CORVALLIS - An effort by Oregon State University to propel its College of Engineering into one of the top 25 such programs in the nation received a major boost Friday when the Legislative Emergency Board authorized OSU to use $20 million in state-issued bonds for a new engineering building.

Construction of the 140,000-square foot building, which has a total cost of $43.6 million, should begin next summer. It is scheduled to open by winter term of 2004.

The additional $23.6 million to fund the building will come from private support.

Ron Adams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering, says a new building is critical not just for OSU, it will have a major impact around the state.

"Continued legislative support from across the state combined with private contributions have allowed our program to grow not only in size, but in quality," Adams said. "We are seeing more and more of the best students in Oregon coming to OSU. The new building will have high tech classrooms and laboratories that should greatly enhance the learning environment, making the college an even more attractive alternative for top students."

OSU's remarkable engineering growth in enrollment and research has made a new building critical, Adams said. With 3,650 students, the College of Engineering has its highest enrollment ever - nearly 10 percent more students than last year. And their credentials get more impressive every year. This fall, 12 percent of the incoming freshmen have a grade point average of greater than 3.90 and SAT scores surpassing 1,300 points.

The new building also will have an impact on research, according to Adams.

"In the same way the college has become more attractive to students, it also has become a draw for top faculty from around the country," Adams said. "This new building, with its sophisticated classrooms and laboratories, should enhance that attraction. It will enable us to do cutting-edge research in areas such as information security, circuits for cell phones, data mining and computer graphics."

Already in the last year, the College of Engineering has landed funding to create a new Tsunami Research Facility, a Western Region Hazardous Substances Research Center, and a new wireless laboratory.

Funding for the additional students, faculty and staff necessary for Oregon State's engineering expansion was provided by a $10 million allocation for the biennium from the 2001 Oregon Legislature, Adams said.

The new building will house OSU's Department of Computer Science and its Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Two of the fastest growing departments at the university, they account for nearly 50 percent of all OSU engineering enrollment.

Yost Grube Hall, a Portland firm, will design the new building. OSU will seek bids for construction early next year.