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Mandatory Credit Reduction Of Engineering Technology Programs Can Quality High Credit Programs Survive?

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.282.1 - 2.282.8



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James R. Sherrard

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James R. Sherrard Three Rivers Community-Technical College

The late 1980's and 1990's have proven to be very difficult times for engineering technology degree programs nationally. Not only have the numbers of enrolled students declined while employment opportunities have generally diminished, but the costs to support quality programs have continued to grow. The perceived reduction in interest for technology as a career choice has put added pressure on both institutions and program faculty to save and revitalize these programs. Business and industry have typically been strong and vocal supporters, thereby insuring a steady entry level pipeline of technician/technologist personnel, as well as allowing existing employees professional growth opportunities. State legislatures and system wide academic administrators however have created stringent financial criteria and developed full time equivalent (FTE) student- faculty algorithms to measure "program performance". Resulting economic decisions made by state officials have further impacted all engineering technology programs negatively.

Although the above noted trends are occurring nationally, this paper will deal generally with engineering technology associate degree programs within the state of Connecticut over the past ten years, and specifically with the Nuclear Engineering Technology Program at Three Rivers Community-Technical College in Norwich, CT.

In 1987, there were five Connecticut Technical colleges offering a combined total of 86 degree programs of which 23 were TAC of ABET accredited in 14 engineering technology fields. Technical program enrollment and graduate placement were high. The colleges were meeting the needs of their clients - students and industry - well. The trimester-based curricula were well supported by their regional industry advisory committees. The state legislature however decided that all degree programs at state-funded institutions should be semester-based in order to assure optimal credit transfer among institutions. In resulting legislative hearings, strong industry and student support for the existing trimester system fell on deaf ears; all programs were mandated to be semester-oriented by the start of the Fall 1989 semester.

Program faculty, working with their industrial advisory committees, transformed trimester programs into supposedly equivalent semester programs. However, there was the universal feeling that the resulting programs were of a lesser quality in both total technical content and breadth of technical education. The range of topics covered, electives available, and overall integration of technical material was negatively impacted. Reduced enrollments and decreased industrial support were evident as "new program" graduates entered the technical workplace.

Regional program enhancements over the next few years did minimally strengthen specific programs at individual colleges, but program FTE numbers continued a general decline. Alarmed by increased costs, reduced enrollment, and continued central administrative staff growth, the state then proposed the merger of the five technical college system into the existing twelve community college system. Again business and industry, as well as the student population, strongly opposed

Sherrard, J. R. (1997, June), Mandatory Credit Reduction Of Engineering Technology Programs Can Quality High Credit Programs Survive? Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6675

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