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Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

  • 1.  Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-09-2018 11:47
    My grandkids are looking to be Chemical Engineers. What is the cost effective answer as to where to get that BSChE degree? My schools are all good schools, Ohio State, Tulsa and Rice but today my grandkids have more choices.

    I know some publications tell us which are the high value schools but these are written by journalism majors not chemical engineers. 

    A degree is no good if it does not lead to a job but today the cost for a 4 year chemical engineering degree at a brick and motor university ranges from 4 Toyota Cameys to 4 Cadillac Escalades.  

    Is there a less expensive answer?  Perhaps on line?

  • 2.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-09-2018 23:55
    I believe Germany might be a good place to look.  I've heard that education is very affordable over there and that classes are taught in English.

    Joseph Barry PE
    Pittsburgh PA

  • 3.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-10-2018 00:16
    Some years back I was a principal in a consulting firm that was growing at about 50% compound annually.  I was extensively involved with staff hiring.

    My attitude was that I didn't care very much where  someone had gone to school.  Having a degree from any reputable school was enough to satisfy me that the candidate had the basic skills we needed.  What I cared about was what else the candidate brought with them.  Particularly, what leadership skills they had shown. What had they done while they were in school and outside of school?  What clubs and organizations had they been involved with? Where had they taken charge of a team to get something done?

    I distinctly recall one situation where we were looking at two candidates to fill a position.  One came from a "pedigreed" university; the other was from  "run of the mill" state school.  When I probed the candidate from the pedigreed school about what they had done, the candidate's response was that they were just starting on their career and hadn't yet been given the opportunity to show their skills.

    The "state school" candidate, however, articulated a clear leadership path.  This person had worked tables in a restaurant to defray expenses.  The person relayed how they had moved into a role managing and scheduling staff.  The candidate described how they contributed to volunteer organization involved with cleaning and rehabilitating stream beds.  The candidate also described how they had been unexpectedly thrust into a role as executor of an estate after a parent's sudden death - and how they managed a number of difficult situations. The hiring decisions was pretty easy, and it was one of the best hires I ever made in my life.

    Actual accomplishment should always trump pedigree. And if an organization doesn't value accomplishments over pedigree, it's totally reasonable to ask if that organization is a best fit overall.  Even if you are the one with the pedigree.

    Stephen Nelson PE
    Coal Creek Environmental Associates
    Bellevue WA

  • 4.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-10-2018 00:36
    If they are really considering all options available, they may be able to obtain a very good undergraduate degree delivered in English at one of the universities in Germany.  Tertiary education is free of charge at the point of delivery ( taxpayer funded, obviously with the societal expectation that, when working, their tax dollars/euros will pay for the next generation's tertiary education ).

    They would obviously need to budget for a few international air fares and living expenses per year.  They would need to take into account the potential for feeling homesick.

    But if all of this is not daunting, a marvellous experience could be had with excellent qualifications at the end, the opportunity to travel in and around Europe, experiencing many different cultures, and wonderful experience to start filling out their resume.  Good luck!

    Simon Pressinger
    ViscoZip Limited

  • 5.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-10-2018 01:08
    I would bet a Dr Pepper that the best value will be an in-state public university, and among those, I would look for a university that offers a broad range of disciplines (campus diversity is important), and is a member of AAU.

    From this set of schools, I would then look on-line for various ChE department and College of Engineering rankings; be sure to look to see what's behind the numbers.

    I would then contact promising candidate schools and ask for program statistics; get their sales pitch documentation. Look for job placement statistics, what companies / industries recruit there, class sizes, corporate affiliations...

    Next, I would look for specific program requirements you may have, for example a strong co-op program, a matching biochemical engineering cirriculum, and so on.

    I would also look at the city and campus atmosphere.  Is this a big city school? Is it a small town school? Do students live on campus? Do they commute from home?

    Finally, I would set up an official visit to the final candidates.

    Steve Cutchen
    US Chemical Safety Board
    Houston TX

  • 6.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-11-2018 10:55
    My nearest term experience was with my oldest child - he did very well in high school and went to Colorado School of Mines in Golden.  It was a great experience for him, completed in a four years and is back in Texas working for a major oil company.  CSM seems to have a very strong focus on the basics, completely science/engineering focused, every student takes one of two tracks for the first year so they are all baselined well.  My belief is that all engineers need to understand the fundamentals, no computer program will preclude that and without those basics, the programs will fail you.  It takes time to gain the fundamentals and trying to specialize during an undergraduate program seems like a challenge.  As we all have seen, when we hire a new un-experienced employee we don't expect them to know the specifics but want to see drive, leadership and the willingness to learn.  Strongly recommend you find a program that is focused on the fundamentals and teamwork vs. specialty, CSM is a great choice and they are agressive about scholarships for high performing out of state candidates.

