College Degrees: What's available and affordable for mechanics

This article will introduce you to a nationally recognized university that will help A&P mechanics earn either a two-year or four-year college degree. Both the two- and four-year degree programs are fully accredited degrees, that can be earned by using distance learning via the Internet. Also the cost for each degree is well within the average mechanic's budget. Let's get started!

Two-year degree program:

In the April/May 2003 issue of AMT magazine I was privileged to let the aviation maintenance community know about a well-kept secret that was hidden in a small town of 50,000 folks in New Mexico.

The article was titled "What if" and the town is Roswell. Yep! That's the same name that will forever be associated with a supposed flying saucer crash north of the town back in 1947, much to the annoyance of the town's fathers.

Sorry, my little secret in the article two years ago was not about dead aliens in black body bags or blowing the whistle on a government UFO cover-up. The article was all about the Roswell campus of Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU-R) that grants A&P mechanics, 72 college credits toward an 84-credit associate's degree in applied science degree in aviation maintenance technology.

So, if you do the math it will only take another 12 credits to earn the degree; which, back then and still true today, is the highest number of credits an institution of higher learning grants for the A&P certificate. So to earn the degree, you need only to complete four, three-credit-hour courses. The courses are:

Univ 101: Freshman seminar
Eng 102: English composition
Comm 101: Interpersonal Communications
Math 107: Intermediate Algebra

Before your interest in a college degree fades to black because of the algebra requirement, let me whet your appetite with a few other neat things about this university:

  • ENMU-R runs the only Part 147 aviation maintenance technician school in the state. It also teaches a Cessna approved composite course, so ENMU-R is an aviation focus school.

  • All the courses are taken via the Internet so all the class work is done at home.

  • The entire degree program not including books will cost you $478.80. That is not a misprint. For under $500 plus books you can earn a degree in less than a year.

  • I went to Roswell on my own time and my own dime to check the campus out myself because I would never recommend anything to another mechanic if I did not validate it first.

  • If you have completed other college-level courses at other colleges or in the military and did not get a degree you may only have to take two or three courses instead of four depending on the weight of your transcripts.

  • ENMU-R is a nationally accredited university and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. Its credits and degrees are accepted and recognized everywhere.

Now, let's discuss the algebra course. If you are anything like me I hated high school algebra. I only found out later in life that half of my problem with algebra was the fact that we mechanics are visually based people. We must "see" a problem before we can understand it and fix it. Unfortunately, I never could "see a negative number," much less work with them. The other half of the problem with algebra was a severe lack of concentration on my part due to the raging hormones of my teenage years. I bet some of you had similar problems back in high school too.

However, if you been out of school as many years as it takes to earn an A&P, started a career and a family, and notice your hair around the edges turning gray, it is a given that your hormones are under control, or at least they are so heavily mortgaged that they are no longer a factor. So now you are able to focus on your career goals.

I know that this can be done because as of December 2004, 46 A&P mechanics have earned their associate's degree in applied science degree in aviation maintenance technology. The latest stats from the university list A&P students as making up 49 percent of ENMU-R online classes. Another 26 mechanics are already enrolled in the fall semester classes. By the end of 2005, approximately 75 mechanics will have earned their degree.

Here is another interesting fact: Fifty-seven percent of the A&Ps in this degree program have a 3.0 grade point average or better. This is way above the national grade point average, if you don't believe me, ask your college-age kids.

A couple requirements

A couple of things you have to know about. After you apply for the degree program and your paperwork is reviewed, you may have to take a test. The name of the test is the ACCUPLACER Basic Skills Test. The test will determine where you stand in English, math, and reading. If it's been awhile since you cracked a book and you bomb the test, all you have to do is to take a remedial one-credit class or two at the same $39.90-per-credit-hour tuition to bring you up to the university's required level of skill.

I checked with Ralph Barger, head of aviation studies at ENMU-R on how tough this ACCUPLACER test was. He said the test is not a problem if the mechanics read and follow the instructions. That sounded familiar.

On the other hand, the ACCUPLACER skills test may not be required if your college transcripts reflect a passing grade in basic skills areas, or if you have 30 college credit hours, which includes college level English and math, or if you have ACT scores within the last five years of 19 or better, in English, math, or reading.

