Episode 55: The Liberal Arts Debate

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As we said last week when we kicked off Series 5, it seems to me that we have been reading and hearing a lot about higher education in the news. So we are going to dedicate some weeks to looking at news stories that are inspiring, upsetting, or just plain surprising—either about specific colleges or about higher education more generally.

Episode 55: The Liberal Arts Debate on NYCollegeChat podcast http://usacollegechat.org/episode55 Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn

Some of the stories might immediately influence your teenager’s decisions about where to apply or later about where to attend, and other stories might take longer to impact your family. Either way, we think these are things parents should know and even act on.

Today’s topic is the liberal arts. While some parents believe that their teenagers should major in a field that leads directly to a job after college graduation rather than in the liberal arts, some colleges—including some unexpected ones— are stepping forward to praise the value of studying the liberal arts.

Let’s start by saying that studying the “liberal arts” means that students take courses in a variety of academic subjects, typically including literature, history, mathematics, fine arts, philosophy, foreign languages, biological and/or physical sciences (also called the natural sciences), and one or more of the social sciences, like psychology, sociology, or anthropology. Sometimes these subjects as a group are also called the “liberal arts and sciences” or just “arts and sciences” or “humanities and sciences.”

Our new book (that’s How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students, available electronically and in print at Amazon.com) talks about choosing liberal arts study vs. technical study for a whole chapter. We explain the debate and give the pros and cons for having a student study or major in one or the other. So we won’t repeat all of that reasoning here.

However, before we talk about an article on this topic that I read in The Hechinger Report last October, I want to say in the interest of full disclosure that both Marie and I took the liberal arts route for our undergraduate degrees—mine in English literature and Marie’s in sociology. So, it is possible that we are a bit biased in favor of having a liberal arts foundation. In Marie’s case, she never would have known that the field of sociology existed had it not been for the distribution requirements mandated by her traditional liberal arts college, Barnard. All three of my own children were gently guided in the past 10 years—both by their father and me and by their own colleges’ distribution requirements—into getting a liberal arts grounding first, before they went on to study for quite specialized bachelor’s degrees (in music performance, in visual arts and media, and in dance). All of us would take the liberal arts route again if we had it to do over. But that’s enough about us.

1. Two Unexpected Cases

In his article “The surprising institutions that refuse to drop the liberal arts,” Jon Marcus talks about two institutions that, by their very names, would appear to come down strongly on the side of technical study at the expense of liberal arts study. They are the United States Military Academy (commonly referred to as West Point) and the Culinary Institute of America—both located on the Hudson River a bit north of New York City. One produces soldiers, and one produces chefs—albeit some of the best soldiers and some of the best chefs anywhere.

Interestingly enough, however, West Point cadets choose from 40 academic majors that cover a broad array of disciplines—including American politics; art, philosophy and literature; foreign languages; history; sociology; and psychology; as well as management and the engineering and sciences you might expect. There are a lot of traditional liberal arts choices in that list. The Hechinger Report article quotes Brigadier General Timothy Trainor, the academic dean at West Point, on this subject:

It’s important to develop in young people the ability to think broadly, to operate in the context of other societies and become agile and adaptive thinkers. What you’re trying to do is teach them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. They’re having to deal with people from other cultures. They have to think very intuitively to solve problems on the ground. (quoted from the article)

It is this critical thinking, problem solving, analysis, judgment, dealing with consequences, cultural sensitivity, and the sociology of their interactions with others that the proponents of the liberal arts claim can be taught most effectively through courses in liberal arts fields of study. And West Point seems to agree.

So does Michael Sperling, vice president for academic affairs at the private, nonprofit Culinary Institute of America, who is quoted in the article as saying this:

There’s a certain level of anti-intellectualism in the popular culture that inappropriately sees the pursuit of core disciplines as frivolous. And that’s unfortunate, because the kind of things you learn in philosophy courses and history courses deepens your ability to act in the world. (quoted from the article)

I think that “frivolous” is exactly the word that some parents would use to describe liberal arts study, and I hope that those parents are rethinking that position now.

Ted Russin, associate dean for culinary science, earned his degree in philosophy. He is quoted in the article as saying that Culinary Institute of America students “would definitely have technical skills. They could make a croissant and it would be exquisite. But there’s a difference between knowing how to do something and understanding what’s happening.” The bigger and broader understanding of what’s happening is what, some experts claim, the liberal arts provide.

2. Other Cases

Those of you who are faithful listeners to NYCollegeChat are likely to recall other higher education institutions we have talked about during our virtual college tour over the last few months—institutions that required more or offered more liberal arts courses and majors than you might have expected.