    Gary Hilberg PE
    Continuum Energy
    Cypress TX

  • 7.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-11-2018 21:24

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for raising these questions.  I am confident you are not alone in your concerns.

    I assume that your noting that your grandkids have more choices means they have opportunities that are at least as good as what you got, so they could start the exploration with them. 

    I agree that one might be skeptical of the popular ratings, even if they were written by ChEs.

    It is unfair to denigrate degrees that do not lead to a job.  Higher education is to fulfill the whole person and also recognize that high-schoolers might need to know themselves better before making a life-long commitment to a certain discipline. During my 47 years of teaching, I had many students who discovered that what they would find most satisfying was not chemical engineering after all – though there were more that got even more turned on.

    I would hope that when one is dealing with the life of a loved one, cost, per se, is not the important factor.  Rather, it should be value.  In the case of education, this is a highly personal thing.  Thus, I suggest that your grandkids should get the broadest range of information they can.  This includes their school counselors, you and your colleagues, online exploration, university fairs and visits, etc.  That way they can develop a measure of what value means to them in the run-up to deciding where to go.

    I cannot recommend an on-line BSChE.  The personal interactions with other students, teachers, university staff, industrial recruiters, etc., are too essential for maximum growth and development.  On-line does not have these.

    John O'Connell, FAIChE
    Professor Emeritus
    University of Virginia

  • 8.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-12-2018 09:29
    ​Richard, I'm sure that my reply (and opinion) will get some flack, but after going on 40 years, in many parts of the chem processing industry, in many roles and every time zone of the contiguous 48 US states, the issues are few.  Some of the worst ChEs I have worked for graduated from some of the highest rated schools (and many top engineers I have worked with also graduated from those same schools).  I have not been any more impressed by the work and abilities of MIT, UC-Berkeley, Stanford or UM-Twin Cities grads than I have by grads from New Mexico State, U-North Dakota, UM-Duluth or West VA Tech.  I have always maintained that it is folly to spend money on a degree from a "prestigious" private school or on out-of-state tuition.  The only real difference probably comes down to how well is the campus visited by recruiters from hiring companies, and that is more of an issue of geographic isolation, with some factor of the recognition of the school, and even that may not be obvious (an example: U of Idaho is less than 10 miles from Washington State U, and neither is very close to a major airport, but WSU is a PAC-12 school, and a recruiter drives the 10 miles to visit Moscow).  perhaps another issue may be, is the state/location generally an exporter of grads or are there plenty of in-state jobs?  If generally an exporter, more national recruiters probably visit (think Iowa and Arizona).

    Bruce Bullough (U of Utah '79)
    Portage, MI (formerly of WA, OK, AZ, MN, CO)

  • 9.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-12-2018 10:04

    The interpretation of Best for career preparation partly depends on the career aspiration.  Briefly:  If industry bound, then I'd suggest that conventional state schools are the best for a practice-oriented undergraduate development.  If academe or federal laboratory leadership is desired, then the imprimatur of a top research institution will be an advantage.

    However, I think there are two alternate considerations:  First, the student makes the difference.  All programs use the same textbook choices, necessarily rely on teaching assistants for grading and coaching contact with students, and are accredited by the same organization (ABET).  The not-chemical engineering instructors (mathematics, statistics, chemistry, physics, English, etc.) define the content of most of the classes.  What the student invests in their personal development is what determines their level of preparation; that is what makes the difference.  By analogy, it is not a fancy gym with modern equipment that makes the athlete skillful; it is the work that the individual does in the gym.  I think student's dedication to growth is of much greater importance than the school.  Partly, this means that the compatibility of the student to the school environment is important to engendering that allegiance to the purpose and dedication to the work.  But also, it is the influence of family, faculty, and peers at the school that will shape the student's perspective.  So, a Best school is one that invigorates and enthuses the student.

    Second, education is about whole person development, the individual's preparation for career and life.  It is not just about the intellectual aspect of the math and science fundamentals of chemical engineering.  Preparation includes developing a perspective on life (maturing), balance, interpersonal effectiveness skills, flexibility, initiative, health and wellness, and all of those things industry seeks in hires, which are also what we seek for our children and grandchildren.  You want a school that understands, and is effective in, whole person development.

