Here are some impressive numbers: about 19,000 students going to one of the public universities in Oregon are getting some kind of degree or certificate this year. Also known as the population of Ashland, Oregon. Next fall, people are expecting that enrollment is going to top 100,000.
One thing that’s important to remember is that we live on the west coast; we don’t have really really old universities like Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, John Hopkins, Notre Dame, and so forth. And in terms of the US and the westernized education system, we’re really new: Willamette University is the oldest university in the western US, and has only been around since 1842 (just 17 years before Oregon was a state). Compare that to Harvard on the east coast, which has been running since 1650, and it’s easy to see that we’re kind of new.
But in a way that’s a really good thing. Big-time ivy-league colleges are kind of exclusive, and notorious for being impossible to get in to if your parents didn’t go there already. And sometimes it’s not about being super-prestigious or anything, but being practical—getting an education so you can make a name for yourself and make some good money.
And with a really practical-minded profession like engineering, you don’t need to graduate from an expensive college so much as you just need to know what you’re doing.
But don’t take that the wrong way. You still need a degree. If you don’t have a degree, you better have a pretty extensive repertoire of awesome things you’ve done to prove you’ve got the brains.
The best part, though? Degrees are so much more accessible now, especially in Oregon. The number of graduates we had this year is pretty much proof that you don’t need to be some kind of elite to get your engineering degree. You don’t have to be rich because we have scholarships and financial aid programs; you don’t have to have elite lineage because we have very fair admissions; you only have to be willing to work hard and actually do the learning part.
Think of it this way. It might sound a little cold and merciless, but it’s the truth: robots are starting to do all the jobs factory workers used to do, and now we need smart folks to program those robots; we need smart folks to maintain those robots; we need smart folks to design new robots. The government wants you to be smart so you can keep their gears turning, so you can make money and so they can make money. The point is that they’re going to make it as easy for you to get an education and degree as they possibly can, which means everything short of doing the classwork can be handled.
Long story short: In Oregon, if you want an engineering degree, you can get one.
Read what I read:
- Statesman Journal: “It’s time to turn Oregon’s public universities into adults.“
- Oregonlive: “Oregon universities see more non-traditional students graduate.“
- East Oregonian: “EOU to award record number of degrees.“
- Oregonlive: “New meeting place opens at Portland State as part of university’s outreach to Latino students.“