Front Range Community College adds STEM degree and paid apprenticeships
December 15, 2021
On Nov. 1, Front Range Community College (FRCC) announced that the college has received approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer a new degree—a two-year Associate of Engineering Science (AES). FRCC is the first community college in the state of Colorado to offer this type of degree.
Though FRCC has previously offered an engineering pathway for students wanting to pursue a bachelor's degree in engineering, the process of transferring FRCC credits to an accredited four-year program was often complicated since transfer agreements differ among universities.
The newly designed AES degree will allow students to easily transfer directly to the engineering schools at Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder, Denver or Colorado Springs. Not only does this degree simplify the transfer process, but it also allows students to leave FRCC with an associate's degree should they choose to enter the workforce directly after the program.
“This streamlined process will make it easier for students to be confident that all their credits will transfer to their university engineering program,” said Rebecca Woulfe, vice president of academic affairs for FRCC. “It will also save them time and money by paying FRCC’s lower tuition rate for their first two years in college.”
The goal of FRCC’s associate’s program in engineering is twofold. First, to save students money, and second, to help diversity the engineering workforce.
In terms of cost savings, students who pursue an associate’s degree or complete prerequisite coursework at a community or junior college can expect to pay significantly less for tuition than at most four-year institutions. FRCC estimates that their tuition is 56% lesss than Colorado’s other four-year colleges and universities.
With the ability to directly transfer into these four-year universities, students will benefit from the earning potential of holding a bachelor's in engineering from a prestigious engineering school like Colorado School of Mines. FRCC does note that earning an AES degree through their program does not guarantee admission into one of these four-year programs, but says the AES degree will strengthen any student's application.
FRCC also hopes that this degree program will help diversify the engineering workforce. According to data compiled from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), in 2019, graduates awarded a degree in engineering were predominantly male (76.6%) and white (47.7%). Making the degree track more affordable should make it more accessible for low-income and first-generation college students as well as students of color.
According to FRCC math faculty member and engineering coordinator Christy Gomez, the degree ensures students won’t take unnecessary classes or face setbacks when trying to transfer credits.
“Providing students an opportunity to complete two full years of engineering coursework at a lower cost than the universities should prove to be a mechanism to recruit underrepresented populations to engineering fields,” Gomez said.
Eventually, FRCC has plans to add additional AES degrees in civil and electrical engineering. Currently, FRCC, which is a member of the Colorado Community College System, offers more than 100 degrees and certificate programs.
The college also announced plans to increase its apprenticeship offerings by expanding into the high-demand information technology (IT), networking, and cybersecurity fields utilizing grant funding that the college received from the U.S. Department of Labor.
These paid apprenticeships will target in-demand occupations with an emphasis on IT positions such as computer programmers, computer network support specialists, cybersecurity specialists and technicians, and web developers. FRCC plans to work with local employers to develop the apprenticeship curriculum.
According to Dean of Academic Services Matt Jamison, these programs offer an opportunity for collaboration between local organizations in need of IT professionals and students looking to gain this skill set.
“Apprenticeships provide great employment opportunities for Coloradans, especially those looking to switch careers, re-skill or upskill,” Jamison said.
Students interested in either the AES program or the paid apprenticeships can find more information at http://www.frontrange.edu.