Unofficial Advising Information
about taking more than 60 hours at TCC

from Dr. James Carr
Office: SM 290
Phone: 201-8971

Office hours   can be found here   along with E-mail addresses
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Last updated: 17 July 2006

Please click here and read some important suggestions and warnings.

I want to emphasize that this page contains
opinions that might not apply to your specific situation.

These comments are here to get you to think carefully before you
do something that many students I talk to think is a really bad idea.
Most TCC grads currently in engineering school say this advice is good advice.

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I teach PHY2048 and PHY2049 to students who are mostly planning to be engineers, with some considering other physical sciences, computer science, or engineering-related technical programs. I often see students make what I believe to be a serious mistake, graduating with the AA simply because they have reached the 60 hour mark without regard to whether they have completed enough math and physics (and, if relevant, computer programming or organic chemistry) at TCC to be prepared to take "junior" courses in their major.

The educational philosophy I use here is simple:
The purpose of a community college is to prepare you to enter a university as a junior. Your focus should be on being prepared to graduate from a "four year" university within 2 to 2.5 years after you transfer, not on how long it takes you to reach that level of preparation at TCC. Most of our students need 3 years (and 70 to 80 semester hours) to reach the point where they can graduate from an engineering school in another 2.5 years (and 70 semester hours). The general advising at TCC, targeted at liberal arts majors, does not tell you this. Most TCC students plan to enter majors with modest (and sometimes no) prerequisite course requirements, so our advising for the "general transfer" AA degree emphasizes general education courses plus a few electives to cover those extra requirements. (If you don't believe me, compare entrance requirements for Sociology or History to those for Chemical Engineering.) Those students can leave with 60 credits and be ready to go directly into their junior-year classes. The situation is very different for students who want to be engineers. (It is also different for education majors, particularly science or math ed majors, and business majors.)

In my opinion, there are very few situations where it makes sense to leave TCC without having completed all of the basic chemistry, calculus, and physics classes required for an engineering major. Even those cases can be taken care of by "dual enrollment" during your last semester or taking classes as a "transient student", options you might not know about. My views on this subject were heavily influenced by what students have told me about how they organized their educational plans, and their experiences after transfer to FSU and elsewhere. (They were also influenced by former colleagues at FSU who shared their view, as members of the math department who only taught juniors, seniors, and grad students, of the quality of freshman calculus teaching in their department.) Many former TCC students at FSU find that they are better prepared than the students who took math and physics at FSU or FAMU. I'll be happy to explain to you why I think this is the case.

Just to be perfectly clear, my motives have nothing at all to do with pushing enrollment in physics at TCC. Our classes are packed. My biggest concern is with where you take your math classes, and where you take organic chemistry if you need that for your major. If you also take a pretty good physics class, here or at FSU, that is a side benefit. My other major concern is to be sure you know that engineers must learn this material, not just pass classes. This "minor" detail is not emphasized at FSU, and may be the main reason my graduates have been so successful. They learned physics rather than just passing it.

But won't I have a problem with financial aid?

You certainly could.
You should definitely check how this decision will affect your financial aid.
However, you should also check how it might affect your financial aid after you leave TCC.

If you are going to be an engineer, you will end up having to exceed 60 hours at the junior and senior level after you transfer with an AA. If you finish all of your physics, chemistry, and calculus at TCC, you will need about 70 to 75 hours more to get your engineering degree. If you finish only the minimum to enter FSU with an AA degree, you could need 85 hours or more to finish up. If your financial aid does not cover those classes, you will find that they are a lot more expensive than classes at TCC -- and they are also harder, leaving less time to work to pay for them. (Of course, you might have a scholarship that will cover all of that, in which case you probably should take the money ... unless you need to take organic chemistry.)

In my comments about the next question, I point out the importance of having a plan for the next two years before deciding when to graduate. If you will need 80+ hours to graduate after you transfer with an AA, you need to find out how that will affect your financial plans before deciding to leave TCC. (If you think I am exaggerating, count up the number of credits remaining for a person starting mechanical engineering at FSU with only MAC2311, MAC2312, PHY2048, and CHM1045 completed. A typical engineering program requires 128 semester hours under the assumption that you start out in MAC2311 as a freshman.) It could be that those will be covered but excess hours here will not, in which case the smart move could be to leave ASAP. The important thing is for you to ask those questions before deciding to graduate.

You might also consider the teaching quality at TCC compared to where you will go, particularly for "first-year" classes like calculus and chemistry. I make a few observations about that in parenthetical comments above and down below. You won't save money if you have to repeat a class because you don't have a clue what language the instructor is speaking.

What about the new 4-years-and-out law?

That law was vetoed, primarily because of its unfair impact on community college students, but the issue will return because of the costs associated with students taking too long to graduate. When it does, I predict it will limit you to about 2.5 years after you transfer. If so, it will be even more important for pre-engineering students to take all of their math and physics before graduating from TCC. It will also be important for us to teach the Legislature about the difference between technical and non-technical degree programs and how their decision would negatively impact non-traditional students.

What about the new (Fall 2005) financial aid policies?

These should not impact you. With a few exceptions, which I am working to address, our AA-engineering major includes all of the courses you need to enter an engineering college and start taking junior-level engineering classes. It also includes some classes that will not count toward graduation for some engineering sub-specialties, but even those will prepare you to do really well in the course you will take later.

But won't I lose credits I earn after reaching 60 hours?

Yes, but what difference does it make?
Its not like they will give you credit for MAC1105 and ignore MAC2313.

If you can put together a program that allows you to graduate in your major by taking only 60 more hours after you leave TCC, and the classes you need are available starting next semester, then it makes sense to graduate now. If you do not have such a plan, you are making a very poorly informed decision.

One example: A typical engineering major requires at least 70 hours of classes after you complete PHY2049, calc III (MAC2313), and ODEs (MAP2302) with the required GPA to remain in that major. If you look at the program of study FSU or UF gives entering freshmen, you will see that they assume you will complete all of the physics and math classes offered at TCC by the middle of the 2nd year and take nothing but engineering classes after the 2nd year. You cannot finish by taking just 60 hours after leaving TCC even if you have completed all of your physics and math because there are still some "sophmore" engineering classes you have not taken. If you have not completed your physics and math, you may need to take almost 90 hours after leaving TCC to earn your engineering degree.

The credits you will "lose" will be the ones for low-level math classes (1105, trig, precalc) that they assume a properly prepared freshman does not need to take. That is, you will not "lose" anything of value but the cost can be high. In my opinion, and that of students who have sampled both, you will have to be very lucky or get very good advice to find any calc class at FSU that is taught as well as the ones at TCC. (Physics is taught very well at FSU, but some faculty do not speak english as well as I do. Chemistry is in between, provided you like big classes and get a recitation instructor who speaks good english or a dialect of russian or chinese you understand.)

The situation is not quite as bad for computer science, provided you can take the key course (object-oriented programming) the first semester after you transfer. Until you pass that course, there are very few classes you can take toward your major. Again, if you ask the right questions, you might be able to dual enroll during the fall and take OOP at FSU while wrapping up some courses at TCC. The important thing in computer science is to take the introductory programming classes in C, C++, and Java and to complete your calculus at TCC. Most computer science programs push some (or all) of physics into the junior year so you have time to take those key programming classes. I see no rush for CS majors to take physics at TCC. Learn to speak "objects".

All of the above assumes the people handling your transcript when you transfer make rational decisions. They should, but you might have to press the point with an advisor because they get more money if you take classes there instead of here. Your leverage is that any school wants students who are prepared to succeed, and TCC has a reputation for producing them.

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