Introduction: NYU Tandon School of Engineering

I have somewhat of a personal connection to the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. My father graduated from NYU with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 1952. He commuted to classes in the Bronx from Brooklyn every day. I’ve ridden enough subways in New York to find that daunting to do once, let alone for four years. I took a visit last week and gathered photos for a Pinterest page.

First, I have to share a little history.

When it comes to engineering education, NYU has had starts and stops. From 1854 to 1973 NYU educated engineers in the Bronx on a campus formerly known as University Heights that overlooked the Harlem River. NYU sold that campus to the City University of New York. The city university system designated it as the campus for Bronx Community College. 

Several years ago I walked around the community college campus, preparing to recruit their career center to become a software client. I could swear that the campus reminded me of MIT, especially with the domed building at the center. That old campus still has a Hall of Fame of Great Americans, the first hall of honor constructed in our country. 

There’s a few interesting tidbits about the Hall, worth mentioning given the times we live in:

  • Confederate General Robert E. Lee was a member of the first inducted class in 1900. His bust was removed in 2017.
  • General Stonewall Jackson, another prominent military leader of the Confederacy, was inducted in 1955. His bust was also removed in 2017.
  • The last busts completed were for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and musician John Phillip Sousa.  
  • While most colleges did not admit women in the early 1900’s, the Hall inducted its first female members, educators Emma Willard and Mary Lyon and scientist Maria Mitchell in 1905.
  • Busts were never executed for the last four inductees chosen in 1973: Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, scientist Luther Burbank, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, and businessman/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. 

From 1974 to 2010, NYU did not offer engineering education. Faculty from the old Bronx campus became employees of another school, Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, later called Polytechnic University. In 2010, after a merger, the engineering school renamed NYU Polytechnic University aka ‘NYU Poly’. Five years later, school was renamed for philanthropists Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon, who donated $100 million. 

Does history mean good connections? 

NYU markets that it has offered engineering degrees since 1854 and states that the past alumni are Tandon alumni. It proudly promotes those alumni as much as it used to promote its Hall of Fame in the Bronx. Among them are James Truslow Adams, the person who coined the phrase ‘The American Dream’.

Tandon itself has about 2,500 alumni registered in Nearly 1,800 are based in and around the Big Apple. There are 340,000 NYU alumni from all schools within the university registered there, with very large alumni communities in many cities. This is the base Tandon students are more likely to leverage as they advance in their careers. But being an alumnus of NYU is not like being one from an Ivy, Southern Cal or even Rutgers or Temple, where the high profile success of a basketball or football team creates a common bond. 

Tandon felt like Drexel University in Philadelphia, a city school where students divide time between school and work, taking the education seriously, but take the prospects for life after college more seriously. Just over 2,200 undergraduates are enrolled on this campus; the graduate student population actually outnumbers them by 100 although most are part time. There is an upside: freshmen who arrive with advanced preparation can graduate with a masters degree as well as their bachelors in five years or less while they build an impressive resume. Want to start a business while pursing a degree? NYU’s resources, available through the LaGuardia Co-op, are impressive. The university’s career services are among the best for a large university. NYU’s senior career services professional is an Associate Vice President. The senior person at most other schools reports to one.

What is the community on the Brooklyn campus?

Tandon’s campus is like Washington Square: all of the buildings are around located a very nice urban public park. But the school is also part of the Metrotech Corporate Campus aka the “Technology Triangle,” of Brooklyn. While it’s quite appropriate for an urban engineering school to be located within an urban research park, the experience is quite different that you would have if you pursued the same degree elsewhere in New York City, let alone any other place. Even Cooper Union, the smallest of the more reputable engineering schools in the Big Apple, has more of a campus community feel. 

There is plenty for college students to do in Brooklyn as well as around NYU’s main campus in Washington Square and Greenwich Village. It’s only a 20 minute ride between the two campuses. NYU students can also get a discount to ride the city’s vast bus and subway network. But be warned: NYU is not a school where students bond around campus life. The students share a love, or at least a curiosity, about the city.  

Good news for those less acclimated to New York: NYU guarantees housing for four years if you lived in the university halls as a freshman. The hall that I saw on my tour was suite-style for freshmen. An apartment style option is also available.  But if you plan to stay in the city for summer, get help from friends in dealing with housing. 

How is the education?

Tandon offers majors in Applied Physics, Business and Technology Management, Integrated Digital Media, Science and Technology Studies and Sustainable Urban Environments that you’re not likely to find at other engineering schools. The curriculum also leaves room to choose a minor, also unique for an engineering school within a fairly large university, and study abroad. Unlike most schools that offer study abroad, NYU has university centers all over the world. Study at any one of them and you are taking NYU courses for NYU credits. No worries about transferring credits from elsewhere. 

Like any other engineering school. NYU will make students take Calculus, Chemistry and Physics over the first two years. But unlike other schools, they take only three semesters of Calculus (instead of four), five of Physics (instead of four) and one in Chemistry (instead of two to four). 

Another interesting aspect of the Tandon curriculum is these freshman courses: 

Most engineering schools are teaching programming as soon as possible, but they also make you wait until later in the education to work on design projects. This curriculum exposes students to real world problems at the start.  The Engineering and Technology Forum, which carries one credit, is a real world orientation to the majors and likely workplaces. 

What does all this cost?

This experience is not cheap. NYU-Tandon estimates a Total Cost of Attendance of approximately $72,500 for next year, with tuition and fees totaling nearly $53,000. University-wide  NYU offers virtually no undergraduate merit scholarships, and just under half of the full-time undergraduates receive need-based aid. On average NYU met 56 percent of need across all majors in 2017-18. I do not know whether the stingy aid policy applies to Tandon, since it is technically NYU’s newest undergraduate college, and one that needs students to restart its history as a leading engineering school. 

Who would like Tandon?

The SATs for the most recent freshman classes at Tandon have crept past 1400. A lot of cross shopping happens among high achievers with high scores. Prospective students who know the Big Apple best would likely check out Columbia, Cooper Union or the Macauley Honors College at CCNY, or look across to New Jersey at Stevens. Others will likely look at Ivies, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon or MIT first, then a bunch of technology-focused schools such as Case Western, Lehigh, Rochester and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

If costs are a concern, look at the University of Pittsburgh and its Swanson School of Engineering. It offers many of the same advantages of NYU, including study abroad as well as a co-op option to alternate between semesters of full-time work and full-time classes. It’s also less selective. If you want to go to a less expensive, but more selective city school with a strong and loyal alumni base, look at Georgia Tech.

Tandon’s primary market is the high achievers whose families can pay. Judging by the acceptance rate—about a third who apply get in—there are plenty of them around. They’ll get what they pay for if they choose to come to Tandon. 

Report Card: NYU Tandon School of Engineering

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
  • Freshman Retention: B+
  • Costs: D
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: A
  • Comforts: B+
  • Connections: A

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