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Are Today's Electronics Technology Programs Doomed To Extinction Or Is Their Mission Changing?

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

ECET Curriculum

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.254.1 - 12.254.12



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Paper Authors


Gary Mullett Springfield Technical Community College

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Gary J. Mullett, Co-Department Chair, Electronics Technologies Group, Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, MA

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Adrienne Smith Springfield Technical Community College

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Adrienne Y. Smith, Dean, School of Engineering Technologies, Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, MA

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Are Today’s Electronics Technology Programs Doomed to Extinction or is their Mission Changing?

Abstract - Across the nation, numerous legacy electronics technology programs at the two-year college level are: being converted to Cisco and A+ based computer networking and repair programs, increasingly being asked to teach electronics fundamentals to non-electronics based technologies, and, most significantly, experiencing declining enrollments. In some cases, programs have been discontinued entirely due to a persistent lack of students. In essence, the basic core mission of the legacy electronics technology program, to produce “electronics technicians”, has been morphing into a hybrid educational endeavor. This fact is being driven by the increasing use of complex electronic systems and sophisticated instrumentation, which may or may not be networked, in other non-electronics based technology fields. This technology evolution has increased the need for legacy ET programs to assume the role of an “academic service department” for these other programs while the ET programs themselves still struggle with the problems of attracting students and eventually graduating them as electronics technicians. Another interesting development is industry’s emerging, widespread, and seemingly rapid embrace of embedded, networked sensor systems and their future impact upon the ET curriculum. This paper will examine these phenomena and the certain resulting changes that will occur to the landscape of ET programs as electronics and its derivative technologies continue to evolve.

I. Overview For some time now, many of us involved in the teaching of electronics technology (ET) at the AS degree level have been extremely concerned over the relative health of these legacy technology programs. Declining enrollments have taken their toll in terms of a lack of new faculty hires and, in some cases, where there has been an attrition of faculty members through retirement or for other various reasons, this has signaled the end of the ET program if the college decides to redirect its resources elsewhere. This problem of declining enrollment and program elimination has not just occurred overnight. It has been happening steadily over the last two decades. If one looks at the statistics available from the National Science Board (NSB), the total number of students enrolled in the field of Engineering Technology has been declining from an all time high in the early 1980s to today’s lower full time equivalent (FTE) student count. According to the NSB figures, degrees awarded in the Engineering Technologies (typically in the fields of civil, electrical/ electronics, construction, computer, and mechanical technology) have fallen from approximately 53,667 in 1985 to 35,544 in the year 2000. One might note that during the same time frame, AS degrees awarded in the computer sciences rose from 26,500 to 33,700 [1] . In a survey taken in 2002, a majority of respondents said that enrollments in their ET programs had declined 20 to 90% in the last decade [2]. Today, most faculty teaching in these programs will say that, in general, enrollment has gotten worse over the last five years.

While little has been written about these declining enrollments at the community college level, there has been much ado made about the future of our country’s competitiveness in the global marketplace in terms of degrees awarded in the sciences and engineering (S&E) fields at the bachelor degree level. There have been many mainstream publications that have pointed out that the number of engineering degrees that countries like India and China award far exceed those awarded in the United States and that they will continue to increase at a faster rate than in the

Mullett, G., & Smith, A. (2007, June), Are Today's Electronics Technology Programs Doomed To Extinction Or Is Their Mission Changing? Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2761

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