In the old days, a guy could learn to fix cars in his daddy’s driveway, get hired on somewhere to do it when he grew up, and make a decent living for the rest of his life.
It usually doesn’t work that way anymore.
These days, cars are computers with wheels. Some of them can sport 300 horsepower and get more than 20 mpg. Some run mostly on batteries. They’ve got oil monitoring systems and tire pressure gauges and on-the-go digital mileage readouts.
Fixing cars these days often requires the kind of smarts you learn in college. The kind where you’re an “automotive technician,” not a mechanic.
“They used to call us knuckle draggers,” said John Ventura, the lead diesel instructor and program director for transportation technology at the College of Southern Nevada. “Not anymore. I’ve got kids in my classes now with IQs you wouldn’t believe.”
And as the college’s automotive technology programs have grown and become more complicated, its leaders have figured out a way to help students pay their bills.
The college is seeking approval from the Board of Regents to establish an endowment to fund small scholarships for auto tech students. The money would be managed by the higher education system’s endowment pool.
Michael Spangler, dean of CSN’s school of Advanced and Applied Technology, said school officials have been collecting the donations for several years. Most came from local car dealers who have an interest in having a good pool of educated mechanics. Before Spangler’s arrival three years ago, some money was disbursed as small scholarships. In recent years it was allowed to accumulate, growing to a fund of more than $12,000, he said.
Spangler said that’s enough to earn several hundred dollars a year in interest.
“We have enough to put into the endowment fund and essentially live off the interest forever,” he said.
The scholarships would be small, he said, probably about a third of one full-time student’s tuition, fees and books for a semester. Full-time students pay a little more than $200 per class.
The scholarships would target top students seeking associate of applied sciences degrees with a major in automotive and at least a 3.0 grade-point average. Last fall, CSN had about 650 full- and part-time students in auto courses. Some opt for a certificate of achievement, which requires the same auto tech courses but not the same core courses, such as English, history and science, needed for a degree.
Ventura said employers generally prefer a degree over a certificate. He said students tend to be recent high school graduates or older people retraining for a new career. Working auto techs also take a few classes to keep up on the latest technology, he said.
Regents are scheduled to vote on the scholarship proposal next week.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@review
journal.com or 702-383-0307.