Colorado School of Mines, an Edmit Hidden Gem, offers quality STEM education, high starting salaries, and manageable student loan debt.
“Mines graduates are known for the quality of education we received,” says Colorado School of Mines alum Linda Mohammad. “I’ve worked in four states and the reputation that comes along as a Mines graduate is often the conversation starter.”
Colorado School of Mines, situated just outside Denver in Golden, Colorado, focuses exclusively on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree programs. Because of its collaborative community, low student loan debt, and high earning potential for its alumni, Colorado School of Mines is an Edmit Hidden Gem college.
All degree programs at Mines focus on STEM, with an emphasis on applied science and engineering in the areas of earth, energy, and the environment. And while many STEM-oriented institutions may have reputations as overly competitive or even cutthroat, Mines takes the opposite approach.
“The community is collaborative,” says Kim Medina, director of admissions. “Beginning with their first term here, students start working in a design course that helps them to learn how to work in teams, how to solve problems in teams, [which is] directly related to what industry is letting us know they want our graduates to have.”
Mohammad, an international student, received both her bachelor’s (2007) and master’s (2009) degrees in petroleum engineering from Mines. “I chose Mines for its reputation ... and my desire to be a big fish in a small bowl,” she says.
In addition to team-based study in class, Medina notes Mines’ field session requirement as a unique opportunity for real-world collaboration. “It gives students their first hands-on experience in many cases,” she says. “Some you’re literally in the field camping, like geophysical science. Others like computer science, you’re working with an industry partner, but you’re not necessarily physically out in the field.” Field session requirements, types, and duration will differ by major, but typically take place in the summer between freshman and sophomore year, or sophomore and junior year, according to Medina.
In addition to the field session, 80 percent of Mines students complete at least one internship before they graduate.
When it comes to student loans, “we encourage you to only borrow what you need for your expenses, do not go above and beyond,” says Medina. “We are very focused on responsible borrowing for those that need to.”
At Colorado School of Mines, the average net price for the 2016-17 year is $24,929. Note, however, that 85 percent of students receive some financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans.
According to Medina, all accepted students are automatically eligible for merit aid based on unweighted grade point average and the highest composite ACT or SAT test score. Additionally, because Mines is a state institution, there are different tuition brackets for in-state versus out-of-state students; all criteria are available on the Mines financial aid website. Regardless of circumstances, Medina encourages families to fill out the FAFSA to determine award eligibility.
“Our average student federal student loan debt is $23,000, and our average debt for all loans, including private, is $32,900,” Medina adds. “But what I think is significant is our default rate is 0.8 percent. So when families say they don’t want to borrow, we point to our outcomes, the average starting salary for all our majors, and then you can look at specific majors. We talk about the high offer and the low offer, because a lot of things can get lost in translation with that average, but our students, when they get out, can afford to repay that loan.”
For the 2016-17 academic year, the average starting salary for Mines graduates was $67,229. That starting salary, Medina notes, results from the curriculum, collaboration with industry, and efforts from Mines’ Career Services staff.
“We have a career fair twice a year: once in September and once in February, and it’s a big deal on campus,” says Medina. “In fact, many of our classes are let go during the career fair, so students can go. About 250 employers come on campus...our career fair is as widely known as a big sporting event, everybody gears up.”
Gearing up includes prep work for both students and employers, and students at any point in college are encouraged to attend. “There’s a big [career fair] guide to understand which employers are looking for what [skills],” says Medina. “So if you’re a freshman geophysical major you can understand, OK, this company is looking for internships, I’m going to go interview with them, or I’m going to drop my resume off and show that I’m prepared or that I’m interested.”
“It’s not just enough to have a career center, you’ve got to prepare the students to be employable, and we do both,” Medina says. “So the career center sets them up to have an audience, but the institution sets them up have the academic rigor, the field session, the internships, to build a nice resume to have strong employment outcomes.”
For ongoing career development, Mohammad reinforces the Mines community. “The array of the alumni-based networks are very broad,” she says. “I’m still in close contact with my research advisor and a number of faculty and administrators, as well as former classmates in the petroleum engineering department from my years at Mines.”
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