A Primer on 3-2 Engineering Programs
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.
Colleges try to encourage more students to major in engineering or the sciences by offering 3-2 or 5-year BA/BS programs in the liberal arts and engineering.
Many liberal arts colleges offer 3-2 engineering programs where 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. Iintroductory courses in chemistry, math and physics at the liberal arts colleges will be smaller than they are engineering school. Students who need help have a better chance of succeeding in smaller classes.The physics student needs a high GPA in the pre-engineering courses (usually 3.3 or better) to transfer to the engineering program.
Larger schools such as the University of Rhode Island offer a BA in a foreign language as well as a BS in the engineering major. Rutgers-New Brunswick offers a five-year BA/BS program that combines any liberal arts major with any engineering major. That’s provided that you can work the class schedules to meet degree requirements. But the engineering degree alone requires 18 credits a semester and you must fit labs and recitation sections into a schedule.
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 three such schools that make this possible. These schools are excellent and may also be the better value for the money. Bucknell offers a BS in Management and a BS in an engineering field in five years.
Here are some advantages to the 3-2 engineering programs.
Students are not forced to commit to engineering too early in their education.
A student who completes the required chemistry, math and physics courses at the liberal arts school has more options with respect to choosing a major. S/he can move into engineering, stay in chemistry, math or physics, or choose another liberal arts major without losing time or credits. Many students who jump into engineering as freshmen take introductory engineering courses during their first two years. Drop out of engineering and some of those courses cannot be credit towards general education requirements or another major. Someone who entered college intent on graduating with an engineering degree in four years might wind up spending five or six years in college trying to finish another major.
Graduates become part of two alumni networks.
This is especially helpful if the student graduates from a liberal arts school with a strong reputation in math and the physical sciences.
But there are also concerns.
The 3-2 engineering student is often a physics major at the liberal arts school.
The opportunity to pursue another major will depend on the course requirements at the liberal arts school as well as the opportunity to take a four or five-course load each semester.
Since the liberal arts college student enters the engineering school after three years, s/he cannot use the engineering career center until s/he has arrived on campus.
That means that the student may go three summers without an internship in engineering. Cooperative education is also not possible with a dual degree program.
Five years also means a fifth year of tuition and fees as well as housing and food, plus incidentals.
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.
3-2 engineering programs might not work out if you have a serious financial need.
It’s possible that the liberal arts college will be a financial fit for the first three years of the education, but the engineering school might not.
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.
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