You're right, Chuck. There are no real surprises on this report. But I find the comments about the emerging hands-on curriculum changing things up a bit particularly interesting. Is that the incumbent top schools haven't advanced as much on tweaking their course maps to reflect that shift? If so, I wonder why that is the case.
I am curious why the rankings don't take into account any of this shift into account. If some schools are moving to more hands on and this is desireable then shouldn't the rankings reflect this. Of course, that would imply that the rankings have some sort of meaning. Nothing against MIT or any of the other fine schools on the list. But quite often the best school is the one that allows the individual to thrive, grow and learn. And for some that might not be the biggest with the best name, but a smaller school with more one on one instruction. Non the less, it does make for good coffee table talk.
You don't really expect U.S. News and World Report to admit that you may be better off getting a job for hands-on knowledge and going to a community college for your first two years of school, do you?
If more people did this, it might exert some downward pressure on tuition for 4-year universities. Then the 4-year universities might not have as much money to advertise in the pages of magazines like U.S. News and World Report.
Interesting study just realized shows what we all knew, that engineering is the toughest major. Also interesting to note that engineering students do way more work than business majors -- their future bosses. Take a look, here.
I don't think anyone could possibly be surprised by the fact that students in engineering and physical sciences study more than business students. This is why there are t-shirts which say "lim(Engineering)GPA-->0 = Business".
I was struck by this passage in the New York Times article: "transfer students [...] were more likely to work off campus and care for dependents, decreasing their sense of connection to the college community."
This describes my college experience pretty well. But as more people get wise to the fact that transferring into a four-year school from a two-year school makes good economic sense as well as academic sense, I think that transfer students will become less of an invisible minority on campus.
Regarding the New York Times story: It's not surprising to me that engineering majors study more than business majors. What is shocking to me, however, is the fact that the hours-per-week numbers are 19 to 14. Undergrad business majors study 14 hours per week? My anecdotal experience with the business majors who I knew in college would indicate that the hours of business study are much lower than that. Also, I seem to recall that engineering professors would tell us we need to study "three hours outside of class for every hour in the classroom."
Re business majors, I could see MBA students having to put in engineering-type hours, especially when doing case studies. OTOH, with undergrads, I agree with you -- it doesn't ring true that their study hours are the same order of magnitude as those of engineering majors. Another interesting point in the study was that engineering seniors have too much course work to hold down after-school jobs.
Well, the business majors may be engaging in some creative accounting practices when they say they study 14 hours a week outside of class.
As far as engineering seniors not being able to balance a full time job with their studies, I don't know whether it's generally true for everyone, but I decided to go from working full-time to working part-time during my last semester as an undergrad. Up until that semester, I was able to balance working full time and studying full time. But I decided that for the last semester, my focus needed to be on school.
I admire anyone who can work full-time and get your engineering degree. There were several students working full-time, family and getting a degree in engineering while I was in college. People would make comments about how hard they thought it was for me getting my engineering degree being a single mother, but I think the full-timers and family people were way ahead of me.
I think some of this is our tendency to keep to certain educational traditions. Engineering curriculum has a certain rigor to it that is simply not for the faint of heart. This may be off topic but it always puzzled me that in order to enter a doctoral program in theology, one must obtain a master of divinity which is a 90 hours program - not for the faint of heart either. Why so many hours? Is that another tradition?
I can see the 14 hours being reasonable for a business major - that's two hours a day and theoretically they have projects to do, case studies ect. I would expect a full time engineering student to be putting in more...I remember burning the candle at both ends many times.
These results are not surprising. Given the economic state in recent times, many families cannot even consider choosing an institution with such rankings due to monetary concerns. It would be very interesting to see what engineering schools provide the best bang for the buck! It might seem that these extremely expensive institutions will top the list, and some may. But those smaller, often overlooked ones, barely known to the masses, might be just the ticket when trying to stretch your dollars to make ends meet. As something we address constantly, Engineers are always in tune to balance quality with cost. Knowing that your child has been given the best YOU could provide for them, is a very satifying feeling for any parent!
I must agree with Bobalewy that value MUST be a consideration. I did go to MIT in 1957 & it is a fine institution. But it is very compeditive and VERY expensive. For me it was also a long way from home. Cost was prohibitive so I transered to Tulane University in New Orleans. The EE program then was quite good. Neither MIT or Tulane had co-op programs which I support. I got MY hands-on at a hi-fi shop in San Antonio. I got my ham license (K5CSJ) in 1954 & FCC Broadcast Licenses in 1956. I worked 4 summers as a brodcast engineer at a radio station (KTSA), and two TV stations (KENS & WWL). Great experience & I was paid well- far above what an average teen would expect. At Tulane I worked at the Physics Dept. as a lab assistant. Lab director was ex-Texas Instruments engineer who was starting a new company. He taught me all about transistors. (The school then used ancient models to teach that - I frustrated them when I got the right answer when using different methods - and in one case building a model to prove my point.) At Tulane I also founded the campus radio station, WTUL, now a full-time FM station. I was one of 4 who founded TANO Corp. in New Orleans and we did very well.
BOBALEWY, I agree and also with another responder who recommeded 'hands-on' experience. I am retired now & ex-wife is rich, but I consider myself an 'analog engineer' and a fan of the recently-late Bob Pease. (Pease & I were in the same MIT class, but I did not know him then). In 1956, as I look back, I should have taken the all-inclusive Navy ROTC Scholarship to Rice University in Houston. And then an MBA, 4 years or less in Navy, and then checked out opportunity in the 1965 market.