Let’s look at a few of our other military academies. We talked about the United States Naval Academy (commonly referred to as Annapolis). Young men and women at Annapolis graduate with Bachelor of Science degrees in a choice of about 25 majors—mostly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics related to their future careers. But they can major instead in Arabic, Chinese, economics, English, history, or political science (and minor in other foreign languages).

We talked about the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, located in Connecticut, where seven of 24 core curriculum courses are from its Humanities Department, so cadets are well versed in the liberal arts when they graduate. Cadets may major in government (about 25 percent typically do) in addition to marine and environmental sciences and majors more directly related to maritime studies.

We talked about the Military College of South Carolina, The Citadel. The Citadel offers 20 undergraduate majors—with mandatory leadership and ethics studies—in the schools of business, education, engineering, science and mathematics, and humanities and social sciences.

Let’s look at some arts institutions. We talked about the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the Rhode Island School of Design, where both the arts and the liberal arts are required parts of the curricula.

We talked about Berklee College of Music in Boston, which offers 12 different undergraduate music-related majors. But all Berklee students take both a core music curriculum (e.g., ear training, arranging, harmony) and a core liberal arts curriculum in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics.

We talked about one of our nation’s finest art colleges: the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), located adjacent to the world-famous art museum in downtown Chicago. SAIC offers a wide variety of art and design majors—along with a full array of liberal arts courses.

We talked about Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), located in one of our nation’s prettiest towns. SCAD offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate majors related to the arts and design, including writing. But, as part of the general education course requirements for undergraduates, students take liberal arts courses in the humanities and fine arts, natural sciences and mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, written and oral communication, and computer literacy.

Let’s look at a couple of Massachusetts colleges, which are known primarily as business colleges. We talked about Babson College, where at least half of students’ courses are in the liberal arts, including the study of a language that is useful in business dealings today—perhaps a bit surprising for a business-focused institution.

We talked about Bentley College, which offers its undergraduates 23 majors in 11 business fields and five arts and sciences disciplines. In fact, about 20 percent of undergraduates double major in business and Bentley’s Liberal Studies Major (which has eight interdisciplinary concentrations).

Let’s look at some high-tech institutions. We talked about Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, which comprises schools of Engineering and Science, Business, and Systems and Enterprises—as well as a College of Arts and Letters, where students can major in art, music, literature and communications, philosophy, history, and the social sciences and “benefit from pursuing these disciplines charged by the latest advances in technology, science, and innovation and the fundamental idea that science and technology can be used as intellectual tools of inquiry” (quoted from the website).

We talked about the Georgia Institute of Technology (commonly known as Georgia Tech), located in Atlanta. Georgia Tech provides a “focused, technologically based education” (taken from the website) and offers degrees in six colleges—Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Sciences, Business, and Liberal Arts—with “more than 100 centers focused on interdisciplinary research that consistently contribute vital research and innovation to American government, industry, and business” (taken from the website).

We talked about Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, which offers 12 types of engineering and 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts. A Humanities and Arts requirement ensures that WPI students are well rounded; it consists of six courses of the student’s choosing, including courses from at least two different liberal arts disciplines, or a six-course sequence in Spanish, German, or Chinese—along with a final project.

We talked about the Colorado School of Mines, a highly selective and highly specialized engineering college. In addition to its applied science and mathematics majors, its geoscience and resource engineering majors, and a variety of other engineering majors, Mines requires a core curriculum, which includes humanities and social sciences courses.

We talked about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with its schools of Architecture and Planning, Engineering, Management, Science, and—last, but not least—the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. While we think of MIT as turning out first-rate engineers and scientists, students can also major in subjects in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. By the way, all undergraduates at MIT take eight courses in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (about 25 percent of their undergraduate program), so they truly become balanced students and informed citizens.

We talked about Columbia University’s well-known undergraduate Core Curriculum for Columbia College, its undergraduate liberal arts college. The Core Curriculum includes courses in literature, writing, art, music, civilization, science, and more. We said that the common texts that students read and discuss is like a greatest-hits list. But here is the remarkable statement from the website of Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science:

Engineering has been called the newest liberal art. At Columbia Engineering, students not only study science and mathematics and gain technical skills but also study literature, philosophy, art history, music theory, and major civilizations through the Core Curriculum in the humanities. (quoted from the website)

So, it is plain to see that specialized institutions—including institutions specializing in technical study—which seem unlikely champions of the liberal arts, are often, in fact, champions of the liberal arts.

3. What Some States Are Doing

Some states, however, have a different perspective. When dealing with financial cutbacks while trying to fund large public universities with taxpayers’ dollars, some states have questioned the value of the liberal arts—at least, some liberal arts fields anyway. Here are two ideas that have been proposed at the state level:

  • Charge students more tuition for liberal arts majors because the state does not believe that its economy needs them as much as it needs STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors and, thus, does not want to subsidize them to the same degree.
  • Encourage students who want to major in liberal arts fields to go to a private college to major in them and pay for that themselves—again, so the state does not have to subsidize those majors with public funds.

