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Anaheim College Likes Smaller Size, Local Focus

Parviz Shams doesn’t plan to expand the Southern California Institute of Technology—at least not directly.

“Stanford has one campus, CalTech has one campus, In-N-Out has a better burger than McDonald’s,” Shams said in support of his smaller-is-better approach.

He said the school, which is housed in a 39,700-square-foot-building off the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway and Euclid Avenue in Anaheim, doesn’t have admissions counselors: New enrolees find it when current students or graduates refer them.

“Our success brings in the right candidates for what we do,” he said.

Students

The school—also known as SCIT or SciTech—has graduated some 11,000 students in 28 years. Last year, 764 enrolled, about what the school has maintained for several years. More than 90% were male, nearly half Latino, and 12% of them attending on the GI Bill.

Tuition averages $14,000 a year, depending on the program.

Some students complete as many as 100 design and repair projects over the course of a four-year program—tasks Shams said would be impossible to teach and test on if SciTech had several thousand students.

School hallways are lined with inspirational photographs and quotations to exhort students to achieve.

“We run the school like those of 50 years ago,” Shams said, citing its rigorous programs. “We make [students’] lives miserable, with hard exams and no mercy.”

Shams founded SciTech in 1987 and co-owns it with three partners under a company called Southern California Education Corp. He is cheif executive and trained as an engineer before establishing the school.

Jobs

The school offers four, seven-month diplomas to train as general electricians, for accounting-industry jobs, and in information or biomedical technology; an associate’s degree in industrial engineering; and six bachelor’s degrees, including three in different types of applied engineering.

“We have the only biomedical technology diploma program in Orange County,” Shams said.

Programs are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges in Arlington, Va.

Shams said programs are geared to finding students jobs and that about 70% of graduates are employed in their fields within several months of graduation.

“All students get hands-on, technical training,” he said.

The school said local employers that have hired its graduates include Renovo Solutions in Santa Ana and Pacific Medical LLC in San Juan Capistrano, both of which repair and refurbish medical equipment, in addition to electrical, electronic, and solar energy companies.

Tenure

Teachers have “field experience,” Shams said, “and have worked with the equipment they’re teaching about.”

The school has about 65 employees, some with an average tenure of 10 years.

SciTech has moved a couple times in its history. It took its current digs—formerly the site of an ITT Technical Institute campus—in 2013. A company affiliated with Shams called Arisam LLC bought the building in March 2012 for $6.5 million, CoStar Group Inc. records show.

Labs

The school was most recently in downtown Anaheim in an office building at Harbor Boulevard and Broadway.

“We wanted more of a campus atmosphere,” Associate Dean of Education Saravana Kumar Raman said of the move, which also allowed SciTech to continue expanding its labs.

The school has 14 labs—including ones devoted to solar technology and robotics—and a dozen computer rooms.

Shams said that when SCIT began building the labs, “our first robot was a $60 plastic [model] from Radio Shack.”

Now it has 3-D printers that can make spare parts for robots, he said, and its latest robotics equipment includes new faculty-designed software.

SciTech has spent “several million dollars” building the labs, not counting the value of donated equipment—much of it coming from the companies that hire the school’s graduates, Shams said.

Students have studied how to get automobile tires to safely conduct electricity so that electric cars can be recharged while in use. They also worked on a project to use sensors to detect varying distances, to prevent car dings when parking.

Other efforts include a “Terminator” robot built by students that responds verbally and physically to stimuli, and other units students have also programmed and/or built robots that can mix drinks like a bartender or flip hamburgers.

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