Skip to comments.How to Choose a College: A Primer (The official rankings don't provide an accurate guide)
Posted on 02/23/2013 11:53:33 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Weve heard a lot about the higher education bubble recently, and for good reason: the higher education establishment is on a path of gaseous unsustainability. College fees have been rising at a rate far above the cost-of-living for decades — currently, all-in fees at many elite institutions top $60,000. Think about that the next time you look at your paycheck and contemplate paying for little Johnnys tuition a few years hence.
But the bubble is not only fiscal. It is also intellectual, social, and moral.
As rich and prestigious and powerful as American universities are, they have, in aggregate, lost their way. The ultimate reasons for this are deep and touch on the uncertain direction of American culture generally, but the symptoms of confusion are there for all to see. The proliferation of non-subjects like womens studies, gay studies, post-colonial studies, and the like, and the infiltration of traditional courses by the toxic ethic of multiculturalism have turned large precincts of higher education into an antinomian carnival whose end is not education, but some species of political activism or psychopathology.
Just yesterday I was chatting with a young man who told me that at his university you could take a course in “Shakespeare and Postcolonialism,” “Shakespeare and Feminism,” and “Shakespeare and Marxism,” but since an old professor had retired, no course in just Shakespeare. I discuss some of these issues in my book Tenured Radicals, which was first published in 1990 but which I updated in 1998 and 2008. Before that last revision, I had thought about writing a book called Retaking the University, even going so far as to write an essay on the subject for The New Criterion. The more closely I looked into the realities of higher education, however, the more convinced I became that there would be no retaking of the institution.
Higher education (and indeed, K-12 education) was teetering on the brink of collapse, but what was going to bring about change was not concerned parents or trustees or alumni, but a revolution outside of education whose effects would transform many things, including the institutional arrangements by which we tend to societys brighter 18- to 22-year-olds.
That said, parents and high school students who are trying to answer the question Whats next? are in need of guidance. For many, I suspect, the answer they give is something other than a traditional BA. But for those who have their hearts set on the ivy-embowered halls, good guidance is hard to come by. The official ranking of a college doesnt provide an accurate guide: Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, to take just one example, is said to be a top-tier liberal arts institution, but anyone who has looked at its performance for the last decade or so knows that it is a pathetic swamp of politically correct, anti-traditionalist animus. So whats a student to do?
One of the most sensible brief reflections on this subject comes from my friend Stephen Blackwood, president of the gestating Ralston College in Savannah, GA, which when it opens in a year or two will offer a classical curriculum to a small number of students more serious about education than they are about the credential racket or partying. Stephen has a thoughtful essay at the website of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy on the question of How to Choose a College.
Two choice tidbits: one sociological, or at least social; the other intellectual. [O]n a tour for prospective students at an Ivy League university near New York, he writes:
I was shown a Glee-inspired music video that featured residence rooms and social life but made no mention of classes or academics. It might as well have been describing a cruise vacation. Similarly, some colleges offer pet-friendly dormitories or apartment-style accommodation.
If you find such marketing campaigns attractive, you might ask yourself what youre looking for, because it certainly isnt an education.
Indeed. Then there is the matter of what is taught. Here Stephen offers a bit of advice that goes to the very heart of liberal arts education:
Avoid colleges whose courses dont have students engage with original sources. Would you be reading Plato, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen, or merely reading what other people have said about them? You want to encounter the books and ideas that change lives directly, not through a pre-packaged conclusion.
A focus on primary sources is not a perfect prophylactic against the viruses of multiculturalism and political correctness. But if the sources are thoughtfully chosen — Shakespeare, not Maya Angelou; Aristotle, not Jacques Derrida — then at least you are dealing with the building blocks of genuine education.
As I say, I am not sure that the institution of higher education in its current incarnation can be retaken or reformed. But it can be revolutionized, and one way that might happen is by the proliferation of genuine alternatives to the status quo. Stephen Blackwoods Ralston College offers one such alternative. Check it out. I for one hope it thrives.
How to Choose a College: Pick the one that has the least amount of terrorists teaching, which is pretty difficult nowadays.
from days gone by: “A great majority of our college students are not in school because they want to be or because they want to learn. They are there because it has become the thing to do or because college is a pleasant place to be; because its the only way they can get parents or taxpayers to support them without getting a job they dont like; because Mother wanted them to go, or some other reason entirely irrelevant to the course of studies for which college is supposedly organized.”