Some states have had their public universities cut back on some arts majors and some foreign language majors—not entire departments necessarily, but perhaps one language or one of the arts. Interestingly enough, these are the same two cuts that often get made at the high school level when public funds are tight. (Read Regina’s related blog post for more information.)

Maybe these states should have listened to what some colleges are saying—oh, and what employers are saying.

4. What Employers Are Saying

According to a survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, about 75 percent of the 318 corporate leaders surveyed “want more emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge . . . exactly the kinds of skills advocates for the liberal arts say they teach. Ninety-three percent agree that ‘a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems’ is more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate major” (quoted from the article).

I am taking that to mean that a good job applicant who has an undergraduate liberal arts degree, who can speak and write and think and solve problems well, could be just as attractive to a corporation as a good job applicant who has an undergraduate business degree. So, parents, that is a viewpoint worth considering when it comes time for your teenager to choose a major for real as a college sophomore or junior or even to declare a tentative one on a college application.

5. A Few Practical Considerations

Let’s conclude with a few practical considerations. Marie and I have a preference for liberal arts study unless a student is absolutely dead certain that a technical field is his or her preference. That preference would have to be based on a long-time interest in that field, good grades in high school subjects that prepare a student for that field, discussions with people who work in that field, and some kind of internship or summer work experience in that field. All too often kids have an idea of a career they want to pursue without having any practical information about what that career is like in the real world.

And here’s one important thing to remember: Credits in liberal arts college courses (especially those taken in the first year of college) can be transferred far more easily among degree programs and even among colleges than credits in technical courses can. That means that a kid can change his or her mind after starting college (and many, many do) without losing too much time and, parents, too much of your money.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • How all students get their vocational or technical education at some point in their lives
  • What other reasons some states have for not wanting to fund liberal arts studies
  • Whether foreign languages, a traditional liberal arts discipline, are actually a technical career skill

Check out these higher education institutions and organizations we mention…

In New York State

Outside of New York State

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  • Leaving a comment on the show notes for this episode below
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Episode 30: Colleges in the Southeast Region—Part II

Colleges in the Southeast Region—Part II
For show notes including links to all the colleges we mention, visit http://usacollegechat.org/30

In our last episode, we continued our virtual tour of colleges by focusing in on the six states in the Southern Southeast region: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. We looked at public universities—both the flagship state public universities and other public universities in those states. In this episode, we will continue our look into the Southern Southeast states by switching our focus to private colleges and universities.

Again, we want to make it clear that no college has asked us or paid us anything to name it. These are entirely our own choices.

Some of the colleges we will spotlight in this episode will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity.

Two general notes: First, when we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution—in those cases where an institution has more than one campus. Second, because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable as reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment, but one that is good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child—roughly, small, medium, or really huge.

1. Private Colleges and Universities

The Southern Southeast states have a wide array of private higher education institutions—from small Bible colleges to small liberal arts colleges to larger universities. Let’s start with two private universities that most people have long considered two of the best in the South and that also enjoy a great national reputation: Emory University and Tulane University. Your child would need very good high school grades and college admission test scores to be admitted to either one.

Emory is located in Atlanta, Georgia, an impressive Southern city, which is the home of quite a few higher education institutions, both public and private. Emory is made up of nine undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges and offers undergraduates a chance to study the liberal arts and sciences, business, or nursing. It serves about 8,000 undergraduates and about 7,000 graduate and professional students. Emory has a unique program at its Oxford College, the site of the original Emory campus before it was moved to Atlanta. Oxford College now offers the first two years of a liberal arts college program on its smaller, residential campus east of Atlanta. Oxford “concentrates on the intellectual, social, and developmental needs of first- and second-year students. Oxford faculty are hired and promoted on the quality of their teaching and community service. Classes are intimate, with much discussion and interaction.” (Text taken from the website) After finishing the two years at Oxford, students can join any of the undergraduate schools on Emory’s Atlanta campus. What an interesting transition this is to life on a big urban university campus. Founded by Georgia Methodists, Emory also has an excellent graduate school of theology.

