Trustees approve biomedical degree, retirement fund

The College’s bachelor of science degree (B.S.) in engineering with a specialization in biomedical engineering will be converted to a full B.S. in biomedical engineering degree (BSBME) after the Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution making it so during its meeting on Oct. 6.

The new B.S. in biomedical engineering can be sanctioned by ABET, Inc., the recognized accreditor of degree programs in applied science, computing, engineering and technology. The widely respected nonprofit cannot accredit specialization programs.

“The basic reason for (the change) … is that while we already have the courses, the faculty and the equipment to provide students with a full degree, it is currently called something that cannot be accredited by (ABET),” said Robert Altman, Board of Trustees treasurer.

Altman said ABET accreditation would make the College’s biomedical engineering program a more savory draw for students planning to attend graduate school in the field.

“Graduates of a BSBME program that could be accredited by ABET would benefit from increased degree recognition…when seeking employment or admission to graduate school,” the resolution stipulated.

Changing the College’s specialization in biomedical engineering to a B.S. in biomedical engineering does not guarantee that the program will be accredited by ABET.

But, as Altman stated, offering a B.S. makes accreditation an option.

According to the resolution, the current curriculum “is comparable to that in ABET-accredited biomedical engineering programs.”

Altman emphasized the value in that fact — it means the specialization program won’t have to undergo excessive modification to become a full degree program.

According to Altman, it won’t need to undergo much modification at all. Everything the program needs to become a full degree, it has.

“It’s particularly good because (changing the program) doesn’t involve any new (resources),” Altman said.

The resolution’s words mirrored the trustee’s.

“The existing faculty, equipment, laboratory, computer and facilities resources of the School of Engineering are sufficient to support the proposed BSBME program,” the resolution said.

The current specialization program will need to go through a state approval process before it can become a BSBME, according to Carol Bresnahan, provost and executive vice president.

However, “once that process is complete, we can offer the new degree,” the provost and executive vice president said in an e-mail comment.

The Board of Trustees also passed a resolution to establish a “non-state-defined” retirement fund to benefit former members of the College faculty who made more than $141,000 while employed.

“Last year … we were well aware the government budget included a plan to cut state contribution to individuals with retirement accounts that made more than a state cabinet’s employee,” President R. Barbara Gitenstein said. “We were prepared to cover it with our resources, because from our standpoint, it was a contractual obligation.”

The resolution allows the College to establish a plan that will “make ongoing annual contributions with non-State funds on behalf of affected employees,” according to its text.

This plan will ensure retired College faculty members collect the same amount from their retirement funds they would have before the state issued regulations.

“Some of our employees were going to have their compensation cut quite significantly,” Gitenstein said. “(This is) our opportunity to (give) these individuals a supplement that was once provided by the state.”

The president added that “several other sister institutions have already carried out similar programs.”

The resolution passed unanimously.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be its annual tuition hearing, which will be held Tuesday Dec. 7, at a time and location to be determined.

For more information on the Board of Trustees, go to www.tcnj.edu/~trustees.

Emily Brill can be reached at brill3@tcnj.edu.