Our country is very blessed with excellent schools of higher education and I personally think, correction, I know we have the best schools in the world.  Our engineering schools take students “wet behind the ears” and produce remarkably productive and resourceful professional citizens.  In my opinion (and I’m quite biased in this area) our engineering schools are the best in the world—-hands down!  In the United States though, most entering freshmen would rather be anything other than engineers due to the absence of adequate compensation and the absence of appreciation over a lifetime of work.  That situation is very different than most parts of the world.   Let’s face it, in the United States, engineers don‘t make much money in comparison to other professions.  Those who really “make it” move from engineering into management or succeed in a business of their own.  The number of engineers graduating each year pales in comparison to the number from China and India.  This will eventually catch up with us unless our country moves all manufacturing, research and development and other technical endeavors abroad.  If this occurs, there will be no real need for engineers.  Already this year, China has bested our efforts relative to patents awarded. Already this year, our “executive branch” has gutted NASA.  NASA now has no real direction and layoffs are underway.  Personnel that will never be replaced, certainly within my lifetime. Our country has the second highest corporate tax rates of any country in the world and yet we wonder why we have a ten (10 ) percent unemployment.  Congress needs to do the numbers.  I run a two-man engineering consulting organization and you would  not believe the taxes I pay on an annual basis. 

OK, let us get away from the doom and gloom.  What makes an engineering school great?  What combined elements produce the very best environment for retaining and educating a student?  Given below are those happy circumstances presented by the US News & World Report which make for the most successful teaching institutions.

  • FUNDING—Say anything you like to but having the necessary money is critical to a teaching institution.  Money attracts the very best faculty.  Money buys the very best equipment. Money allows for grants, student loans, etc.  The lack thereof is evident in the classroom, student dorms, campus grounds, student facilities, etc.    The school that has the most money provides the best all-around atmosphere for teachers and pupils.
  • RESEARCH ORIENTED—Make no mistake about it, an engineering school that teaches AND conducts research will be miles ahead of one that merely teaches.  Governmental and commercial research and development is necessary in today’s world if a school is to maintain the right circumstances and attract the best teachers and the best students.
  • STUDENT / TEACHER RATIO—Today, this is no real problem because fewer and fewer students are attracted to engineering.  In my day, a proper classroom size was approximately fifteen students to one teacher.  The very best teaching environments provide this, or lower, student / teacher ratio.
  • QUALITY OF FACULTY—This is almost self-explanatory.  The best schools can attract the best teachers and the most gifted teachers.  This is tricky because there are many academically qualified teachers; i.e. good technicians, who can’t teach.  They have no enthusiasm for the classroom and just don’t seem to “get it across”.  Tenure is another subject for another day.
  • SIX  (6) YEAR GRADUATION RATE—Some schools seem to go out of their way to see how many students they can fail out freshman year.  I personally think it is appalling that the attrition rate, in engineering, for the first two years is between fifty and sixty-six percent.  At my school, the dropout rate for mechanical engineering, the first year, was fifty-five percent.  Ridiculous!!!! Absolutely ridiculous!  My professors were basically too involved with other endeavors to worry about their freshman or sophomore students because they knew the numbers.  Strangely enough, junior and senior year—they would go to the wall for a student.  Go figure.
  • DIVERSITY—Some schools strive for diversity in the classroom, therefore, some students are admitted based upon gender or race.  I have absolutely no problem with that unless it becomes the deciding factor instead of academic ability and those students do not displace more qualified applicants.
  • COURSE OFFERINGS—Self-explanatory.
  • AVAILABILITY OF SCHOLARSHIPS AND GRANTS—The best students do not always have wealthy parents.  As a matter of fact in most cases, that is the case.  Scholarships and grants MUST be available in order to maintain the most talented student body.  The availability of student loans and grants is a MUST!
  • QUALITY OF ONCAMPUS LIFE– Let’s face facts, even the most academically talented school will not thrive if the dorms are rat-infested—if the cafeteria serves grade “D” food—if there are no internet connections—if there is absolutely nothing to do over the weekend.  The students, even the most gifted students, simply will not enroll.  Word gets around quickly.  If you don’t believe that, talk to any graduating senior in high school and they can tell you, to a man, which school is the “best party school”.  Dollar to a doughnut they all know.  The same is true for “life on campus”.
  • HOW MANY TENURED TEACHERS TEACH—TAs (teaching assistants) are fine, sometimes, but a student wants a teacher who has more than a little “gray hair”.  I want the guy or girl, who wrote the book.  
  • ENTERING FRESHMAN SAT AND ACT TEST SCORES—The most academically accomplished entering class will be the class that requires zero remedial work.  Consequently less money spent for remedial teaching.  This statistic is always kept by the administration.  The money devoted to remedial teaching can be devoted to other pursuits, if the student body is fully prepared.  The best schools always attract the best students.
  • BIG VS SMALL—Many smaller schools have wonderful engineering departments.  I am thinking about schools such as 1.) Rose-Hulman, 2.) Harvey Mudd, 3.) Olin, 4.) Rice University, 5.) University of Rochester, 6.) Carnegie Mellon and 7.) Rensselear Polytechnic Institute.  Larger schools, such as 1.) MIT, 2.) Georgia Tech, 3.)University of Chicago, 4.) CalPoly, etc are obviously wonderful schools also.  The student must decide big vs small.  The smaller schools can be every bit as academically progressive as the larger schools.  The only problem here is—sometimes the larger schools have greater endowments consequently offer better scholarships and grants to the student body at large and have greater research possibilities.

With the above being  given criteria, here is the list provided by the US News & World Report as to their opinion relative to the best engineering schools in the nation.  I’m going to let you draw your own conclusions.

  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2 Stanford University (CA)
3 University of California–Berkeley
4 Georgia Institute of Technology
4 University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
6 California Institute of Technology
6 University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
8 Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
9 Cornell University (NY)
9 Purdue University–West Lafayette (IN)
9 University of Texas–Austin
12 University of Southern California
13 Texas A&M University–College Station
14 University of Wisconsin–Madison
15 University of California–San Diego
16 Princeton University (NJ)
17 Penn State University–University Park
17 University of Maryland–College Park
19 Northwestern University (IL)
19 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY)
21 University of California–Los Angeles
22 Ohio State University
23 University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
24 Johns Hopkins University (MD)
25 Harvard University (MA)
25 University of California–Santa Barbara
25 Virginia Tech
28 North Carolina State University
28 Rice University (TX)
30 University of Colorado–Boulder
31 Columbia University (Fu Foundation) (NY)
31 University of Washington
33 Duke University (NC)
33 University of Pennsylvania
35 University of Florida
36 University of California–Davis
36 University of Virginia
38 Case Western Reserve University (OH)
38 Rutgers State University–New Brunswick (NJ)
40 Iowa State University
40 Lehigh University (PA)
40 Washington University in St. Louis
43 Michigan State University
44 University of Arizona
44 University of Rochester (NY)
44 Yale University (CT)
47 University of Delaware
47 University of New Mexico
49 Arizona State University
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