Characteristics, Similarities, and Differences Among Four-Year Cooperative Engineering Programs in the United States


Four-year cooperative engineering programs are becoming more common in the United States. Cooperative engineering programs typically involve a “parent” institution with an established engineering program and one or more “satellite” institutions which typically have few or no engineering programs and are located in an area where there are few, if any, other local opportunities for students to study engineering. In spite of an extensive literature search, the investigators were not able to find much information on these types of programs. Thus, in an effort to learn more about the characteristics of such cooperative programs, Program Directors from universities involved in four-year cooperative engineering programs were asked about the nature of their programs. The purpose of the research project was to learn about the different approaches used in developing and administering cooperative engineering programs, and to understand the strength and weaknesses of the different approaches. A web-based survey, consisting of 26 open-ended questions, was sent to Program Directors from eleven universities; seven responded to all or a portion the survey questions. The survey requested information on majors offered, enrollment, ABET accreditation, age and geographic distribution of students, administrative policies, tuition practices, and other such characteristics of each program. The findings show that most of these cooperative programs have been in existence less than ten years. All are ABET accredited or plan to seek ABET accreditation. Most of the programs offer majors only in Civil, Electrical, and/or Mechanical Engineering. Administrative structures and procedures were similar among all the programs with only minor differences. Although four-year cooperative engineering programs are a relatively new phenomena in engineering education, the number of such programs appears to be increasing. The investigators expected to find that the majority of students in these programs were non-traditional, part-time students, who were geographically bound to the area served by the cooperative engineering program. However, the survey results revealed that the majority of students in these programs are full- time, traditional students, who live within 100 miles of the institution housing the program. The students apparently choose these programs to avoid the costs of room and board at the program’s parent campus. The findings of this survey are believed to be the first such survey done on four-year cooperative engineering programs in the U.S. The results of this research may be helpful to universities planning to start a cooperative engineering program.


Sociology and Anthropology
MSU Libraries

Document Type





collaborative engineering programs, joint engineering programs, cooperative engineering programs

Publication Date


Journal Title

American Journal of Engineering Education