Turning to New Orleans, one of the true gems of the South, let’s look at Tulane. Tulane has five undergraduate schools—the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the School of Science and Engineering, the School of Architecture, the A.B. Freeman School of Business, and the School of Liberal Arts—plus graduate and professional schools for law, medicine, and social work. Tulane enrolls about 8,000 undergraduates and about 5,000 graduate and professional students, drawn nationally and internationally. It also has something that I know Marie is going to love—the Newcomb College Institute, named for the original H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, which opened as the women’s college of Tulane in 1886. With its programming on women’s issues available to the whole university community, the Institute has the following mission: “To cultivate lifelong leadership among undergraduate women; to empower women by integrating teaching, research, and community engagement; to preserve, document, produce, and disseminate knowledge about women; and to honor the memory of H. Sophie Newcomb and carry forward the work of Newcomb College by providing a woman-centered experience in a co-ed institution” (text taken from the website). And did I say it was in New Orleans? No better place to be.

Let’s talk about one more private university—the University of Miami, with about 11,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate and professional students, drawn nationally and internationally. Located in suburban Coral Gables, the University of Miami has a name that sounds as though it might be public, but it is, in fact, private. It has grown in reputation over the past decade and a half during the presidency of Donna Shalala (who is resigning this year). Shalala was the former president of Hunter College here in New York City, the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison (which we talked about in this Great Lakes episode), the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, and, most importantly, my professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1975. The Coral Gables Campus of the University of Miami houses two colleges and seven schools, including the Frost School of Music, one of two original schools when the University was founded in 1926. The University’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is located in Biscayne Bay, and there is a separate Medical Campus, which includes three hospitals. Undergraduates can earn degrees in 115 bachelor’s programs.

A Look at Five Interesting Choices. As we said in Episode 28, Colleges That Change Lives is a nonprofit organization that was founded after the publication of the book Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope, a retired New York Times education editor. There are now 44 colleges and universities profiled in the book and on the organization’s website. Those that are included are not necessarily famous institutions, but they all care deeply about individual students and strive to make the college into a community to support students. Many of the institutions have engaging and experiential aspects to their programs—such as internships, international and intercultural programs, and service-learning projects. Most of the institutions are smaller colleges and universities that have proved to be successful at developing students both personally and academically so that they can succeed in life after their undergraduate college years.

Five of the 44 institutions on the list are located in the Southern Southeast states. You should read about them in the book or on the website, because you will learn much more about them than I can tell you here. Here are the five:

In Alabama: Birmingham–Southern College
In Mississippi: Millsaps College
In Florida: New College of Florida and Eckerd College
In Georgia: Agnes Scott College
New College of Florida, located in Sarasota, is an interesting choice because it was founded as a private college in 1960 and then joined the public State University System as part of the University of South Florida in 1975. In 2001, it was designated as the Honors College for the state of Florida. It enrolls just 800 students from 40 states and 15 foreign countries. Agnes Scott College, located in Decatur (right outside Atlanta), is an interesting choice because it is one of the just over 40 remaining women’s colleges in the U.S. It enrolls about 900 women, drawn from 36 states and 36 foreign countries. A liberal arts college, it offers 34 majors.

Because these institutions are relatively small and thus are not particularly well known outside of their geographic region, it is my feeling that out-of-state students with a good high school record might have a decent chance of being accepted.

2. Colleges with a Special Academic Focus

In episode 4 of NYCollegeChat, we talked about colleges that have a special focus, whether it is an academic focus or a focus on certain student populations or something else. In our last episode, we spotlighted Georgia Tech, with its focus on technologically based fields.

Now let’s look at an institution with an arts focus, and that is Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), located in Georgia’s prettiest town—and, I would argue, the prettiest town almost anywhere. Founded relatively recently in 1978, SCAD offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate majors. The top five majors in 2014 were animation, graphic design, illustration, fashion, and film and television (though it also offers more traditional fine arts majors, like painting, sculpture, photography, and even writing). In the general education course requirements, students take courses in the humanities and fine arts, natural sciences and mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, written and oral communication, and computer literacy. SCAD enrolls a total of about 11,000 students, drawn nationally and internationally (almost 25 percent of the student body is international). Its rolling admissions process seems quite individualized, and portfolios will be an important part of the application process for some programs.

A more unusual special focus among higher education institutions is military service. In a much earlier episode of NYCollegeChat, we talked about the U.S. military service academies: the United States Naval Academy in Maryland (often referred to as Annapolis), the United States Military Academy in New York (commonly referred to as West Point), the Air Force Academy in Colorado, the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York.

But now let’s look at the Military College of South Carolina, The Citadel, which is a public college located in Charleston. Founded in 1842, The Citadel has about 2,300 undergraduates (about half from South Carolina), who make up the South Carolina Corps of Cadets, and about 1,000 students in The Citadel Graduate College, a civilian evening program, which also offers undergraduate studies. As described on its website, “The men and women in the Corps live and study under a classical military system that makes leadership and character development an essential part of the educational experience.” The Citadel offers 20 undergraduate majors—with mandatory leadership and ethics studies—in the schools of business, education, engineering, science and mathematics, and humanities and social sciences. About one-third of graduating cadets are commissioned into military service, mostly into the Army.

