Engineering is a great career with plenty of opportunities and good earning potential, and the first step to becoming an engineer is through getting a degree in the field. However, there are a lot of choices, school can be expensive, and each university has unique attributes. To create a list of the best engineering schools according to value, we took rankings from Princeton Review, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance rankings of best value schools, and US News and World Reports rankings of engineering schools, as well as tuition, geography and cost of living into consideration.
The following schools all offer high-quality engineering programs, are accessible to most Americans, and have reasonable to very low tuition. Students who graduate from them will have a quality degree in their field of study and can expect good employment opportunities without incurring significant debt. Below are our top 10 value engineering schools for 2012.
1. University of California San Diego
In-state, full-time: $0 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $14,694 per year
The University of California San Diego was explicitly founded to compete with Caltech in science and engineering, so the bar was set high from the beginning. UCSD is a fairly young school, having been founded in 1960, and as such has a very modern style. Located on the Pacific, the school is heavily involved in oceanic research, working closely with the nearby Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In the 1980s, UCSD played a key role in bringing technological innovation to San Diego, which greatly increased its national prestige and led to a large increase in private donations. By 1995, it was ranked among the top ten graduate programs in the nation by the National Research Council, which promotes the dissemination of scientific knowledge. The considerable endowments of UCSD allow it to provide California residents their education free of tuition, while non-residents pay under $15,000. Given the quality of the school, California engineering students who are accepted by UCSD are fortunate indeed. Out of state students, while they must pay tuition, are also getting a great deal. Add to this the laid-back, pleasant environment of San Diego, and UCSD is a great choice for an engineering student who wants to get the most out of his degree without breaking the bank.
2.Georgia Institute of Technology
In-state, full-time: $9,986 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $26,860 per year
Founded in 1885 as the Georgia School of Technology as part of the post Civil War Reconstruction effort to industrialize the South, Georgia Tech started with an emphasis on engineering. The first degree it offered was in mechanical engineering, but by the early 20th century it came to include electrical, civil and chemical engineering. Consistently ranked as one of the top ten public schools in the US, Georgia Tech is a great deal for Georgia residents at under $10,000 per year, and its engineering program, which is rivaled only by other top engineering schools such as the very expensive Stanford and MIT schools of engineering, makes it a great deal even for out of state students. Students at Georgia Tech have a beautiful campus to enjoy, which features both classical and modern architecture. Sports fans can cheer on the Yellowjacket football and basketball teams, both of which have sent many players on to professional teams, and Atlanta offers a thriving nightlife and music scene.
3. Missouri University of Science & Technology
In-state, full-time: $5,881 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $15,183 per year
Missouri S&T is well-known as an engineering school, and has earned accolades for its entrepreneurial spirit and innovative labs. In 2009, Popular Science magazine named its Experimental Mine as the number 1 “awesome lab” in the United States. Students participate in designing and building race cars, aircraft and robotic vehicles, and the school features a 200 kilowatt nuclear reactor. The school’s focus on engineering is particularly strong, with 70% of students in one engineering program or another, exceeding even MIT and Georgia Tech. One of the more curious features of the school is a replica of Stonehenge constructed with granite blocks cut by water jet cutters. Located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers one of the best engineering programs in the Midwest, and at a very affordable price. In-state tuition of under $6,000 is an excellent deal, and even out-of-state tuition is very reasonable.
4. Virginia Tech
In-state, full-time: $10,048 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $19,497 per year
Virginia Tech, founded in 1872 and located in beautiful Montgomery County in the New River Valley, is the largest school in Virginia, and has over 8,400 students in its engineering school alone. Its engineering school was ranked 13 in 2011 by US News and World Report’s Best Colleges report, and its engineering specialties consistently rank in the top 20 nationally. In June 2011, Virginia Tech opened the Virginia Tech Research Center-Arlington in an effort to reach out to federal research agencies in the National Capitol Region, positioning itself to participate in federal scientific and engineering endeavors. This will provide Virginia Tech students with many opportunities to find internships and jobs with the federal government in defense, civil engineering and other government projects. Given the high quality of its engineering school, the low cost of tuition and the lucrative opportunities in the nearby capitol region, Virginia Tech provides great value for its students.
