Are There Decent Colleges Left?

All the talk of degree worthlessness and the moral degradation of college has left me rather depressed. I cling to the seemingly old-fashioned belief that college is a place of intellectual growth, and what I hear makes me believe that my expectations reflect the exception, rather than the rule. As someone about to enter the college application process, I have a lot to think about.

First and foremost, I want a degree in something useful, satisfying, and fairly well-paying (though not necessari…

  1. Eric Hines

    Grinnell College, in Grinnell, IA.  It’s a hotbed of liberalism in farm-conservative Iowa, but when I graduated too many years ago, they engaged in, and valued, honest discourse.  And actual education: during the Viet Nam war protest years, Grinnell students set up their own protests and rallies on campus in the spring.  Until semester finals drew nigh–then they went back to studying, preferring their education and the opportunities that would create for them to have long-term effect to a life of just sit around bellyaching.

    It’s a private school, so it’s not cheap.  But aid, work studies (emphasis on those), and so on are readily available.  The College prided itself on, once having been accepted, no student having to drop out for lack of money.

    And the academic infrastructure also was outstanding: one of the best libraries in the business, the animal surgery in which I did my Psych undergrad work was as good as U of I’s, and the Physics Dept’s electron microscope was better.

    Most of the schools of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest are/were very good.  But Grinnell was the best.

    Eric Hines

  2. The Great Adventure!

    First thing to consider – what is your financial state?  Will you have to take out student loans?  If so, do not enroll until you’ve figured out definitively what degree/career path you wish to pursue.

    I understand not having a desire to abstain from attending college, but keep in mind that the student loan route is a trap.  Once you’ve taken out any, you will not have the option of taking a year off in the middle or at the end – you’ll have to begin paying the loans off 6 months after you’ve left school – degree in hand or not.

    Encouraging a young person to go to college when it will require them to take out student loans today is the equivalent of encouraging someone in 2008 to take out a huge mortgage on a house.

    Also – unless you have scholarship offers from a private school that brings the total cost of attendance below that of a state school, you should have a VERY compelling reason for going the private school route.

  3. raycon and lindacon

    @TGA offers sound advice.  Here’s more… If you do not have work experience, we don’t know your age, get some.  Ask yourself what you would like to do professionally for most of the rest of your life.  Try something like it, if possible, at an entry level job for a year or two, while at the same time dealing with the college choice and financial arrangements.

    Once you have a year or two, you are in a much better position to benefit from your decision, since you will already have a pretty good idea of what actual preparation you will need.  Or perhaps have learned that studying in that field would be a mistake.  You don’t want to discover that you were wrong about a field once you have spent four years preparing for it.

  4. Bill Nelson

    Thee are two reasons to go to college:

    1. learn something you are interested in.

    2. learn skills to be used to become gainfully employed.

    In the first case, you are responsible for “learning”. So you have to sally forth and leaarn, not just parrot back what the profressors say.

    In the second case, college may not be the answer.

  5. Tom Lindholtz

    Check out Wheaton College in Illinois. I have been thankful for my education there for many years. They taught me how to think. You may not find that at many schools.

  6. skipsul

    Check out Grove City College in the eponymous Grove City Pennsylvania.

    They are a good school, and have a rep for having reasonable tuition (less than Hillsdale).  Good sciences, economics, and engineering programs, as conservative as Hillsdale (and less self-promoting), no Fed money allowed.  

    Core curriculum requirements, modern campus, very technology friendly.  But they are avowedly and unapologetically Christian (though all religions are welcome), so don’t go there if you can’t handle that.  They have, for instance, mandatory chapel attendance.  No Co-Ed dorms either, with strict inter-visitation rules enforced.  No booze on campus, but parties and dances are otherwise allowed.

    Just over the border from Youngstown, right at the intersection of I79 and I80.  Easy drive from anywhere in Ohio.

    BUT, as their reputation has grown, they have gotten harder to get into.

  7. Schrodinger

    Consider Franciscan University.

    http://www.franciscan.edu/

    francisU.jpg

     

    Also, Calvin College

    http://www.calvin.edu/

    CalvC.jpg

  8. Michael Knudsen

    @Bluebottle – Good stuff at the link. 

    It’s funny that both Ms. McArdle and myself are artsy type majors who, having done that, caution against others doing the same. :-) 

    I appreciated her advice on Master’s programs. That dovetails with what I’ve heard: that they only make sense for people who are already well along in their industry and can get a bump in salary with more academic study/structured experience. For the person starting out? Not worth it. Good food for thought for me trying to break into computery stuff. 

  9. Christopher Riley
    skipsul: Core curriculum requirements, modern campus, very technology friendly.  But they are avowedly and unapologetically Christian (though all religions are welcome), so don’t go there if you can’t handle that.  They have, for instance, mandatory chapel attendance.  No Co-Ed dorms either, with strict inter-visitation rules enforced.  No booze on campus, but parties and dances are otherwise allowed.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I am happily Catholic, so I’m a bit hesitant about the “mandatory chapel attendance.” How pushy are they about this, exactly?