A Look at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In Episode 4 in Series 1 of NYCollegeChat, we talked about historically black colleges and universities (commonly referred to as HBCUs), which were established with the mission of educating African-American students solely or primarily—that is, a mission of serving students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. You might recall that there are just over 100 HBCUs—public and private, rural and urban, large and small (even very small), two-year and four-year and graduate schools. Many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War, and these HBCUs share a proud history of becoming the first collegiate homes for family members of freed slaves.

As we explained in our earlier episode, HBCUs today enroll students who are not black. Some people say that it has become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students, who are now welcome at both selective and nonselective colleges across the U.S. Nonetheless, there is still a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae of HBCUs and a strong sense of tradition and shared culture on HBCU campuses.

As it turns out, a large number of HBCUs are located in the six Southern Southeast states—about 35 four-year HBCUs, plus the only HBCU public system, the Southern University and A & M College System in Louisiana, with campuses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans. Southern University’s main campus in Baton Rouge enrolls about 6,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate and professional students, with another approximately 3,000 undergraduates at each of the New Orleans and Shreveport campuses. In Baton Rouge, undergraduate students can study in 34 majors across six colleges, including the College of Sciences and Agriculture and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, as befits an A & M (agricultural and mechanical) university.

Also in Louisiana is Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Catholic HBCU, which offers about 3,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students a choice of 46 majors. Xavier was founded as a high school by Sister Katharine Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious community dedicated to the education of African Americans and Native Americans. The college program was added in 1925.

One of the most famous HBCUs is Tuskegee University, founded in Alabama in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, who was the institution’s first teacher and its head until his death in 1915. Booker T. Washington brought George Washington Carver to Tuskegee to head its agricultural studies, and it was at Tuskegee that Carver did his work on peanuts and sweet potatoes and mobile classrooms to educate farmers and more. Both Washington and Carver are buried on Tuskegee grounds. Now serving about 3,000 students in seven schools and colleges, Tuskegee is the only HBCU to award a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine (from its College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing & Allied Health), and it is the only college campus to be designated a National Historic Site by the U.S. Congress.

We find two well-known and highly respected HBCUs in Atlanta: the all-female Spelman College and the all-male Morehouse College, both founded by Baptist leaders. Spelman is a liberal arts college that offers 27 majors to just over 2,000 undergraduate women, drawn from most states (with New York as one of the top five states sending students to Spelman). It has an enviable student to faculty ratio of 10:1, meaning that students should typically be in small classes and get close attention from faculty members. Morehouse enrolls about 2,500 undergraduate men and offers 26 majors across three liberal arts and sciences academic divisions. Students are required to complete a core curriculum, which includes four courses in the humanities—one in religion, one in philosophy, one in art history, and one in music history. Morehouse has a roster of famous alumni, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee. Both Spelman and Morehouse have especially strong senses of tradition and pride in their college communities and among their alumni/alumnae.

If you are interested in an HBCU for your child, the Southern Southeast region is a particularly fertile spot to find one. There are 30 more in this region that you can read about on your own. Just search for the White House Initiative on HBCUs for a complete list.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…
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For show notes including links to all the colleges we mention, visit http://usacollegechat.org/30

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In our last episode, we continued our virtual tour of colleges by focusing in on the six states in the Southern Southeast region: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. We looked at public universities—both the flagship state public universities and other public universities in those states. In this episode, we will continue our look into the Southern Southeast states by switching our focus to private colleges and universities.

A virtual tour of private colleges in the Southeast Region of the US on NYCollegeChat podcast

Again, we want to make it clear that no college has asked us or paid us anything to name it. These are entirely our own choices.

Some of the colleges we will spotlight in this episode will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity.

Two general notes: First, when we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution—in those cases where an institution has more than one campus. Second, because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable as reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment, but one that is good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child—roughly, small, medium, or really huge.

1. Private Colleges and Universities

The Southern Southeast states have a wide array of private higher education institutions—from small Bible colleges to small liberal arts colleges to larger universities. Let’s start with two private universities that most people have long considered two of the best in the South and that also enjoy a great national reputation: Emory University and Tulane University. Your child would need very good high school grades and college admission test scores to be admitted to either one.

Emory is located in Atlanta, Georgia, an impressive Southern city, which is the home of quite a few higher education institutions, both public and private. Emory is made up of nine undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges and offers undergraduates a chance to study the liberal arts and sciences, business, or nursing. It serves about 8,000 undergraduates and about 7,000 graduate and professional students. Emory has a unique program at its Oxford College, the site of the original Emory campus before it was moved to Atlanta. Oxford College now offers the first two years of a liberal arts college program on its smaller, residential campus east of Atlanta. Oxford “concentrates on the intellectual, social, and developmental needs of first- and second-year students. Oxford faculty are hired and promoted on the quality of their teaching and community service. Classes are intimate, with much discussion and interaction.” (Text taken from the website) After finishing the two years at Oxford, students can join any of the undergraduate schools on Emory’s Atlanta campus. What an interesting transition this is to life on a big urban university campus. Founded by Georgia Methodists, Emory also has an excellent graduate school of theology.

