Friday, September 19, 2008

Thank you!

Ahhh, so it's the variability thing. I knew you guys would fill me in.

There is, of course, variation in colleges in the UK. Perhaps not so much as here, but it's fairly widespread, nonetheless. And we don't have any private universities at all, so that's kind of a foreign concept to me. I went to a good school although I see in the current rankings it has slipped somewhat from the days when I went there even though the entry standards are still fairly high. It wasn't top tier, but second (or maybe third, depending on your point of view) tier. So my experience there would not directly correspond with the experience here, as it might have done if I'd gone to a lower ranking university. And I'd forgotten that the experience there is variable too.

And of course, I expected the local community college to be pretty easy. That's why I'm going there - to just get this requirement for general ed. credits out of the way with as little expense, time and effort as possible. It's just the level of easiness that has shocked me.

Anyhoo, this has got me thinking. If I ever do have a kid, what do I do about college education for them? I had this plan that I'd get the state prepaid college plan, and encourage them to go off to UF in G.ainesville which is probably the better in-state college (or somewhere similar of their choosing). If they didn't want to go there, fine. If they wanted to go to an out-of-state public school or a private school (whether in-state or out-of-state), they'd be mostly responsible for scolarships, etc, to make up the difference in tuition amounts. [I was also planning on partially funding a 529 plan to help with such differences and/or graduate school, but not telling them about it until the last minute.]

But now I'm thinking this plan might be a crock of shit (ignoring the whole "I might not have a kid" concept). If where you go to school has such a huge impact on your quality of education, should one perhaps be aiming for private schools all along? Or on one of the really good out-of-state public schools?


ms.bri said...

I believe so strongly in small, private, liberal arts schools that I am encouraging GMB to try to go to one even if it means loans and brokeness for years to come. He has free tuition at a big university but I still think it would be better to attend a small one. It is not only what the world thinks of the college on your resume (though that's big) but I also believe the quality of the education is worlds apart. In a big school, you may have a few professors you find inspiring. Other classes may be taught by TA's. You are taking things just to take them, because they tell you it is required, not because you are interested. In a small school like the one I went to, you are learning about learning, about critical thinking, about analyzing the world and deconstructing it. And it is likely that nearly all of your professors will be inspiring. Provided we can find a way, I will strongly encourage small, private schools for both my sons. I would personally avoid the savings accounts that restrict where your kid can go to school. It's obviously better than no savings or no college, but it will likely not work out if you are interested in a high quality education and not just a degree.

Elowyn said...

I wouldn't presume to tell you what to do for hypothetical kid's education, but will say that I'm planning to live on beans for the next 20 years if necessary, to send the girls to a good private school.

I think (and this is just my probably offensive opinion) that the state schools (at least in my state) are a good fallback if you're 1) unable to afford or 2) unable to get into or 3) unable to travel to attend one of the better schools, but they're not my goal for my girls.

But I'm totally an educational elitist snob, so... ;) (Not really - but have found that my college years were really quite important in teaching me to think and preparing me for the rest of my life, and shudder to think about how I might've turned out if I'd gone to one of our state schools that major in beer.)

(The state schools/comm colleges here are also great for what you're doing, S - knocking out silly requirements to do the real thing you want to do, which is acu school - but to help form an 18-year-old into a useful adult? Not so much.)

Solitaire said...

Hmm, it really is sounding like a small liberal arts type place would be much better after all. If I do decide to go ahead with DE or adoption, I will have to seriously look into this.

But I just wanted to say - the local prepaid plan doesn't limit where you can go to school at all. It's one of the few that doesn't, as it has a giant list of approved schools which is basically every accredited school in the country. It pays out the in-state tuition rate at the time. If you want to go somewhere else, you just have to make up the difference. So it seems like a good guarantee to at least have that covered without worrying about inflation, as a part of one's savings program.

SS said...

UF is a good school. friends that went in the honors program had smaller classes. Also, if you have a child who loves to learn they will take more from what is offered than others. I went to an Ivy Leaugue school, and I definitely think I got a good education, but my parents and sisters went to UF and they are all well educted as well.

calliope said...

I totally wish I had gone to a smaller school. But I also feel hugely about kids going out of state for university. When I lived in the college town in Bama it was SO weird to me that it was basically a community of people that had never left the town.

Sara said...

I agree with SS about honors programs within big state schools. Almost every big state school has an excellent honors program which offers top-notch education at a bargain basement price. They don't advertise very well, so people don't always know about them, though. Also, there are much higher admissions standards for honors programs. I will seriously consider such a program for Eggbert (even though I went to a top-10 private university). Really different schools are best for different kids, so it's hard to say what will be best for yours. Some kids thrive in a big university with lots of options, others do better in a small school with lots of individual attention.

Alex said...

I'm a sometime college educator (not currently working principally in that role, though I am teaching one class as an adjunct at a private school that's just below the Ivies, really, and that's in ranking; its cost may well be equivalent), and my personal opinion is that an organized, motivated student can get an excellent education at a public or private school, even a second-tier public school. The key here, though, is organized and motivated. A kid who's not really ready for college should go to a small liberal arts school or not go at all. If you know what you're looking for, though, you can (in my experience, and I've taught in all of these kinds of places) find good, motivated faculty willing to work with you and challenge you at any of the types of schools I've mentioned (probably second-tier private, too, but I've never attended or taught at any of those. Oh, and my own education is 100% public institutions).

Actually, I'd rather see an organized and motivated student go to a large school (public or private), where I think one will typically be exposed to more diversity (in addition to getting a good education) and have access to a broader curriculum. At the liberal arts college I taught at, students interested in languages outside the Romance languages and German were pretty much out of luck, which struck me as unfortunate.