineering program, this past year, for every undergraduate position in engineering, we had 10 qualified applicants — New Jersey residents — that we could not take," Houshmand said.

And engineering graduates are in high demand in the state, said Anthony Lowman, dean of Rowan's College of Engineering. This past year, 95 percent of Rowan's engineering graduates got jobs after leaving the university.

And with all the pharmaceutical giants and defense and aviation companies in southern New Jersey, the area is clamoring for more, he said.

"I receive calls every day from companies looking to get our engineers," Lowman said. "And we're just simply not producing enough engineering students."

That will change with the new building, a 90,500-square-foot structure that will more than triple the college's available space when it is completed during the 2016-17 academic year. That building, along with another new structure that will house Rowan's Rohrer College of Business, is being funded by $117 million from the state's Building Our Future Bond Act.

That legislation also is being used to build two new structures at Montclair State University — a project that broke ground last month.

The university will enroll its first class of biomedical engineers next fall; that same semester, the school is planning to launch a Ph.D. program in engineering.

The new building "couldn't come at a better time. I think it fits our vision of growth," Lowman said. "In two years, we will be primed and ready to make a bigger difference than we already make."

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