Back around when things were turning bad for the Nixon administration I went back to college for the 3rd time.  Having previously attended two fall quarters at community college on extended lunch and coffee break from my job shaggin’ parts for a Mercury dealer and aquiring a whole handful of credits in the process, my prospects weren’t good.  Heck, I even flunked fresman english, which explains these amateur attempts at writing. So being unemployed in the winter of ’73 I headed back to the local community college and further destroyed my academic career, letting a counelor talk me out of an Engineering major. But I stuck with it, being rewarded 9 years later with a liberal arts BA. By then I’d graduated from a vo-tech truck driver training program too, and was shaggin’ junk food by the semiload for union scale. And with the Reagan administration killing off any job prospects in the liberal arts fields I’d been awarded a bachelors degree in, I ended up spending the rest of my working life in jobs that didn’t even require a high school diploma!

So here I am, about to turn 65, bored, and with a taste for revenge. And I have the good fortune of being a resident and taxpayer in one of those notorious “high tax” states that “wastes” our tax dollars on non essential liberal wackiness like education. And our “librel” lawmakers, in yet another episode of fiscal sanity, decreed a few years back that any of us horde of 60 and older bums could attend our massive network of state collesges and universities for darn near free, though if we want credits and degrees we have to pay full price. What were they thinking?

Thus I found myself in search of free training in the black arts of welding, machining, and other fabbing skills. I was disappointed in the meager offerings…. Thanks to neighboring South Dakota’s supposedly fiscally conservative politicians willingless to train welders and machinists and such who flee South Dakota’s low wages for Minnesota before the ink on their diplomas dries, Minnesota has wisely outsourced that function to the poverty state to the west. I kid you not- a major South Dakota trailer maker used state funds to train nearly 300 new welders and such, and a year later only one of them was still there!

So I searched the course catalogs for online Engineering courses, and pretty much figured out that the old profs who run engineering departments at our institutions of higher education are not about to let old ladies in the boonies log in and take engineering courses, never mind let them earn a degree. These are the very same engineering profs who look down their noses at us “folk engineers” and our attempts to fix their mistakes. The worst of this cult are the ones with P.E. after their names, because in many cases if they hadn’t figured out one way or another to slide through the Professional Engineer’s exam, nobody would believe they were engineers. So I returned to my usual funk of keeping the Airheads sorta running and fixing whatever else breaks to the best of my questionable ability.

So here I am about to turn 65, with that crisis motivating me to try to at least plan the rest of my life better than I’ve misspent the bulk of it so far. So I google “online engineering education Minnesota”…. And what should pop up besides the suck up all your student loan diploma mills but an Applied Engineering BS program delivered by a consortium of a handful of our Minnesota technical colleges and a state university! That’s just the beginning of the geek goodness flowering in the backyard of Paul Bunyan and that upstaging ox Babe, they’ve got an “Iron Range Engineering” online BS program too!

It looks like the populists practitioneers of the black arts of fabricating and mining of far flung and thinly populated northern and western Minnesota have won out over the old profs and got themsleves an online engineering degree source. Which given that this part of the state is littered with small manufacturers to say nothing of mining, makes immense sense… Well, certainly a lot more sense than expecting a tech at Polaris or Arctic Cat up near the canadian border to make the 100 mile drive to Bemidgi State after work. Or worse yet, the 200 mile drive to University of Minnesota-Duluth!

So while I haven’t yet officially signed up and paid the piddy fees, I’m damn tempted. Just being an engineering student would be a blast, I’m drooling over courses in 3D design and computer simulation. And heck, if someone wants to hire me, I might even pay the tuition and get the credits and degree…

Am I crazy? Or crazy like a fox? Comments welcome…

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