Turning to New Orleans, one of the true gems of the South, let’s look at Tulane. Tulane has five undergraduate schools—the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the School of Science and Engineering, the School of Architecture, the A.B. Freeman School of Business, and the School of Liberal Arts—plus graduate and professional schools for law, medicine, and social work. Tulane enrolls about 8,000 undergraduates and about 5,000 graduate and professional students, drawn nationally and internationally. It also has something that I know Marie is going to love—the Newcomb College Institute, named for the original H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, which opened as the women’s college of Tulane in 1886. With its programming on women’s issues available to the whole university community, the Institute has the following mission: “To cultivate lifelong leadership among undergraduate women; to empower women by integrating teaching, research, and community engagement; to preserve, document, produce, and disseminate knowledge about women; and to honor the memory of H. Sophie Newcomb and carry forward the work of Newcomb College by providing a woman-centered experience in a co-ed institution” (text taken from the website). And did I say it was in New Orleans? No better place to be.

Let’s talk about one more private university—the University of Miami, with about 11,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate and professional students, drawn nationally and internationally. Located in suburban Coral Gables, the University of Miami has a name that sounds as though it might be public, but it is, in fact, private. It has grown in reputation over the past decade and a half during the presidency of Donna Shalala (who is resigning this year). Shalala was the former president of Hunter College here in New York City, the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison (which we talked about in this Great Lakes episode), the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, and, most importantly, my professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1975. The Coral Gables Campus of the University of Miami houses two colleges and seven schools, including the Frost School of Music, one of two original schools when the University was founded in 1926. The University’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is located in Biscayne Bay, and there is a separate Medical Campus, which includes three hospitals. Undergraduates can earn degrees in 115 bachelor’s programs.

A Look at Five Interesting Choices. As we said in Episode 28, Colleges That Change Lives is a nonprofit organization that was founded after the publication of the book Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope, a retired New York Times education editor. There are now 44 colleges and universities profiled in the book and on the organization’s website. Those that are included are not necessarily famous institutions, but they all care deeply about individual students and strive to make the college into a community to support students. Many of the institutions have engaging and experiential aspects to their programs—such as internships, international and intercultural programs, and service-learning projects.   Most of the institutions are smaller colleges and universities that have proved to be successful at developing students both personally and academically so that they can succeed in life after their undergraduate college years.

Five of the 44 institutions on the list are located in the Southern Southeast states. You should read about them in the book or on the website, because you will learn much more about them than I can tell you here. Here are the five:

New College of Florida, located in Sarasota, is an interesting choice because it was founded as a private college in 1960 and then joined the public State University System as part of the University of South Florida in 1975. In 2001, it was designated as the Honors College for the state of Florida. It enrolls just 800 students from 40 states and 15 foreign countries. Agnes Scott College, located in Decatur (right outside Atlanta), is an interesting choice because it is one of the just over 40 remaining women’s colleges in the U.S. It enrolls about 900 women, drawn from 36 states and 36 foreign countries. A liberal arts college, it offers 34 majors.

Because these institutions are relatively small and thus are not particularly well known outside of their geographic region, it is my feeling that out-of-state students with a good high school record might have a decent chance of being accepted.

2. Colleges with a Special Academic Focus

In episode 4 of NYCollegeChat, we talked about colleges that have a special focus, whether it is an academic focus or a focus on certain student populations or something else. In our last episode, we spotlighted Georgia Tech, with its focus on technologically based fields.

Now let’s look at an institution with an arts focus, and that is Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), located in Georgia’s prettiest town—and, I would argue, the prettiest town almost anywhere. Founded relatively recently in 1978, SCAD offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate majors. The top five majors in 2014 were animation, graphic design, illustration, fashion, and film and television (though it also offers more traditional fine arts majors, like painting, sculpture, photography, and even writing). In the general education course requirements, students take courses in the humanities and fine arts, natural sciences and mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, written and oral communication, and computer literacy. SCAD enrolls a total of about 11,000 students, drawn nationally and internationally (almost 25 percent of the student body is international). Its rolling admissions process seems quite individualized, and portfolios will be an important part of the application process for some programs.