Choosing a school drove us nuts. She applied to Princeton, my alma mater, just for grins, but she didn't want to go there and I didn't want her to go there either. It has changed a lot since I graduated, and not for the better.
We wanted a small school, in the South, good reputation academically (that still matters), not too politically correct, and with a good network of alumni (that's one thing that can really help you after graduation).
Her first 2 choices were Davidson and Washington & Lee. Got in both, decided on Davidson (I probably would have chosen W&L, but I'm not my daughter.) Turned out to be a great decision for her. Sure the place is infested with liberals, mostly in the administration, but the professors were great. They knew their stuff, they taught well, and they were very respectful of conservative views. My daughter is a devout Catholic and conservative with libertarian leanings, and she said not only did her professors give her a fair hearing and didn't ding her for conservative answers, they praised her for stating her beliefs (even the former priest who was teaching a Comparative Religions course). And you've got to love a Herpetology professor who brings live snakes to class in a bag and turns them loose on the floor of the classroom.
She was a Biology major with a minor in Religion. After an Animal Husbandry internship in Atlanta she moved back to the Charlotte area and got a job in her field. She's thrilled (and so am I - she's self-supporting!)
The first thing I would look for is a college with the smallest number of taxpayer funded students to slog through. I think you would find that it directly relates to how many useless classes in Native American lesbian studies you’ll find.
Maybe. But ...
1) ... If it is it's probably typical of any established, expensive East Coast college, and ...
2) ... Roger Kimball knows one high profile story about the college and generalizes on that basis, which may or may not be fair and accurate ...
Well, a philosopher who has starved to death doesn’t do anybody any good. You have to be able to earn a living so you can eat and live indoors. That requires training. You can train to be a policeman or a Doctor. You can even train to be a piano player. There’s an old saying that a good piano player will never starve, and that’s probably true. You have to be trained to make a living before you can worry about “an education”. A good Liberal Arts education (and I mean a good one) is extremely valuable and important. The problem is that our universities do such a horrible job of teaching.
“Read this play by Shakespeare.”
“Because I had to.”
That’s a sure-fired way to excite a student. Shakespeare is extremely hard to read and understand. But, it’s worth the effort. Romeo And Juliet show you that you are not the first young person to fall in love. Henry V shows us that we all, including kings, have self doubt at times. When Anthony keeps telling the crowd that Brutus is an honorable man, we see the power of words and that wisdom is indeed important. Shakespeare is a sumptuous feast that is all too often taught like it’s an extra value meal.
I studied the martial arts for many years. What I finally discovered (after trying several of them) is that the style of martial art you study isn’t important. What is important is the teacher. Schools don’t matter. What matters is the teachers. And no, this isn’t a commercial for higher teacher wages.
I find a few problems with this list of schools.
First of all they are all very locally known...a good many would not be recognized by potential employees and that believe it or not is important.
Second, they are extremely expensive...most private (religious) and small colleges cost a fortune.
However, if you are looking at colleges to go to for rich children who want to “save the world” that list is perfect.
A couple weeks ago, I read where a young gal was brought before the Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline as a law student because of erratic behavior and test responses during the Ohio bar exam. She attended Dayton Law School. The facts indicated she had about $223,000 in school loan debt!! How in the hell can this happen? What a fool!
If you are certain about what you want to do—specifically, then find the best place to do it.
If you have no clue, or just a general idea, go local and cheap. Then transfer when you figured it out.
RE: First of all they are all very locally known...a good many would not be recognized by potential employees and that believe it or not is important.
I can’t speak for all the other colleges on the YAF list. However, I can attest for Grove City College as I know many conservative Christian parents who have sent their children there.
In 2012, 96% of their graduates found jobs related to their field of work within 4 months of graduation!! With satisfactory starting salaries to boot.
This in an economy that sucks bad like the one we have right now, where REAL unemployment rate is double digits.
And get this, Grove City College is a school that REFUSES to take ANY federal money. They have their own scholarship and financial aid program for their students in need.
And here’s the beauty of it — Their tuition plus board and lodging is a mere $22,000. Every student gets a HP laptop in their freshman year which is theirs to keep after graduation.
And out of over 1270 colleges surveyed nationwide by PAYSCALE, they rank number 247 in ROI ( return on investment ).
Clearly they are doing something right.
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