Engineering at NU Unwise

26 04 2011

Many students today are having a hard time deciding what degree to invest their college education in.  With so many options, it’s often difficult to choose which degree would be best suited for the student’s skills, and which will pay off in the future.  Luckily, PayScale.com has compiled a list of the top 10 degrees that currently offer the highest benefits and median salaries immediately following graduation.  There’s both good news and bad news for NU.

Career Starting/yr      15+ Years
  • Petroleum Engineering
$93,000 $157,000
  • Aerospace Engineering
$59,400 $108,000
  • Chemical Engineering
$64,800 $108,000
  • Electrical Engineering
$60,800 $104,000
  • Nuclear Engineering
$63,900 $104,000
  • Applied Mathematics
$56,400 $101,000
  • Biomedical Engineering
$54,800 $101,000
  • Physics
$50,700 $99,600
  • Computer Engineering
$61,200 $99,500
  • Economics
$48,800 $97,800

If you’re looking to find any of the top-10 here at NU, then you’d better sit down.  Not one of them can be found at NU.  In fact, according to NU’s list of degrees, NU does not offer a single Engineering degree.  Dr. Darrell Hobson, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at NU, explained that NU tries to respond to the market, but NU has to respond mainly with the resources the university already has.

“We don’t have the luxury of a funding base that allows that program to live for a while and then finally become profitable, in the sense of making a return to the bottom line of the University,” said Hobson.  “Our turnaround has to be pretty quick, and so we don’t have large development plans.”

Everyone is probably aware that money is tight.  Universities are no exception to that rule.  According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the number of students who finish their degrees was down for one-third of all U.S. universities (chronicle.com).  That spells less money for the university.

With the knowledge of the top-10 and the economic crisis, the creation of such programs seems like a viable option to create a profit for NU.

Telecounselor and Act-Six scholarship recipient, McKinzie Quiocho, said, “I’ve had a lot of calls where people are asking for [Engineering].”  She rationalized that NU is potentially losing a very large prospect, since an Engineering degree is often the deciding factor in student’s choice of school.

Hobson further explained that the process of creating a new program is no short feat.

It all starts with an idea.

“It can come from anywhere,” said Hobson.  “It can come from a board of directors.  ‘This is the program we want.’  For example, our ministry leadership certificates that are in the Salem campus, and now in Southern Idaho.  Those came from board directives,” he said.

Hobson described that it can also come from a dean, someone from the presidential leadership, and even students.

“We created a minor in Media Ministry because students felt it would be a benefit to them to have that minor available for career goals,” Hobson said.

Next, a program goes through the development of curriculum.  This is the stage where staff are selected, classes are decided, etc.

“Curriculum has to go through an approval process with the Academic Affairs Committee, the Faculty Council, and Board of Directors before it’s actually made available,” Hobson detailed.  “The minimum that it’s going to be is about a four- to five-month process, just given the times when these groups meet.”

The last requirement of the implementation of a new degree is student interest.  When asked if prospective students inquire about engineering degrees, Scott Brown, Area Coordinator for Extended Communities at NU, said, “Yes, especially when I worked in Admissions.  A lot of students are looking for Engineering at a Christian School.”

However, it doesn’t just take student interest, it also takes the recruitment of students.  This requires new and prospective students to take action and get involved in the would-be degree.  This sounds easy enough.  But Hobson explained that there’s one group of students who unintentionally sabotage this process.

“Obviously if we’re going to run the program, we’re going to have to recruit for it—and that would be very simple if we didn’t have Transfer students,”  he said carefully.  “For example, if all of our students started with us as Freshmen, and maybe had a few A.P. or Running Start credits, that would give us a two year window to ramp up and be ready to go.”

But Brown is not convinced that adding an engineering curriculum to NU is a good idea.

“Engineering jobs are based on two things: Personal performance and ability, and historical reputation of the program,” he said.  “to be honest it wouldn’t be worth it for any of them.”

In fact, Brown is accurate.  In 1929, the University of Washington became one of the first of only seven schools in the United States to establish an Aeronautical Engineering department.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) established its Department of Electrical Engineering way back in 1902.  Today, degrees from MIT’s Electrical Engineering department are the most revered and coveted degrees in all of the nation.

“I don’t think NU would benefit from offering engineering or computer degrees,” he argued. “There’s too much competition in the area, and it’s just not a natural extension of what NU does.”

Given the fact that not everyone is cut out for an engineering degree, the PayScale.com top-10 list seems depressing.  Luckily, PayScale.com provides a reason to keep you from selling your real Babe Ruth signed baseball: the list continues after the top-10.  Yes, most of the top earners are scientific, but following the top earners are a variety of degrees that NU does offer.  These include Mathematics, Finance, International Relations, Political Science, and many more.

For more information, visit http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp.

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