A more unusual special focus among higher education institutions is military service. In a much earlier episode of NYCollegeChat, we talked about the U.S. military service academies: the United States Naval Academy in Maryland (often referred to as Annapolis), the United States Military Academy in New York (commonly referred to as West Point), the Air Force Academy in Colorado, the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York.

But now let’s look at the Military College of South Carolina, The Citadel, which is a public college located in Charleston. Founded in 1842, The Citadel has about 2,300 undergraduates (about half from South Carolina), who make up the South Carolina Corps of Cadets, and about 1,000 students in The Citadel Graduate College, a civilian evening program, which also offers undergraduate studies. As described on its website, “The men and women in the Corps live and study under a classical military system that makes leadership and character development an essential part of the educational experience.” The Citadel offers 20 undergraduate majors—with mandatory leadership and ethics studies—in the schools of business, education, engineering, science and mathematics, and humanities and social sciences. About one-third of graduating cadets are commissioned into military service, mostly into the Army.

3. Historically Black Colleges and Universities

In Episode 4 in Series 1 of NYCollegeChat, we talked about historically black colleges and universities (commonly referred to as HBCUs), which were established with the mission of educating African-American students solely or primarily—that is, a mission of serving students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. You might recall that there are just over 100 HBCUs—public and private, rural and urban, large and small (even very small), two-year and four-year and graduate schools. Many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War, and these HBCUs share a proud history of becoming the first collegiate homes for family members of freed slaves.

As we explained in our earlier episode, HBCUs today enroll students who are not black. Some people say that it has become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students, who are now welcome at both selective and nonselective colleges across the U.S. Nonetheless, there is still a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae of HBCUs and a strong sense of tradition and shared culture on HBCU campuses.

As it turns out, a large number of HBCUs are located in the six Southern Southeast states—about 35 four-year HBCUs, plus the only HBCU public system, the Southern University and A & M College System in Louisiana, with campuses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans. Southern University’s main campus in Baton Rouge enrolls about 6,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate and professional students, with another approximately 3,000 undergraduates at each of the New Orleans and Shreveport campuses. In Baton Rouge, undergraduate students can study in 34 majors across six colleges, including the College of Sciences and Agriculture and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, as befits an A & M (agricultural and mechanical) university.

Also in Louisiana is Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Catholic HBCU, which offers about 3,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students a choice of 46 majors. Xavier was founded as a high school by Sister Katharine Drexel and her Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious community dedicated to the education of African Americans and Native Americans. The college program was added in 1925.

One of the most famous HBCUs is Tuskegee University, founded in Alabama in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, who was the institution’s first teacher and its head until his death in 1915. Booker T. Washington brought George Washington Carver to Tuskegee to head its agricultural studies, and it was at Tuskegee that Carver did his work on peanuts and sweet potatoes and mobile classrooms to educate farmers and more. Both Washington and Carver are buried on Tuskegee grounds. Now serving about 3,000 students in seven schools and colleges, Tuskegee is the only HBCU to award a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine (from its College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing & Allied Health), and it is the only college campus to be designated a National Historic Site by the U.S. Congress.

We find two well-known and highly respected HBCUs in Atlanta: the all-female Spelman College and the all-male Morehouse College, both founded by Baptist leaders. Spelman is a liberal arts college that offers 27 majors to just over 2,000 undergraduate women, drawn from most states (with New York as one of the top five states sending students to Spelman). It has an enviable student to faculty ratio of 10:1, meaning that students should typically be in small classes and get close attention from faculty members. Morehouse enrolls about 2,500 undergraduate men and offers 26 majors across three liberal arts and sciences academic divisions. Students are required to complete a core curriculum, which includes four courses in the humanities—one in religion, one in philosophy, one in art history, and one in music history. Morehouse has a roster of famous alumni, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee. Both Spelman and Morehouse have especially strong senses of tradition and pride in their college communities and among their alumni/alumnae.

If you are interested in an HBCU for your child, the Southern Southeast region is a particularly fertile spot to find one. There are 30 more in this region that you can read about on your own. Just search for the White House Initiative on HBCUs for a complete list.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • Atlanta!
  • New Orleans!
  • Savannah!

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Episode 25: Why Guidance Counselors Are Not Enough

This episode is the first in Series 4: Looking at Colleges Outside Your Comfort Zone.

Our fourth series is going to deal with getting you outside your comfort zone of college choices. For many families, that comfort zone is actually a physical, geographic zone. We have talked with many families who would strongly prefer their children to stay near home to go to college—often that means in the same city, sometimes it means within weekend-commuting distance, and it almost always means in the same state. I saw a statistic recently that more than 70 percent of high school graduates go to college in their home state. Wow.

We know that many families are perfectly happy to be part of that group for a variety of reasons, including money concerns, cultural background, safety concerns, and general worries about sending their less-than-perfectly-mature teenagers too far from home. However, we are going to talk about another reason that we think so many students stay in their home states for college, and that is the role of guidance counselors in high schools.

