Kettering University (visited 11/19/19)
This is a small school that is relatively well-known for engineering and its innovative, mandatory Co-op program operating on 3-month class/co-op rotation that differentiates it from other co-ops such as those at Drexel and Northeastern. One of the reps said, “The kids here are geeks. They thrive off of each other. Just based on conversations, they find a home here they never got in high school. They’re surrounded my like-minded people who challenge them.”
The co-op program is one of the big reasons people pick Kettering. Students come in on either the A or B cohort; A starts classes at the traditional time in the fall; B does their first co-op before taking any classes at all. Placement into A and B is totally random but it’s easy enough to switch sections. If incoming students do want to switch, they’re often asked to wait until after the job fair to decide since some companies will only hire for certain sections. These job fairs are open to all students, and the incoming students are encouraged to attend, particularly those in the B cohort who go directly into co-op.
I asked both the tour guide and the Co-op Coordinator about how this could possible work and how students would be qualified to do more than make copies or coffee without having some classes under their belts. The coordinator said, “Many companies hire 3 students at a time. They figure maybe one won’t work out, and they hope that one will be given a job offer. They’re grooming their future talent. They’ll take a chance on high school graduates.”
Students need to complete at least 5 co-op terms; most do 7-9 before they graduate. They partner with over 500 employers, many of which are in SE Michigan (the Detroit metro area). It’s rare to get a co-op in Flint. All majors must do co-ops; they have a freshman bio major with the Medical Examiner this year. Students earn an average of $15.50/hour; they often use this towards tuition.
I had high hopes for Kettering. However, the other counselor and I were both a little reluctant to recommend this school. The vibe was a little off. I think that it’s difficult to build community here. There seems to be very little going on around campus other than classes; even the tour guide was hard-pressed to give some examples of things that were happening around campus for fun. There might be a couple reasons for this – first, several people said they were “self-proclaimed geeks.” Second, classes are condensed from 15 to 11 weeks so they’re getting more done in less time (the tour guide estimates that he does 2-4 hours of homework/studying a night to keep up with the academics). Third, when students are coming and going every 3 months, it’s hard to sustain any meaningful clubs or extra-curricular activities. Students don’t do that much other than classes.
However, there are some things going on: they have lots of automotive engineering competitions (which operates as a club). There’s some Greek life, some intramural sports, etc. Greek life does play a large part towards blowing off steam; about 40% of students participate. There are dorms the run activities; the lounge was already decorated for Christmas when we were there; “there’s a big push to do things in the dorms to get students out of their rooms. We’re nerdy. We tend to hold up in our rooms,” said the tour guide. They’re located in a sort-of residential area of Flint; some areas nearby are not in the best of conditions, but the immediate area seems ok. The tour guide also said he felt safe around campus.
They have a limited choice of majors, all STEM based except for the Management option. There are 5 engineering options (including Industrial Engineering) plus Engineering Physics. They have a more extensive choice of minors, including History, Literature, Business, and International Studies. The others are STEM based such as Gaming, Acoustics, Applied Optics, manufacturing Engineering, Medical Physics, System and Data Security, and Materials Science. The labs are some of them best I’ve seen – very well stocked with great equipment, allowing for a lot of hands-on experience and practical applications. The tour guide showed us one where they had to simulate production lines (on a very small scale) to figure out not only how to put things together but how to communicate that out. Kettering is also the only place with a crash-test lab for undergrads.
Everything they do here is Calc based. Students have to have some trig coming in (but that’s often tagged onto Alg 2 or PreCalc). A 3.0 GPA and 24 ACT will earn students scholarship money. They also have fixed-rate tuition: what you pay the first year is what you pay for 5 years.
Retention is 97% but the graduation rate is about 60%. Disparity comes because of the co-ops; grad rates are based off of 6 years and some students go longer. The thesis project can trip them up sometimes; it takes them a little longer to do the program. It’s also such a niche program that there isn’t much to fall back on. Most graduates go right into the job force, but ¾ eventually get an advanced degree.