ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The University of Maine's College of Engineering says its graduates face a bright future.

Dean Dana Humphrey says many of the 325 seniors in the Class of 2017 have already found jobs even before they graduate. And 99 percent, he says, will have jobs or be in graduate school in the first year after graduation.

That success rate may be one big reason most of the 11 academic degree programs in the engineering school are consistently full. It also poses a challenge for Maine's future: a growing need for new engineers.

Humphrey says there isn't enough capacity to meet that need. He says 25 percent of all of the state's current engineers are expected to retire over the next decade.

At the same time, many businesses are looking to hire additional engineers to increase or improve their production. Humphrey says to train all those additional engineers, the College of Engineering will need to grow significantly, increasing the number of graduates to as many as 500 per year.

"Maine's growing economy depends on it," he said.

The university is looking to the legislature and, ultimately, Maine taxpayers to make a big investment in the future. There are several bills already before lawmakers to borrow the money to expand the College of Engineering.

Humphrey said it's not unusual now for new high schools to cost between $60 and $100 million, and he said the college expansion would be in that same price range. Humphrey said the goal is to also raise money through private donations to help pay for the expansion.

Those funding bills have not yet come up for debate in the legislature.