    Don't be misled by ranking.  Schools are ranked on their graduate productivity (number of PhDs graduated, number of archival papers published, and amount of income for research).  And, usually the faculty attributes that achieve top research ranking, means they have little time to invest in the undergraduates.  In my opinion, the top ranked schools are not the best in preparing graduates for engineering practice careers (although top ranked schools will offer many facts to contradict that).  I suggest readers investigate relevant ranking attributes for themselves.  See what programs win and place in the AIChE Plant Design and Safety contests, win and place in the AIChE ChemE-Car competition, and receive Outstanding recognition for the AIChE Student Chapters.  (Excellence in education is not about research awards or ACT scores.)

    I was a chemical engineering professor in two US universities for the past 31 years, serving as program Head for 13 years.  Prior, I rose to engineering supervision in industry for a 13 year period.  Throughout, I saw the performance of a lot of students and engineers representing many colleges.  In the graduate program we receive students from around the world from a large ranking diversity of colleges, and I find, the student's success seems uncorrelated to the student's origin or preparation.  Similarly, in industry, we hired folks from many universities, and their success seemed uncorrelated to the stature of the program that granted their degrees.  So, again, it will be the student that makes the outcome of education great, or not.

    Tell the student to invest in the courses, but as well, be active in diverse extra-curricular activities related to all aspects of professional and personal wellness development.  Industry seeks technically competent students as new hires.  But, there are many to choose from in each graduating class, and from each university.  What makes technically qualified students attractive to industry is a record of leadership effectiveness in human organizations, energetic nature, flexibility, health, creativity, diligence, cooperation, etc.  Choose a program that encourages activities that permit the student to develop those essential soft skills.  They are complementary to, and often more important to career and life than, the technical skills of the major.

    Where ever, it will be a nominal 4-year program.  The student will live in that place for 4 years, or a bit more.  Consider climate and culture of the locale.   Also, the student will wear the school colors for life.  Like a tattoo, we all wear the brand, and express the legacy and style of our undergraduate school and locale.  To have the energy to invest in the curriculum and extra-curricular activities, the student will need to want to be there.  So, choose a compatible place.

    There are differences in programs.  Although all engineering programs seek to balance theory and application, some have faculty that lean more on the practical side and others more on the theoretical side.  Look on the web sites of programs.  You should be able to sense the theory and practice balance that the program has by the articles posted there.  Publicity articles reveal the kind of successes that give the program administrators pride.  A telling attribute of the program focus is the number of articles that relate to undergraduate successes and honors.  If the program is invested in the undergraduates, then the student energy will be high; and as a result, they will graduate with strong ability and career preparation.  Seek schools that are invested in whole person development.

    R Russell Rhinehart
    Professor Emeritus
    Stillwater, OK

  • 10.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-13-2018 00:24
    Hi, Richard.  I would steer them away from a research university, in spite of the prestige.  Better to go where the focus is on teaching and teaching well is rewarded, and where student life is more broadening and students are likely to be more well-rounded.  Your grandkids can get their master's degrees at a pedigree school.

    I've never been in a hiring position, but I pretty much plumbed the depths when it comes to flavors of college education.  I went to San Juan Community College while still in high school, then Michigan State University for two years, then El Camino Community College for three years (after a year off), then UCLA for three years.  I also taught a mixed grad/undergrad class at Cal State Long Beach for a couple of years.  And I have two kids who graduated from college, one from Cal State Northridge, the other from UC San Diego.

    The best teachers I had were at community college.  They were great lecturers and they did great demonstrations.  They had time to grade homework.  They had time to write new tests for every class, which cut back on cheating.  They cared.  I had a clear academic advantage over my classmates at UCLA, all but one of whom started at UCLA as freshmen, because my physics and math was stronger than theirs.

    A lot can happen to kids that are college aged, I think a low-ish price tag for a bachelor's degree helps everyone involved be more flexible and responsive if things don't go as planned.


    Kirsten Rosselot PE
    Process Profiles
    Calabasas CA

  • 11.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-13-2018 08:46
    People have made a lot of good points. From my experience, as long as the degree is from an accredited program, that's all that really matters. The degree is more of a checkbox than a point of evaluation. It's all the other things on the resume that really matter.

    That being said, I think for an undergrad degree the most important thing to consider is diversity of programs and diversity of people. It is really asking too much when you ask an 18 year old to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Chemical Engineering is great, but it's not for everyone. So people won't enjoy it, no matter what they think when they are 18, 19, 20.. That's why I think it's important to choose a school with a variety of programs. If you go to a highly regarded but specialized school, what do you do if you realize you want to do something different?

    Alexander Long EIT
    Assistant Chemical Engineer
    Burns and McDonnell
    Kansas City, MO

  • 12.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-13-2018 09:42
    As justification for discrediting programs with strong reputations, I've seen references to specific graduates in several of the comments; as in, "I've worked with graduates from big name schools that were not very good engineers."

    I would strongly caution against applying much weight to that type of anecdotal information.

