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Low tier + no debt or top tier + loans?

  1. Sep 25, 2011 #1
    Hey everybody! First post here, love the forum/site.

    I'm seeking some college advice. I live in North Carolina, and have been accepted into Western Carolina and NC State for electrical engineering. I'm trying to figure out which to attend. WCU was only my backup school (close to my house), and I know normally it would be a no brainer (NC State), but WCU has offered me some great scholarship and aid that would allow me to not take out any student loans - which is great because I am NOT very fond of debt (who is?).

    Anyways, as title says, is it better to attend a top tier school and take out some loans, or will my education at WCU still get me a decent job right out of college?

    BTW the WCU program is offered jointly with UNC Charlotte, but all the courses are taken on the Western Carolina campus. Not sure if that change anything.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2011 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Nobody can answer that but you. You need to look at the advantages of NC State, and the cost, and decide if it's worth the price to you.
  4. Sep 25, 2011 #3
    I'm pretty sure vanadium_50 is much older and wiser than me, but I agree.
  5. Sep 25, 2011 #4
    Thanks for the advice. I know that NC State is, well, the best in the state. The problem is that in my head I can't seem to justify loans if I can get the same degree, and possibly similar job after graduation.

    That being said, I know the education at NC State is probably worth the extra cost, just because I know it's a high quality program, and I haven't heard much about Western Carolina (the program has only been around a couple years).... A lot to think about! Thanks again for the advice!
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2011
  6. Sep 25, 2011 #5


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    Have you been to both campuses?
  7. Sep 25, 2011 #6
    I was able to check them both out. I know the area around WCU because I've lived here awhile. I do like Raleigh though. There's a huge difference between the two though. Harder to get distracted at WCU when all you have is a walmart nearby ;).

    Honestly, checking them out didn't push me one way the other. I could see myself fitting in at either campus.
  8. Sep 25, 2011 #7
    Have you visited the departments that you're interested in and talked to some students there about the quality of the program?
  9. Sep 25, 2011 #8
    I'm not so sure about this, even if you learn as well, the place were you graduated matter in finding a job.
  10. Sep 26, 2011 #9
    If your goal is getting a job after your B.S., you might want to think about name recognition. If you're thinking about graduate school, it's not as necessary although you'd have to work harder to find research or get accepted into internship programs.

    How much more debt will you be incurring if you went to NC State?
  11. Sep 26, 2011 #10
    I find that having better marks will have a greater effect on jobs rather than merely relying on prestige. But this is variable, so take it with a pinch of salt. Also depends on how large the actual loan is, and if your are comfortable with having it on your shoulders.

    It's all about weighing up the pros and cons of each really.

    Good luck!
  12. Sep 26, 2011 #11
    One thing to also find out that I couldn't find out right away online:

    Is WCU's EE program accredited? (I found out that their engineering technology major was, but couldn't find this via a quick search about their EE major.) This is important if you later seek to take the battery of tests to become a "Professional Engineer."
  13. Sep 26, 2011 #12
    Note that the PE tests are a lot less important for EE than for other types of engineers. Personally, I've never known of a electrical engineer or software engineer that has taken the professional engineer test, and as far as looking for jobs, I don't think it's an absolute deal breaker if you want to go into EECS (it is if you want to go into civil or mechanical).

    As far as debt goes, one thing to realize is that having large amounts of debt will severely limit your choice of career. If you graduate and you decide that you don't want to be an EE or if there are just no EE jobs available, you can get any old job and survive. If you have debt, you can't do that. This is particularly bad because student loan debt, unlike other forms of debt are extremely hard to discharge even in bankruptcy. You have to prove "undue hardship" against a lawyer for the loan company whose job it is to quash these things.
  14. Sep 26, 2011 #13
    Also name recognition can be very local. For example, if you want a job in Austin, Texas, a degree from UTexas Austin will get you more networks than a degree from Harvard.
  15. Sep 26, 2011 #14
    I always thought UNC Chapel Hill was the strongest school? That's the one I seem to hear the most about anyway.
  16. Sep 26, 2011 #15
    WCU seems substantially less good from a quick look. It is more (alot more) fun to be in a program where your fellow students are on the same level as you. I don't know if its worth the money though.
  17. Sep 27, 2011 #16


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    He wants to do engineering. UNC-CH doesn't have an engineering school.
  18. Sep 27, 2011 #17
    I appreciate this info... good to know.

    Nonetheless all the EE's I know have taken (and passed) the PE tests. Granted that most I know are faculty somewhere (and I've seen a few faculty and non-tenure university job postings that specifically required the PE status)... but the total of 5 I know that aren't faculty also went through the process. Two of these may have done it because they are self-employed "consultants" or contractors, and might have thought it looked good on their CV, especially when working with other types (where such certification may matter. My dad also may have done it just because he was type A and would have wanted to have all dots dotted and crosses crossed.

    Also, I think just knowing whether a program is accredited or not might make a difference in one's evaluation of the program before entry. I'd place more trust in an accredited program than a non-accredited program.
  19. Sep 27, 2011 #18
    Oh, sorry. I have this condition called word blindness where I skim a post and fill in the gaps with the phrase "I want to be a mathematician", only to later realize the error.
  20. Sep 28, 2011 #19
    What about going to WCU for your first two years then transfering?

    Best of both worlds!
  21. Sep 28, 2011 #20
    This may be state dependent. The EE's I know are in Texas. There was at one point a propose to license software engineers, but the screaming from industry quickly killed that idea. The other thing is that EE is one area has large numbers of foreign workers, and having a licensing requirement restricts the number of H-1B's you can pull over.
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