Engineering Education Thoughts for Auburn University
I graduated with my Batchelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn University, Magna Cum Laude. I am finishing my M.S. in Electrical Engineering this semester (Spring 2018). As I'm continuing to my Ph.D., I have noticed a trend that I hope will be reversed in the future. This trend is not unique to Auburn but seems to be prevalent in your average ABET accredited Engineering School. So I'll pick on my alma mater.
Auburn's core curriculum is eroding the amount of major versus non-major credits undergraduates take. My observation is that we are not giving them the degree of academic freedom that fosters an environment for innovation and entrepreneurship. Countless faculty members I've talked to in Engineering departments concur. As time goes on, fewer in-major courses, especially electives, are a part of an Engineering student's curriculum.
This, in a sense, forces a student who is interested in any specialized area in a major, to go to graduate school. In Auburn's Electrical Engineering program, an undergraduate student is only allowed to take two electives. ONLY 41.8% of what an Electrical Engineer learns, per credit hour, is in major. Only 4.9% of an Electrical Engineer's EE curriculum consists of courses are elective credits that allow a student the freedom to specialize.
The alternative is to add an extra year or two and pursue a Master's degree. However, with the large demand for technical employees in the US right now, the trend is not to pursue higher degrees due to market demand that takes the most gifted students for work in industry.
We need to do some tough introspection and ask ourselves if we want to be just another Southern football school that offers majors that mills degrees as part of an employment barrier-to-entry, or whether we want to create a school renowned for innovators and world-changers. A rigid curriculum model that seeks to indoctrinate students into a prefabricated form, will produce the former.