The biggest hindrance to young professionals is the debt they accumulated during college. While EE's start out making an average of $70,000 upon graduation, that amount begins to seem much less tantalizing when student loans usurp a hefty chunk of every paycheck.

For instance, if you enroll at MIT, expect to pay roughly $44,000 per year. Multiply that by four years and--assuming you're unable to score any grants or scholarships--you'll graduate into a whopping $176,000 of debt before you've even earned your first paycheck.  The best part? That's not including room and board: add another $64,000 for books, room, and meals on top of your tuition fees.  According to the New York Times Student Loan Calculator, that means graduating students should be earning a minimum of $125,881 per year if they expect to commit 20% of their annual income to paying back the loans.

Oh, and for that $176,000 loan over 10 years? It will cost you $216,753 with a 4.29% interest.

There is another alternative: choose a good school that doesn't cost as much. Some of our suggestions require you to be an in-state resident, but if that's the case, move in-state and spend a year working and saving up for school while establishing residency.  The pay-off? A lifetime of not paying off debt.

1. Purdue

Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue was ranked #9 in US News' list of top engineering programs and costs approximately $10,000 for in-state tuition. It was also ranked 2nd in the nation in preparing its students for the work force in a Wall Street Journal survey of corporate recruiters released in September 2010. The school also boasts a 90% placement rate for its students within six months of graduation. Their main engineering building, The Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, has more than 60,000 square feet of undergraduate teaching facilities, including discipline-specific design labs.

Especially compelling is their Women in Engineering Program, which provides information and support for women entering the engineering profession. Purdue's admissions standards are strict, with a 59.2% acceptance rate, but it's a solid choice for an undergrad degree.

 

2.  University of Texas- Austin

Austin is known primarily for its amazing music scene, but the engineering program at the University of Texas is ranked #10 by US News, and its in-state tuition is roughly $9,800 per year. The average starting salary from the Cockrell School of Engineering is $72,348, and undergraduates received more than 1,300 scholarships: score one of those, and you could have a completely debt-free degree. The Cockrell School also awards the highest percentage of undergraduate degrees to underrepresented minorities (Hispanics, African Americans/Blacks and American Indians) among the top-ranked programs at public schools of engineering.

The Engineering Education and Research Center is set to open in 2017 and will provide more than 430,000 square feet of open and flexible space for interactive learning and hands-on student projects. Add that to the fact that companies like Freescale and 3M are nearby, and your chances for both amazing internships and great job options are stellar. 

 

3. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

US News ranks the University of Michigan #7 in its list of top engineering undergraduate schools and its undergraduate electrical engineering program is ranked #5. Add to it costing just around $7,200 for lower division courses, and this is a sure bet (as long as you can stand Michigan winters). It also boasts the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility, one of the most comprehensive and advanced academic facilities in the U.S. for research in MEMS, Solid-State Devices, and Nanotechnology.

 

There are over 400 EE and CE declared majors, and over 100 courses are offered per year, so even if your field of study is obscure, chances are you'll find a resource within the department.

 

4. University of Wisconsin- Madison

Tuition here is about $10,000 per year for residents. The electrical engineering department is research-focused and has over 50 engineering-affiliated student organizations and clubs. US News ranks their EE program #13 in the nation, but it also has a high acceptance rate, so even if you had a bad semester in high school, it won't kill your chances of getting into a good school.  

The EE department here is large: over 600 students. This makes for a great social experience and also a better chance of collaborating on innovative research projects. Plus, Madison is one of the most underrated cities in the States. It would be a great place to hang out for a year while establishing Wisconsin residency.

 

5. California Polytechnic State University

University of California schools are notoriously expensive: CalPoly is a fantastic alternative that offers a tremendous amount of bang for the buck-- about $8,500 for tuition and was ranked #4 by US News. The campus, in San Luis Obispo (locals call it "SLO"), is one of the largest in the nation and arguably one of the most beautiful. The curriculum is laboratory intensive and consists of a mix of theoretical and practical courses.

The College of Engineering is the largest of Cal Poly's six colleges, with 5,646 students (5,288 undergraduate and 358 graduate students). That makes for a large variety of courses, but even with that many students, teachers still try to be on a first-name basis with their students.

 

So there you have it, five schools around the US that cost around $10k per year. Even if you eat your bodyweight in Chipotle every day, you'll still come out financially ahead of students who opted for the $40,000/year option. Your future self will thank you.

 

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