5. Stony Brook University–SUNY
In-state, full-time: $8,870 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $15,160 per year
Stony Brook University is a relatively young public research university located in Stony Brook, New York, on the North Shore of Long Island some 50 miles east of Manhattan. Like UCSD, it is a young school, having been founded in 1957. The school helps manage the Brookhaven National Laboratory, being one of only a few universities that run federal labs, and is a center for marine and atmospheric research. Stony Brook is a national leader in supercomputing, and has received a grant from the federal government to find ways to prevent cyberterrorism. However, Stony Brook really stands out for its excellent value, particularly for the region. While there are plenty of good engineering schools in the Northeast, they tend to be far more expensive than Stony Brook, which remains competitive despite being a good bargain. For students looking for a quality engineering school in the Northeast who also want to get the most for their money, Stony Brook is one to strongly consider.
6. University of Texas Austin
In-state, full-time: $9,232 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $16,898 per year
The University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest schools in the US, with an enrollment of over 50,000 undergraduate students. It is also a major research university, spending over $640 million on research in the 2009-2010 school year alone. Its Cockrell School of Engineering, with almost 8,000 students, is ranked as one of the best in the world. Notably, the architectural and petroleum/geosystems engineering departments are ranked #1 in the US News and World Report 2010 rankings. UT Austin features prominently in the city of Austin, which is a youthful progressive place that offers ample employment opportunities in its thriving tech industry to graduates with engineering degrees. Considering the opportunities and quality of the University of Texas Austin, and the Cockrell School in particular, tuition is an excellent deal. Additionally, cost of living in Austin is not prohibitive as far as cities go, so it’s a great value for both native Texans and out of state students alike.
7. North Carolina State University
In-state, full-time: $7,834 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $19,882 per year
North Carolina State University, located in Raleigh, offers a wide range of engineering degrees, from textile engineering to aerospace, with plenty in between. The Princeton review ranked the school as 6th in terms of value for US public universities, 12th according to Kiplinger’s finance and 5th according to US News and World Report. Given its emphasis on science and engineering, it definitely deserves a place in the top ten value engineering schools. NC State is a large school with diverse programs, including some cutting edge research in engineering departments. Special focuses include bioengineering, nanotechnology and information and communications technology. As the anchor of the Research Triangle in the North Carolina Piedmont, the university is close to many tech companies as well as two other universities, Duke and Chapel Hill. The concentration of highly educated people and the universities’ scientific facilities in the area has served to attract a great number of businesses eager to take advantage of both. Students at NC State can count on both value and opportunity from the region and the school.
8. University of Utah
In-state, full-time: $5,771 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $15,523 per year
The University of Utah, founded in 1850 as the University of Deseret, is located in Salt Lake City and has a combined enrollment of over 30,000 students. It ranks in the top 50 schools for BS degrees in computer science, civil engineering, chemical engineering and electrical engineering, and was one of the four original nodes of ARPANET, which later evolved into the Internet. Additionally, the school features a small nuclear reactor in its Merrill Engineering Building, giving nuclear engineering students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with reactors. However, what really sets the school apart from comparable institutions is its affordable tuition — under $6,000 for Nevada residents and just over $15,000 for out of state students. Salt Lake City is also a bargain compared to most other university towns, is very safe, and has plenty of outdoor recreation available nearby. For a comfortable undergraduate experience at a quality engineering school with very affordable tuition, the University of Utah is an option worth considering.
9. University of Texas Arlington
In-state, full-time: $8,558 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $14,192 per year
UTA, located in Arlington in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, is a high research activity school with a heavy emphasis on science and technology. Although it doesn’t have the largest engineering college in Texas (4,000 students), it has ambitious goals and research expenditures have grown to over $40 million. New buildings are under construction, including nanotechnology and robotics research facilities. The school is quite serious about building its engineering program, so this may a good time to take advantage of it before the competition heats up. With its lofty goals and low tuition, UTA is a good choice for the cost-conscious and ambitious engineering student.
10. Colorado State University
In-state, full-time: $8,982 per year, Out-of-state, full-time: $20,582 per year
Colorado State, located in Fort Collins, brings an emphasis on the environment to science and engineering. Engine efficiency, solar energy and fuel cells are areas of special focus. The conscientious engineering student with an altruistic approach to the discipline may appreciate the school for an emphasis on improving society and solving problems related to energy bottlenecks and pollution. Engineering professors actively seek out opportunities to teach students about designing electric cars, solving major environmental crises in large cities and groundbreaking medical research. CSU is located at the base of the Rockies, about 45 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park. Denver is an hour’s drive to the south, and outdoor recreation in a spectacular setting is accessible year round. Tuition is affordable, particularly for in-state students, and the quality of both life and instruction are high. For those engineering students interested in alternative energy and the environment, Colorado State offers good value for the cost.