We have very similar backgrounds; I came to MIT as a freshman in 1961 (just missed Pease!), licensed as a ham in 1957, electronics hobbyist since 1954. I do have a somewhat different perspective. I had a full tuition scholarship that covered the $1500 annual; in the spring of 1962 they announced an increase to $1700 that resulted in a huge (fruitless) protest by students. My parents covered the basic room & board. I worked multiple on-campus jobs to pay for books and everything else. Since I had a good "hands-on" background and shop/soldering skills, most of my on-campus work (and some of my coursework as well) was also "hands-on." Despite MIT's reputation, at that time there was plenty of opportunity for getting your hands dirty! I learned how to design and wind toroid transformers as part of working on a student project (run by Prof. Bose) designing and building our own transistorized oscilloscopes (in 1962! I still have the basic guts of mine). I spent so much time having fun with my hands-on stuff that by the middle of my sophomore year I was in deep trouble grade-wise! Lost my scholarship (retroactive!), barely made it through the rest of that year financially and grade-wise, and transferred to Newark (NJ) College of Engineering (now part of NJIT). NCE was even more hands-on; most of the faculty were actively consulting with local industries (compared to MIT where it was mostly government-funded/defense work on-campus). I thrived in that environment, got my scholarship back (National Merit), went on to grad school, etc. I'm still actively working in engineering 50 years after arriving at MIT, and having fun doing it!
I do agree that certainly the best engineers often started their "hands-on" training well before college; however, at least one of my honor-student colleagues at NCE went into EE just because he thought it would be a way to earn a good living (his dad was a lawyer, which made that route less desirable!). He turned out to have a long successful career as an EE, including a couple of entreprenurial ventures. The biggest problem in engineering education I've seen over the years is the continuing tendency to neglect the core fundamentals (like thermodynamics solid-state physics, etc.) in favor of the fad du jour (remember ADA?). You need those fundamentals to begin to understand reality; without them, you're left scratching your head when your designs simulate perfectly but fail in the real world.
I agree that value is also a consideration. School selection was based on the best school that I could afford. This process put me at Penn State which gave me a great education and a diploma with a recognizable name. MIT would probably look better, but it just wasn't affordable to me and my family.
To Bobalewy: Your comment regarding bang for the buck is right on the mark. As someone who has put two children through college and is currently putting two more through, I can say that the pricetag matters a lot. Surprisingly, some of the best colleges are quite affordable...IF they give you a big discount (based on your financial need). Stanford, for example, claims its average costs after receiving grants is $16,612. MIT says (again, based on cost after grants) is $17,944. Cal Tech is $21,359. These are all averages, based on financial aid received. My question is: How many people really receive these discounts?
Since I did not graduate from MIT, I support the idea of defining the term 'best' before rolling out this list. While I can think of so many different definitions, its interesting that US News used the one 'ranking schools by number of responding graduates'. Having said that, the only value in ranking is impact on potential employers and its value in bar conversations, and I suspect that MIT will remain #1 for some time to come.
A good test for quality of engineering education would be whether graduates understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics. That fundamental law of physics separates out the physics fools that seem to be abundant.
The test would require understanding of the difference between 33.7 kWhr of heat that can be obtained from a gallon of gasoline, or any other equivalent fossil fuel, and 33.7 kWhr of electricity.
Can you get 33.7 kWhr of heat from 33.7 kWhr of electricity? Answer: Yes!
Can you get 33.7 kWhr of electricity from 33.7 kWhr of electricity from 33.7 kWhr of heat? Answer: Nowhere close. Typically more like 10 to 15 kWhr of electricity is all you can hope for, much of the loss due to the Kelvin and Carnot explained Second Law.
We know there is not much real science around when the governments of the developed world explicitly deny this and hardly anyone objects.
Put engineering schools to the test if you want to meaningfully rate them.
The problem is that "best" can mean so many different things. As others have mentioned, value is one. But in addition, there are other variables. Do you want to be a PhD? Do you want to work in Service? How good is their placement? What is the technical forte of one school vs. another? How much assistance is there for employment after 20 years? Do you want to focus on a particular geographical region? Everybody has different priorities and sometimes these "best" lists don't tell you all that much.
It's always interesting to look at the "student happiness" list in The Princeton Review's annual ratings. Engineering schools dominate the bottom (unhappiest) schools. The amazing part of that is that the only schools on the list that can be recognized as engineering institutions are those that specialize in engineering (MIT, Cal Tech, Georgia Tech, Illinois Institute of Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, etc). In other words, schools like Purdue and the University of Michigan don't count as engineering schools. Nevertheless, the few schools that could be called "engineering schools" all collect at the bottom. There can be only one reason for that: Getting an engineering degree isn't fun. The only fun part is when you graduate and get a load of job offers.
I'm going to make a plug for my alma mater, Cooper Union, which is number four on the second list (engineering schools where highest degree is bachelor's or master's). Sadly, though, Cooper is in the process of considering changing its century old full-scholarship (free tuition) policy. (See "Cooper Union Looks at Charging Tuition." One can't help but wonder if this will effect its future place on such lists. If students have to pay $40k per year to go there, will it still be able to attract the same high-quality student body? I'll have more to say on this in an upcoming blog. If you have any opinions, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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