An engineering degree is as close as it gets to a sure thing in terms of a career, and the Lancaster University Center is putting that degree within the reach of students in the Antelope Valley. “The need for engineers is significant,” says LUC director Ken Santerelli. “Over the next 10 years, we could see 50 percent of the engineering workforce retire.” In fact, he says, more than 1.6 million U.S. engineering jobs went unfilled last year, and that trend is expected to continue. The third- and fourth-year courses are offered at the new Lancaster University Center facility, which was developed by the city of Lancaster through an educational partnership between California State University Bakersfield and California State University Fresno. Classroom instruction integrates live instructors and distance-learning technology. Without the LUC, students would have to commute two to three hours to get an engineering degree, says Santerelli. “This is a very valuable program for Antelope Valley residents,” he says. “The first two years of coursework can be obtained at the Antelope Valley Community College, then they can transfer to Lancaster University Center, where we offer degrees for mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as a master’s program.” Demand for engineers is high in the region, thanks to Edwards Air Force Base, the China Lake Naval Air Station, various research laboratories and major contractors in the area. A new and convenient aspect of the program is the electrical and mechanical engineering laboratory, funded through generous donations from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Edwards Air Force Base Flight Test Center and NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. “We have just brought this on line,” says Santerelli. “This is very important for the engineering program, because it precludes the necessity for students to travel to Fresno. In fact, it means that the students can remain in Antelope Valley all four years of their education, traveling to Fresno only to graduate.” The cost is much lower as well, says the director. “LUC offers an education that is two-thirds the cost of other programs,” he says. “A person can get a four-year degree in engineering for under $10,000 here. So it is a bargain, largely because of our partnership with Antelope Valley Community College.” LUC’s current enrollment of two dozen students in pre- and post-graduate programs means that students get very personalized guidance. And the center offers students flexible schedules, meaning that they can get an education and work simultaneously. “We also have partnerships with industries here to offer internships to students,” says Santerelli. “The industry is looking for us to graduate engineers they can use to help with the shortage."