    The plural of anecdote is not data.  Also, every school produces graduates with a range of capabilities.

    I'm sure every successful ChE from whatever program graduated with fellow students that they could tell were not strong, regardless of the school. This spectrum is expected, and is taken into account. The entire campus recruiting process is shaped to identify the top candidates and winnow out those that, for example, were book-smart enough to make it through a ChE curriculum, but might not be strong engineers in practice.

    There are surely reasons why some employers have ended up with less than stellar college recruits, regardless of the school provenance. If you believe the reason is that a particular school is not capable of producing top engineering talent, identify the systemic issues with the school or program. I thought John O'Connell did an excellent job of this with his analysis of the limitations of on-line BSChE programs.

    Steve Cutchen
    US Chemical Safety Board
    Houston TX

  • 13.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-13-2018 09:55
    Depending on their interests, a two year associates degree in chemical technology could be a very cost effective option. But they would end up being technicians, not engineers.

    Matthew Wagner
    Senior Analyst
    Lux Research
    Cortlandt Manor NY

  • 14.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-13-2018 10:58
    You didn't tell us what age your grandchildren are and more importantly, are they coming to this conclusion (they want to be chemical engineers) on their own or are they being pushed towards an engineering degree.  Is their father or mother a Chem.E.?  Or has this desire jumped a generation (lol).

    I have one child.  She had all the aptitude and high grades in high school in all the science, chemistry, math courses etc.  Same as me.  My guidance counselor aimed me down the Chem. E. path, and for that I am eternally grateful.

    So, being the helicopter parent that I was (and still am even though she is now 33 and has a successful career and a family of her own), I started nudging her towards engineering in her junior year in high school.

    Then came the college applications, for which I wrote the checks.  All liberal arts schools.  Good parenting is knowing when to back off and set the helicopter down.

    She earned a B.A. with high honors in psychology with a minor in business from Stonehill College in Easton, MA , which I paid for (because my Dad paid for my college, so it was in my blood), then worked as a Mentoring Teacher's Assistant for two years in the Brockton, MA school system (for a pittance of a wage, mind you) while living at home and saving money to pay her own way for a Master's Degree.  That degree came with honors from Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater MA - Master's of Social Work.

    She is now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is the senior School Adjustment Counselor in a large elementary school in the "tough" city of New Bedford, MA.  While she will never be rich, monetarily, she has a richness of helping the students "adjust" to the school setting.   She has "tenure" of sorts in her position called "professional status" and contributes to a traditional defined benefit pension plan.  Can you tell I am just a bit proud of her?

    John Sharland PE,FSFPE
    Bridgewater MA

  • 15.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-14-2018 10:24
    Thanks to all. My takeaways.
    1) online not available
    2) try Germany
    3) possible inverse relationship between cost and quality and prestige and quality
    4) the college doesn't matter that much but the student has to want it

    I still feel
    A) in 10 years more than half the ChemEs will get there degrees on line.
    B) the online colleges will be in places like Singapore. Not Cambridge and Houston.

    The unknown = will millennials and gen Xers hire a new ChemE from the Singapore online University in 2030??

    Rick Strait
    Adjunct Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Dept.
    Rice University
    Houston, Texas

  • 16.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-15-2018 07:48

    RE getting an on-line degree in ChE, unless the ABET requirements make big change for the worse, consider how does one do unit ops lab on-line?  I once lived in an area where we had a remote campus for engineering and physical sciences education.  The equivalent of "on line" in the 1980s.  They awarded EE and ME degrees, but to get a ChE degree, one had to go the sponsoring university campus for 2 semesters for the sole purpose of the unit ops lab.  A unit ops lab is one of the most expensive components of a ChE department, it doesn't move well, etc. (if it does, it might not provide the extensive hands-on experience with maintenance and component repairs that should be a requirement of the lab).

    Bruce Bullough
    Portage, MI

  • 17.  RE: Where should my grandkids get BSChE degree? Online? Price Matters. Does the school?

    Posted 03-14-2018 11:22
    One of the aspects I would consider for anyone looking for Chemical Engineering Program would be their focus.  Another thread is discussing problems finding jobs particularly in the traditional industries.  I believe the future for young Chem E graduates is going to be in biology, bio-med, and nano-technology.  I know the my local university (VCU)  has an emphasis in these areas.  It is even in the name, Department of Chemical Engineer and Life Sciences.  They even encourage grads to go the Medical School.

    I do not have a feel for how many Chemical Engineering programs are steering this way, but graduating form one that has this focus may help the job prospects for that young engineer adapt to the changing landscape.

    William Wagoner PE (VA)
    Wagoner Consulting
    Chesterfield VA