The ACCUPLACER test can be taken online, free of charge, at ENMU-R or the test can be proctored at your local college, high school, or library. If the test is proctored a fee may be charged. To get more information call ENMU-R Testing Services at 1-800-243-6687, Ext. 227/183 for your individual evaluation.

ENMU-R has another important requirement. You have to show professional development in the field of aviation. This means, as a mechanic, you must show that you are constantly updating your skills and knowledge in your profession. ENMU-R will accept its own course in composite training or, if you obtained or renewed an IA, DME, DMIR, or earned a FAA Aviation Maintenance Technician Award of six hours of recurrent training or higher in the last calendar year that will serve as proof of professional development.

One more piece of good news. It is not uncommon to earn your two-year degree in less than a year. I know this can be done, because on my travels, I have talked to about 12 mechanics at my seminars that are presently in the program and they all figured it would take a year or less to finish. Not surprisingly, to a man they are pleased with the school. But since I am a mechanic and therefore a resident cynic, I asked if the courses they took were dumb-down courses, and they said "definitely not!" Each said they had to study hard to meet course work deadlines or risk a failing grade. If you are interested in this two-year program, please pull up ENMU-R web site: www.roswell.enmu.edu for additional information.

Four-year degree program:

Currently, for A&P mechanics with an associate's degree there is a four-year on-line degree being offered. The degree is a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) with a major in aviation maintenance. If you have an associate's degree and you're an A&P, then 58 credits are applied toward the BAAS 126-credit-hour degree. So you have to knock down about 80 credits to earn a four-year degree. This is not as bad as it sounds.

The BAAS degree is broken down into three areas of studies. The first is called general education and it has 50 credits. It includes courses such as English, wellness, science, social sciences, etc.

The second area of study is called primary concentration which contains 58 credits. This one you can forget because you have already earned your A&P.

The third area of required study is called secondary concentration which includes such areas of studies as management, human resources, professional writing, and history. If you plug right along, in three years, you should be able to earn your degree. If you presently have your associate's degree the total cost for this four-year online degree, not including books is approximately $4,500.

You cannot get a good used car for that price and this degree can stand toe to toe with degrees costing $30,000 or more. If you are interested, please contact: Dr. Thurman Elder, Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His web address is: Thurman.elder@enmu.edu.

I would like to offer my personal thanks to the ENMU-R provost and university president for their strong commitment to aviation mechanics and their support of these online courses for these college degree programs for mechanics. I am personally pleased that so many mechanics have taken the bull by the horns and are forging new career possibilities.

A new approach to aviation training

Now, because of the interest shown by the aviation maintenance community in online courses, I would like to offer ENMU a new approach to training A&P mechanics. Question, can ENMU create a new four-year BAAS degree program that will be strongly, aviation focused yet still be within the university's area of accepted studies?

Let me give you an example of where I am going with this. A course on history is common fare for all liberal arts degrees and it's included in ENMU's currently offered BAAS degree. Instead of learning about the Punic Wars of ancient Rome, or life in colonial America, what about learning the history of commercial aviation starting with the Air Commerce Act of 1926? A&P mechanics would enjoy learning more how Pan Am got started than who invented the cotton gin.

Another thought! How about instead of a generic course on wellness, we substitute it with a course on the effect on our bodies of all the commercial chemicals and cleaners we mechanics use every day? Here is another idea. Perhaps a HAZMAT course could be substituted for a biology course.

I am working with Ralph Barger, head of aviation studies at ENMU-R on this idea and he suggested that mechanics show their support for a four-year aviation focused Internet degree by completing a survey. I agreed and the survey is already on the ENMU-R web site at www.roswell.enmu.edu. All you have to do is answer three questions. If you want to make additional comments similar to what I described above for additional courses or subjects, you are welcome to do so.

We mechanics need to impress the ENMU president and show that there are enough individuals in the aviation maintenance community that would be interested in an aviation focused four-year online degree program to justify an investment in course development. To make that happen, we need at least 1,000 to 1,500 honest responses to the survey. This folks, is not just another mindless survey: This is our one and only chance to make a change that would benefit our profession for years to come!

All I am asking you to do is spend just five minutes to tell ENMU folks how they can satisfy our educational needs. They are willing to listen. That web site was up and running within three days. Trust me when I tell you, that this kind of opportunity is a rare thing. If we do not respond, we lose the game. The ball is in your court. Do not let me down. AMT

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