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The Advantages Of Starting An Engineering Education At A Community College

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Innovative Lower Division Programs

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1250.1 - 11.1250.5



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Paper Authors


Jerry O'Connor San Antonio College

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JERRY ⁏CONNOR has been teaching physics (and a few engineering courses) at San Antonio College since 1987.
He was the Campus Coordinator for the Texas Alliance for Minority Participation program from 1993 to 2002,
and is currently the Department Chairperson for Physics, Engineering, & Architecture. He has been involved in numerous initiatives to integrate the findings of physics and engineering education research with education practice.

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Dan Dimitriu San Antonio College

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DAN G. DIMITRIU has been practicing engineering since 1970 and taught engineering courses concurrently for over 20 years. He has been involved with several engineering societies and was elected vice-chair of the Two-Year College Division of ASEE in 2005. He has been the coordinator of the Engineering Program at San Antonio College since 2001. His research interests are: alternative fuels, fuel cells, plastics, and engineering education.

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



At a time when virtually every government agency and many private industry sources are predicting a significant shortage of qualified American scientists, engineers, and technicians, it is important to utilize every available resource to attract and retain students in these fields.

Community Colleges, sometimes called Junior Colleges, can play a vital role in addressing this shortage. They present some unique advantages over four year institutions to attract, prepare, and retain students, particularly in technical fields. At a time of increasing higher education costs they present a more affordable alternative to four year institutions. With their small size classes, community colleges provide an environment with a more personalized approach, at the foundation level of college education. They are more adaptable to the needs of students and generally more approachable to their communities. The availability of remedial courses makes community colleges a better option for students with underdeveloped abilities. Two-year colleges also often offer a less expensive way for the undecided students to explore a variety of courses where they can discover the field that best suits their interests.

This paper will present a variety of advantages for students who start an engineering education at a community college. It is intended to help engineering faculty, counselors, and administrators at community colleges with their recruiting and retention efforts.

Recent trends

It is well documented that United States produces far less engineers per capita than other developed countries, including Russia, India, and China. According to the group Business Roundtable, a Washington-based coalition of leading U.S. corporations, the number of students in the United States planning to pursue engineering degrees declined by one-third between 1992 and 2002. ("Business Coalition Focuses on Math, Science Careers," Aug. 10, 2005) The Business Roundtable report also estimates that half the doctoral students graduating from engineering colleges in the United States are foreign nationals and the National Science Board in 2004 reported “a troubling decline in the number of U.S. citizens who are training to become scientists and engineers…” 1

At the same time the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the number of jobs requiring science, engineering, and technical training will increase by 51 percent through 2008. This increase could lead to 6 million new job openings for scientists, engineers, and technicians, and a critical shortage of qualified Americans is predicted.

To address this major national concern the government, private industry, and institutions of higher education have joined forces. Numerous programs designed to attract and retain students in technical fields have been initiated [2-10] and their success is an indication that solutions are available. Various states and four-year institutions are increasingly reaching out to help two year colleges improve their engineering programs and then recruiting their students by creating “two + two” articulation agreements to assure a smooth student transition11, 12. As a result all

O'Connor, J., & Dimitriu, D. (2006, June), The Advantages Of Starting An Engineering Education At A Community College Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--150

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015