  10. katievs

    At the non-denominational Christian camp where I spent my summers as a teenager, I was part of a threesome of devoted friends.  

    One went to Calvin College, the other went to Grove City.  I went to Franciscan. :)

  11. katievs
    Christopher Riley

    skipsul: Core curriculum requirements, modern campus, very technology friendly.  But they are avowedly and unapologetically Christian (though all religions are welcome), so don’t go there if you can’t handle that.  They have, for instance, mandatory chapel attendance.  No Co-Ed dorms either, with strict inter-visitation rules enforced.  No booze on campus, but parties and dances are otherwise allowed.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I am happily Catholic, so I’m a bit hesitant about the “mandatory chapel attendance.” How pushy are they about this, exactly? · 14 minutes ago

    If you’re Catholic, I suspect you’d be unhappy at Grove City, Calvin or Wheaton.

    Franciscan is super Catholic.  Our daughter is a senior there now.

    It’s farther away than you want, but you might look into the University of Dallas.   Our son is a freshman there.  And our older daughter and son-in-law are alums.

    Excellent core curriculum, superb faculty, semester in Rome, and very good merit-based scholarships.  It’s strongly Catholic and conservative, but less hyper-religious than Franciscan.

  12. Schrodinger

    Or look into Hope College

    http://hope.edu/

    HopeC.jpg

  13. skipsul
    Christopher Riley

    skipsul: Core curriculum requirements, modern campus, very technology friendly.  But they are avowedly and unapologetically Christian (though all religions are welcome), so don’t go there if you can’t handle that.  They have, for instance, mandatory chapel attendance.  No Co-Ed dorms either, with strict inter-visitation rules enforced.  No booze on campus, but parties and dances are otherwise allowed.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I am happily Catholic, so I’m a bit hesitant about the “mandatory chapel attendance.” How pushy are they about this, exactly? 

    I was friends with lots of Catholics there, they had no issues.  Catholics are very welcome, and there are several specifically Catholic student organizations.  This isn’t Liberty U, Bob Jones, or Oral Roberts.

    The chapel is non-denominational, and you only had to go a certain number of times per semester (16), and could pick from 1/2 hour services on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or 1 hour Sunday evening services (I liked the Sunday services myself as they’d fire up the pipe organ at times).

  14. skipsul

    FWIW, my sister and her husband went to Hillsdale and have rather mixed opinions.  Loved the econ program, not so happy with the admin at the time.

  15. CandE

    Don’t forget BYU:

    • Most stone-cold sober campus

    • #1 Accounting program
    • Top 10 Business program
    • Top 50 Law program

    Thanks for letting me brag about my Alma Mater :)

    -E

  16. Christopher Riley
    skipsul: FWIW, my sister and her husband went to Hillsdale and have rather mixed opinions.  Loved the econ program, not so happy with the admin at the time.

    Hmm. Is the administration you mention the same one currently operating the college? What about their science programs?

  17. skipsul
    Christopher Riley

    skipsul: FWIW, my sister and her husband went to Hillsdale and have rather mixed opinions.  Loved the econ program, not so happy with the admin at the time.

    Hmm. Is the administration you mention the same one currently operating the college? What about their science programs? · 1 minute ago

    No, that admin was cast out.

  18. Joseph Paquette

    For me, college was the same as high school.  It was just part of the process to eventually reach a professional degree.  (M.D.)   So the choice of college was based on geography, cost, like minded students, and a decent number of girls.  A small private catholic school worked very well, almost no one has ever heard of it, but trust me, I’ve never had a single patient ask me about my college education while sewing their wound or delivering a baby.  A degree is a tool and a ticket, don’t confuse it with getting an education. 

  19. Joseph Stanko
    Christopher Riley: 

    First and foremost, I want a degree in something useful, satisfying, and fairly well-paying (though not necessarily immediately well-paying). Probably a science; chemistry, perhaps? 

    Then consider a degree in Computer Science.  Most tech companies make heavy use of the H1-B visa program to hire software engineers from India, China, and Russia because there’s a severe shortage of qualified Americans even in the current economy.

    On the other hand, the anecdotal evidence from Rachel Lu’s recent thread suggests that if you go this route there’s a good chance you’ll end up still single in your 30′s and spending your Saturday nights posting on Ricochet…

  20. Christopher Riley
    Joseph Stanko

    Then consider a degree in Computer Science.  Most tech companies make heavy use of the H1-B visa program to hire software engineers from India, China, and Russia because there’s a severe shortage of qualified Americans even in the current economy.

    On the other hand, the anecdotal evidence from Rachel Lu’s recent thread suggests that if you go this route there’s a good chance you’ll end up still single in your 30′s and spending your Saturday nights posting on Ricochet…

    I have considered computer science, and I definitely won’t rule it out. I’m leaning toward pure science at the moment because I’m more familiar with it. Programming isn’t something I’ve delved into, and my knowledge of the subject is pretty much limited to the use of HTML style tags.

    My dad is a computer programmer, by the way, and he married just after college…

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