When I was in college I had roommates who were engineers. They used to tell me that freshman orientation talks had the line “look to the left, look to the right, one of you might be gone.”
I have never liked this attitude towards education in any subject, especially the sciences and engineering. It is demeaning and discouraging to young people. I realize that past graduates lived through it and appreciate having survived it. But that did not mean that these people received as good an education as they needed to become successful engineers.
One way colleges try to encourage more students to major in engineering or the sciences is to offer 3-2 or 5-year BA/BS programs in the liberal arts and engineering, depending on the school.
I have visited many liberal arts colleges that offer 3-2 engineering programs in partnership with state universities as well as excellent private schools such as Cal Tech, Case Western, Dartmouth and Washington University in St. Louis. The idea behind the 3-2 engineering programs offered through the liberal arts colleges is that a student will spend three years at a liberal arts college, most likely as a physics major. The last two are spent in an engineering specialty. The physics student needs a high GPA in the pre-engineering courses (usually 3.3 or better) to transfer to the engineering program. Then there’s Bucknell, which grants engineering degrees. There you can get a BS in Management and a BS in an engineering field in five years.
I have also visited larger schools such as the University of Rhode Island that offer a BA in a foreign language as well as a BS in the engineering major. Rutgers-New Brunswick, my undergraduate alma mater, offers a five-year BA/BS program that combines any liberal arts major with any engineering major, provided that you can work the class schedules to meet degree requirements. That is not always easy when the engineering degree alone requires 18 credits a semester and you must fit labs and recitation sections into a schedule.
There is good and bad to 3-2 engineering programs in general, as well as additional issues when a student pursues degrees from two different colleges that have different academic and business practices.
In general, depending on the school, a 3-2 engineering program will allow students to have a degree in two complementary majors. Combining a foreign language with engineering, for example, will make a student a more valuable job candidate, Same with combining an area studies or international affairs program with the technical field, especially for students who are interested in civil engineering. We live in a world where there will always be infrastructure to repair as well as environmental problems to be solved.
However, a student will graduate from the 3-2 engineering program with two bachelor’s degrees as opposed to a bachelor’s and a masters. Five years means a fifth year of tuition and fees as well as housing and food, plus incidentals. However, the borrowing limit for Federal Stafford Student Loans for a dependent student is $31,000 for a bachelor’s degree program. A freshman is allowed to borrow $5,500. The difference, $25,500, amounts to an average of $6,375 per year for the remaining four years. Any scholarships that reduce the need to take out loans will be extremely helpful/
The advantages to the 3-2 engineering programs involving the liberal arts schools are:
There are also concerns about 3-2 engineering programs:
There are four-year degree programs at small colleges when a student may double major in the liberal arts and an engineering field. Union College (NY), Lafayette College (PA) and Smith College (MA) are examples of three such schools that make this possible. These schools are excellent and may also be the better value for the money.
If your student is not certain as to whether a 3-2 engineering program is the best option, and money is a consideration, it might be a good idea to consider a mid-sized, as opposed to a large school, that offers engineering and enroll as an engineering student. Lehigh, Loyola (MD), The College of New Jersey, Villanova University and the University of Scranton are examples of such schools. All of these schools make it fairly easy for a student to switch out of engineering, if it does not work out, move into another major, and still graduate in four years.
I realize that I have provided considerable detail in this post. However, there are differences between 3-2 engineering programs that you must know in order to make them work right for your student.
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