The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most important cultural centers in the USA. This has led to the area going through many phases, but one of the deepest and most important was the transformation of the South Bay into Silicon Valley. Although this transformation is often partially credited to the existence of good academic institutions in the area, a further examination of the colleges and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area finds the region lacking in places offering good Computer Engineering programs. It is literally the case that there is not one single university in Silicon Valley offering degrees in Computer Engineering which stands as a viable option for the serious degree-seeker. This page endeavours to explain why.
The major area universities are listed, and their major pros and cons explained. Not all of these universities are strictly located in Silicon Valley; those which are not, are included because they're close enough, and important enough to the region, that they deserve mention as strong influences upon Silicon Valley.
Very prestigious name
On the West coast, you really can't get a more prestigious university than Stanford. It's one of the top universities in the country, and the only ones considered "greater" are in the East. Almost everybody seems to think Stanford is the best university California has to offer.
No Computer Engineering major
It may seem paradoxical, but Stanford has no Computer Engineering major. They have Computer Science, and they have Electrical Engineering, though.
They want to be a liberal arts school
The richest and most overinflated people in the world tend not to major in practical things like physics or engineering. Instead, they major in art, history, or similar liberal arts subjects. While there is nothing wrong with these subjects, the unfortunate effect is that at a high-society institution like Stanford, the focus tends to be on such things, while the lowly scientists and engineers are banished into a corner somewhere. Stanford has maintained good science programs for a long time, but they really want to be a liberal arts school, and so that's where their main focus is.
Basic tuition at Stanford is over $30,000 a year. This rate is actually fairly typical of private universities, but still, expensive is expensive.
It's not quite Stanford, but Berkeley is the second-most prestigious university in the San Francisco Bay Area.
No Computer Engineering major
Like far too many otherwise good universities, Berkeley doesn't offer CE.
The University of California (UC) has a strange divide in its location philosophy between Northern and Southern California. In SoCal, the UCs are all in well-known, civilized places: UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, etc. In Northern California, however, the UC has literally gone out of its way to plant all of its locations in the most isolated, backwards places possible. Berkeley is a perfect example: If the UC was going to build a university in the East Bay, they could have put it in Oakland. They could have put it in Fremont. They could have put it in Hayward. All great cities in their own special ways. What does the UC do? It plants its flagship campus in Berkeley, a town that's so far north of everything that it scarcely deserves to be considered part of the San Francisco Bay Area. It's definitely not in Silicon Valley (UC doesn't have *ANY* campus in Silicon Valley), and it doesn't even really deserve to be mentioned here, but it gets included just because it's so well-known and significant to the region. (Ditto UC Santa Cruz, below.)
Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science majors
SJSU has all the three major computer majors, so you won't suffer for lack of a major title.
SJSU is on a gorgeous campus right in downtown San Jose, the largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has bus connections, too, although you won't need them, since everything you need can be found right in downtown SJ.
As of 2005, tuition at SJSU, like other CSUs, is only about $3,000 a year. This is less than half of the going rate for a UC, making the CSUs by far the cheapest way to get a Bachelor's degree.
It's a CSU
The California State University (CSU) system (of which SJSU is a branch) tends to draw some amount of disdain, partly because it's the cheaper of the two public university systems in California, which seems to equate to less prestige in people's minds. Unfortunately, the problems with the CSU system go deeper than just public perception. Since the universities are less highly regarded, they tend to have trouble drawing better teachers, which obviously isn't a good thing. Worst of all, however, is how the university system structures its graduation requirements. Unlike the UCs and most major private universities in California, the CSUs require what they call "Advanced GE", where GE in this case is General Education. This is an extra four (yes, 4!) upper-division courses of general material covering extremely arty, touchy-feely concepts in categories like "Self, Society & Equality in the U.S." I don't intend to deride such courses, since they have their place in the fabric of society, but every other university of any significant caliber allows students to complete all general education requirements with lower-division classes at a junior college, then transfer the courses over so they can use the four-year university to focus on their major. While the CSUs do allow transfer of most GE requirements, everybody has to take an extra four upper-division GE classes to get a Bachelor's degree. The CSU also has apparently gotten tired of its reputation for churning out students who don't know how to write, so it came up with the imbecilic solution of a policy in which *every* student in *every* class, regardless off the course subject, must write a total of at least 10 pages over the course of the session. This is typical of the knee-jerk reaction of bureaucrats who don't know what they're doing: If people aren't performing to spec, rather than trying to work with them to increase their effectiveness, just force more work on them in the hopes it'll make them more effective. Far be it from me to look down on anyone because they're not respected and hoity-toity enough, but the last thing anyone wants is to attend a university that thinks it has something to prove, and which intends to make its students jump through more hoops so it can pretend to be "better". The additional effort wouldn't even be so bad if it could be related to someone's major, but requiring a person majoring in, say, engineering or biology to take extra classes in completely unrelated subjects actually reduces the quality of the student's education by distracting them from their core subject matter. In all fairness, SJSU is actually a pretty good university in most non-academic respects, and it could be a good place to get a Master's degree; however, the basic fact that it is a branch of the CSU system makes it useless for undergraduates. Until the CSU is willing to reform its policies to the point where it will actually let undergrad students take classes in their major, it remains a system to avoid.
