How to Get an Engineering Degree Part 2

Yesterday we began the process of getting an engineering degree by getting a general overview of a community college and state university system. Today, let's narrow the scope down specifically to Florida.

First, check out these interesting statistics about community college students surveyed at Sussex County Community College

Florida has an amazing community college and public university system, one of the best in the world. We have this thing called a 2+2 articulation agreement, which states that any person with an Associate of Arts degree (a 2-year degree) from a Florida community college is guaranteed admission into a Florida state university. Also, once you get into the university, expect to pay some of the lowest tuition costs in the nation as a Florida resident.
This seems like a pretty sweet deal, considering the fact that there are twenty-eight public colleges and state colleges in Florida to begin your education and eleven state universities (including the ever-popular University of Florida) to finish your degree. So why isn't every high school student beginning at a community college to automatically get accepted into the school of their choice?

Well this is where things get a little slippery to explain, but I'll do my best to clarify. The 2+2 agreement is supposed to guarantee your admission to the UNIVERSITY but not the COLLEGE of choice. Theoretically, a student could get accepted to the University of South Florida but not the College of Engineering, meaning that student is figuratively up a creek without a paddle. She is technically a USF student, but since she isn't actually a student in the College of Engineering, she can't take any engineering classes or get her degree in whatever field of engineering she wants. The 2+2 agreement is good for getting your foot in the door, but you're going to need a lot more than just that to actually get your engineering (or whatever) degree from that institution.

But of course nothing could be that simple. Now the 2+2 agreement is in jeopardy, since institutions aren't necessarily respecting that agreement due to budget cuts. At this point, a community college student isn't even guaranteed acceptance into a state university. So what is the point of this 2+2 agreement if it doesn't do anything? Well, as the pirates of the Caribbean would say, it's more like guidelines. The universities are supposed to follow this agreement, but they kinda sorta don't always.

The Florida Junior Community College Student Government Association (FJCCSGA) is voice for all Florida community colleges, and they are not at all happy about this looming threat to their transfer status! FJCCSGA has been taking action by holding rallies in Tallahassee every year to talk with legislators and inform them about the issues which concern community college students. FJCCSGA wants the 2+2 to be more clearly defined so we don't get onto slippery slopes and to actually enforce the 2+2. The problem is the growing budget cuts to our education; universities cannot accept and support as many students if they do not have the funds to do so. Ultimately, this entire cost issue lies in the fact that the state has paid a majority of Florida residents' tuition for many, many years and now, when the economy is a little rough and money is tough to come by, the state is looking to cut their major costs and educational funding is one of them. Obviously, we don't want this to happen because of its negative impact on us, so FJCCSGA and individual students are doing everything possible to support the legislators' decisions that will favor us.

But we all know how long the government process can take (healthcare, anyone?), so what can the CC students do in the meantime? Make themselves as absolutely amazing and desirable as possible to the universities and colleges to which they are applying. A lot of competitive students are part of their school's Phi Theta Kappa chapter (the honor society for two-year colleges) student government, and other campus organizations. These students also volunteer and take impressive course loads, all while continuing to talk to admissions counselors, financial aid offices, and professors to obtain letters of recommendation. And the student has to do all this in about two years. A little bit overwhelming? Heck yes, but that's what we gotta do to ensure our spot in the top (or even the middle would be nice).

Just as a recap before I leave you for the morning, three points to take away with you...
  1. Florida community college graduates are guaranteed admission to the state university but not necessarily the college.
  2. Point #1 is more of a guideline right now, which has a lot of students mad.
  3. Since Point #2 is being debated, students in the meantime do anything and everything to be as competitive as possible for transfer admission.