What are the most affordable brick-and-mortar and online engineering schools?
While affordability is important, be aware that financial aid and scholarships for academic performance may also figure into the total cost of your education. It is understandable that you might consider a school that is weaker academically yet more affordable, but be sure to explore your options.
U.S. News & World Report ranks the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the top engineering school in the country, and also ranks it as the number 5 best educational value. At MIT, 62.6% of students receive need-based grants and the average discount from total cost is 66%. Stanford, which is ranked second best, is also ranked number 4 for best value with a 70% average discount from total cost.
If these options are not for you, hundreds of on-campus and online engineering schools offer graduate and undergraduate degree programs for under $20,000 per year.
You can look at smaller, nonprofit community colleges or state universities for greater affordability. Brigham Young University has programs on 2 campuses that are ranked among the most affordable in the country at approximately $5,000 per year. Additionally, programs such as Northwestern Polytechnic University and Youngstown State University fall in the $10,000 range.
Other schools like CUNY City College and Cleveland State University offer masters degrees in the $15,000 range. Over 200 programs are offered with full or hybrid online programs in the $10,000 to $35,000 range.
How can I connect with other on-campus or online students who are also studying at my school for engineering?
There are many campus activities that allow you to network with students at your engineering school online, on campus and even nationwide. A good first step is to check your school clubs and organizations to see what groups have already been established.
North Carolina State University, for example, has 65 campus clubs solely dedicated to engineering, with opportunities ranging from the 25-year-old Engineer’s Council to a student chapter of the American Helicopter Society. Likewise, University of Pennsylvania has a website dedicated to fun activities for engineering students, including National Engineers Week celebrations and activity fairs.
While it may be more difficult for a student attending an online engineering school to actively participate in student clubs, there are dozens of national organizations that you can get involved with. Organizations like the National Society of Professional Engineers are very welcoming to students attending engineering schools online or on-campus, and offer engineering contests and mentoring opportunities.
Additionally, the National Association of Student Engineering hosts an annual 3-day conference at rotating cities to engage students around prevalent issues in engineering. Conference activities include breakout sessions, lectures and team activities to allow you to network with other students and professionals in the field, regardless if you attend an online or traditional school.
What resources should my brick-and-mortar or online school offer me when I am studying engineering?
Most brick-and-mortar schools offer a network of support services for students living on campus. Services typically include access to the university libraries, mental health and wellness services, fitness facilities, financial aid counseling offices and career services offices that can help match you with an internship or a paying job. Some colleges and universities boast state of the art computer and technology facilities, and offer visiting lectureships by top engineers in the field for further education.
Top engineering online schools offered by traditional universities will have laboratories and research centers to give students hands-on experience. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, offers multiple research opportunities through its Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Center for Ocean Engineering and over a dozen others.
Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral fellows work together at these centers with faculty members to do research and gain valuable experience in preparation for the job market. Students may also have the opportunity to collaborate on or co-author a paper on their research findings for publication in a peer reviewed journal.
It is more challenging for online students to fully reap the benefits of the resources available to campus-based students. Online students should feel comfortable reaching out to the same financial aid and career services as on-campus students, and inquire with faculty and staff about potential research opportunities. Online engineering students often have study materials available on the Internet and do not have to purchase as many textbooks.
Are there any nonprofit online engineering schools or programs that I could look into?
While there are currently no accredited online schools for engineering alone, hundreds of nonprofit brick-and-mortar schools offer full or hybrid online programs. All 3 of the following programs have received both institutional and programmatic accreditation, which is important because programmatic accreditation is a requirement for sitting for your engineering licensing exam.
U.S. News & World Report ranks University of Wisconsin, Madison as 1 of the best online engineering schools for student engagement. All course lectures are recorded and easily available to students for later download, making it possible for working men and women to earn an online engineering degree while maintaining employment.
Pennsylvania State University ranks second in top online engineering schools for student engagement, offering both labs and class lectures as online recordings.
University of Arizona engineering program is ranked in the top 3 for online engineering programs with the best faculty credentials and training. While the university does not offer online labs, all of the classes are accessible online so that students can watch lectures at their convenience. University of Arizona offers multiple disciplines, including aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering and a materials science and engineering degree.