Computer Engineering major
Somewhat surprisingly, UCSC offers a Computer Engineering program, and the content of the program is actually pretty good, too.
The city of Santa Cruz, and the UC housed in it, both have richly-deserved reputations as havens of maladjusted hippies with personal hygiene challenges and more interest in drugs and terrible music than learning anything. This is a profound shame, because the curriculum at UCSC is actually quite good. The university has taken major steps in recent years to expand its engineering program, including building large additions to the Jack Baskin School of Engineering and adding more classes in engineering, which in turn has drawn more students in that field. As of this writing, however, UCSC is still mainly a filthy pit of utterly pretentious artists whose idea of technology is iPods and cell phones. As is the case at Stanford, the engineering students have been cocooned into a small side section of the campus, and they are forced to seclude themselves there, away from the debauchery that is the rest of the university.
As is the case with Berkeley, Santa Cruz is in the most far-removed place the UC could find. Santa Cruz is in the middle of nowhere, on an isolated patch of flat land between a mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Santa Cruz was little more than a village before the university moved in; the university transformed SC into a college town, packed to overflowing with broke students who have trouble paying rent and drive rusting Volkswagen buses that are three times older than they are. There is absolutely no significant industry in Santa Cruz, which means there'll be nothing to do with your brand-new Computer Engineering degree when you graduate.
Computer Engineering major
SCU does CE.
SCU is in a quiet, yet well-connected part of Santa Clara, near a Caltrain station and right in the middle of one of the core cities of Silicon Valley. You literally couldn't find a better location in Silicon Valley no matter how hard you tried.
People outside the area might not know much about SCU, but most people in Silicon Valley know it as a pretty solid private university with a good curriculum.
Jesuit religious affiliation
If you're looking for a neutral university that doesn't have a religious affiliation, SCU ain't it. And it's not just any religious affiliation--SCU is a university of the Jesuits, among the most vicious murderers of Christians in the Dark Ages, and still aligned with the same views they had then (although they can't kill people as readily as they could back then, since it's now illegal to do so). Personally, I wouldn't give my money to them, and even if I got a full scholarship, I'd be wary about associating myself with such evil. Of course, you don't need to be a Jesuit to enroll in a Jesuit university, but the influence of an ideology-based organization tends to permeate any institution it's associated with (whether for better or for worse).
It's in Sunnyvale. You can't get much more Silicon Valley than that.
No more Computer Engineering major
Cogswell used to offer a Computer Engineering major, which was the one big reason why anyone might want to go there, but it seems to have dropped that major. Now there's no reason left to go there.
Cogswell is a decent school, but they lack significant name recognition. Yet they actually charge more for tuition than the UCs. While it's typical for private colleges to be more expensive, it's really hard to justify the expense of going to Cogswell when you can get a much more recognizable name on your resume for less money.
Computer Engineering major
SVU does CE.
No name recognition
SVU is a tiny university with no actual campus. Almost nobody has heard of it. Yet it charges tuition like a full-bore university. In all seriousness, they might provide a viable alternative for those who just want a degree from *any* university and don't care which one, but if that's what you really want, you might as well invent your own university and print a degree from it at a print shop for a few cents. Presto, quick graduation.
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