Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach campus (visited 2/11/16)
This campus is sleek and modern with new buildings going up. The new student center (fall 2017) will have a rooftop area to watch launches and new dorms are being built with the first students moving in the fall of 2016. Even the welcome center is impressive: it feels like an Omni theater. It’s also a walkable campus; “I can get from the furthest dorms to the academic center in about 15 minutes without rushing,” said our tour guide.
Students here have a common passion. They don’t just wake up one day and decide to do aeronautics. The tour guide said, “I can always tell who will do well here. I watch them when airplanes take off and land. If they stop to watch, they’ll fit in. Those who don’t should probably go somewhere else.” The admissions rep said, “These are kids who sit at airports and drool or stare at the sky night after night. They want to come here because they have a passion. We want to work with them.”
Students can earn 1 or all 4 flight ratings while they’re here: Private, commercial, instrumental, and multi-engine. Students need a 1st or 2nd class medical clearance before they even get to school; the reps suggest getting the 1st class if they’re thinking about commercial airlines so they already know they qualify. Flight costs are on a pay-as-you-go basis above and beyond tuition, room, and board costs. For the first and second year, it averages $23,000/yr. For the third year it drops to about $15,000. Students can become Flight Instructors in the 4th year. In terms of scholarship money, if tuition isn’t covered, scholarships won’t go towards flight costs, but if students come in with enough money above and beyond tuition costs, it can help cover flight costs.
Academics are strong and employers snatch up Embry-Riddle graduates, often with higher starting salaries than those coming from other schools. A faculty member said, “My students are my reputation. When I send them out, they represent me.” Students are challenged here and can apply to the Honors Program, but can also take advantage of individual tutoring labs for a variety of subjects if needed.
There are a range of majors within 4 colleges at ERAU:
- Aeronautics and Aeronautical Science: ERAU is #1 in aerospace (beating out the Air Force), and have even provided the Air Force with more pilots than the AFA.
- Air Traffic Management
- Aviation Maintenance and Aerospace & Occupational Safety
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science
- Operational Meteorology: Walmart and Home Depot have meteorologists working for them. Where do you draw the “We’re not sending snow blowers or hurricane panels” line? They understand business and weather.
- Business: This only offers 2 majors in Aviation Business and Business Administration
- Engineering offers what they consider to be Technical Degrees. The average SAT 1390, ACT 32 (compared to 1100 SAT or 27 ACT for non-tech degrees). They would like calc and physics. However, the bare minimum is pre-calc and trig.
- Arts & Sciences. The base of the telescope is set up in this A&S building; the building is designed to not touch the supports in case of a natural disaster or other problem with the architecture so it won’t damage the telescope.
- Space Physics, Engineering Physics, Astronomy & Astrophysics
- Homeland Security and Global Conflict Studies
- “The learn how to hack into computers …”
- They offer multiple travel trips every year to places such as Israel, Bosnia, Ireland, and Germany.
- Computational Mathematics
- Human Factor Psychology
In addition, they offer lots of minors including Terrorism Studies, Avionics Line Maintenance, Aviation Law, Flight Test and Simulation, Forensic Accounting, Occupational Safety.
Students start their major curriculum immediately. Labs are amazing with resources most schools only dream about. They have labs for everything including Visualization and Interactive 3D, Cybersecurity Engineering, Experimental Rocket Propulsion, and Destructive and Non-Destructive labs. The Destruction labs have microphones that listen for stress and can stop experiments before breakage occurs. The Spatial Disorientation Lab gets pilots to trust instruments when their senses are telling them something different from the instruments. The High Altitude Normobaric Lab is called the “Hypoxia Lab”: they change the oxygen levels and have students try to perform different tasks like picking up pencils, organizing things by color, and trading things with neighbors. “Everyone becomes like a two-year old.” This is the only university with this type of lab.
Aviation students spend about 20 hours in a CRJ-200 Simulator for their senior capstone. There are also 8 Cesna Simulators and 2 multi-jet simulators. Most students log about 250 hours by graduation; many have more. Our tour guide had logged 350 and is going to continue on as a flight instructor to get up to his 1000 hours required by the commercial airlines. Students who come in already with their private pilot license get 6 credit hours on their transcripts.
Many students take part in ROTC, and ERAU is ranked as one of the top programs in the country. All 3 branches are available here (and Navy has a Marine option), and we saw a lot of students walking around in uniform.
The gender ratio at ER has gotten much better in recent year. “When I started in 2005, it was 17 guys to every female,” said an admission rep who graduated several years ago. “Now it’s about 4.5 to 1.” All females get a $5000 “Women of Excellence” scholarship. They also have all-female Baja and other competition teams. The student at our lunch table said that these are fun and challenging. When they build things, they have to accommodate all the members: “I’m 5’10” – if they pick me to strap in and then get myself out in 5 seconds, it’s a very different thing than for our team member who is 5’1”. We have to plan for that.”
This is a highly residential campus. First-year students must live on campus, mostly in traditional style dorms. Upperclassmen have access to suite- and apartment-style dorms. They are redoing dorms in phases; one of the new sections will be done in the spring and they’ll start moving people over so they can start the next phase. Campus activities are plentiful (the free Thursday night movies got a couple mentions). Athletics are transitioning to NCAA DII. The dining hall is good; students get a certain number of swipes per week that do not roll over, “but we can cash out our unused swipes for food at the market.”
Daytona Beach is located in tropical, coastal Central Florida providing for excellent flight conditions. They’re close to Orlando, Jacksonville, and Cape Canaveral. Not only does that provide lots of opportunities for co-ops (very big here) and other internships, it gives students lots to do.
ERAU doesn’t take the Common App – but they are test optional. Students can still get scholarships without the score, but in order to get the maximum amount, they should turn them in. They ask for at least 2 letters of recommendation but will take more. “Think of it as an interview” said the rep. “It gives us a way to get to know the student.” International Students do not need a TOEFL if they’ve spent 2 years at an English-speaking school and their grades are good. Otherwise, they need at least a 79 on the exam. Also, if they want merit-scholarships, they do need to submit the SAT or ACT. Serious cross-apps usually also apply to places like MIT, Georgia Tech, Florida Tech, and the Service Academies.