Over the past 40 years, I have spent a lot of time in high schools all over the U.S. and have had a lot of chances to observe students and staff members at work. As an outside consultant, I have worked closely with many of those staff members—teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and others—and I have talked for hours and hours with students and their parents, individually and in groups. I have watched guidance counselors deal with students in serious trouble—especially personal and interpersonal trouble. I have been amazed at what students have to cope with at home and at school and how guidance counselors are called upon to help them cope. That is a full-time job for anyone.

Perhaps that is exactly why a high school guidance counselor cannot help your child enough when it comes to exploring college options—especially options not located close to home. That is not to say there are not some guidance counselors whose high schools have allowed them to specialize in college placement and who have become experts in the world of college and its overwhelming number of opportunities. If your child’s high school has such a guidance counselor, you are lucky indeed. But that is not what is typical, in my experience.

1. Questions To Ask Guidance Counselors

If I were a parent of a high school student now (as I have been in the last decade, three times over) and if I were relying on a guidance counselor—or any other college advisor at the high school—to help my child navigate the world of college options, I would ask that person these three questions:

1) How many colleges have you visited? This sounds like a low hurdle, but I am convinced that many guidance counselors and other college advisors do not have a broad background of visiting and investigating in person a wide variety of colleges—in your home town, in your state, in your region of the U.S., in other regions of the U.S., and abroad. Even though your child might end up going to college in your home state for a variety of reasons, it is not good enough for someone to advise your child on what colleges to consider if that person has not “seen it all”—or, at least a lot of it. Your child’s college advisor should be able to talk about a variety of urban, suburban, and rural college campuses from firsthand impressions of those campuses and then to discuss whether a beautiful campus or a certain geographic location close to or far away from home or a particular type of setting makes any difference to your child.

Based on my own college visits, I might ask someone trying to advise my child these questions: “Have you seen the handsome University of Washington campus or the color of the buildings at Stanford University or Thomas Jefferson’s realized vision for the University of Virginia? Have you been in the freezing cold of the University of Chicago or the sweltering heat of Rice University? Have you been on the University of Pennsylvania’s City-of-Brotherly-Love urban campus or Savannah College of Art and Design’s campus in the prettiest city in the South or the picture-perfect setting on the Thames River of the lower-division campus of Richmond, the American International University in London? Have you seen the grand LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas or the world-class Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University? Have you seen idyllic Kenyon College’s Middle Path in the middle of nowhere or majestic Columbia University in the middle of everything?”

Why do you think that parents who can afford it take their children on the traditional college tour so that they can see the options? Because sometimes place means a lot. If someone has not seen, say, 150 such places—college campuses of all sizes, locations, and settings—I would not want that person advising my child.

2) How many colleges have you studied at or had family and close friends and former students study at? Yes, I know that most people (guidance counselors and other college advisors included) probably studied at only one or two or possibly three colleges, but were they all pretty much the same? Ideally, someone advising my child would have some experience—either firsthand or close secondhand—with the variety of higher education institutions available.

Remember, as we said in earlier episodes, there are the public and private and combination public/private institutions, two-year and four-year institutions, liberal arts and technical schools, big universities and small colleges, single-sex and coeducational schools, faith-based institutions, HBCUs, military service academies, fine arts and engineering and business schools, and more. That is a lot. While no individual can know about each of these types of institutions firsthand as a student, I would want someone advising my college-bound child to know about most of these at least secondhand—that is, by the testimony of thoughtful family members and informed friends and trusted former students who had attended them. If a guidance counselor or other college advisor cannot be an expert in every individual college, he or she should at least be an expert in the types of institutions that are available to my child.

3) How many colleges have you worked at or closely with? Most guidance counselors and other college advisors based in high schools have not also worked at colleges, and that’s a shame. Yes, they were all once students in college, but that view is very different from the view you get as an employee at a college or even as a consultant to a college. You can learn a lot about the operations of a college when you are working backstage, and you can better figure out how those operations impact students.

For example, if a guidance counselor had worked with college support services offices, it would be easier to judge what services might realistically be available for a student with special needs. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with a number of college department chairs, it would be clearer how difficult it might be for a student to change his or her major if that student started down the wrong path. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with college registrars, it would be easier to figure out how to get a student credit for college courses taken while a student was still in high school.

Of course, all colleges are not the same. But a firsthand dose of working at a college can sometimes go a long way toward helping students choose a college that is a good fit.

If your guidance counselor or college advisor does not have good answers to these questions, then get whatever additional help you might need so that your child makes the best college choice possible.

2. Inequity in College Counseling

Recently, I read a powerful article in The Hechinger Report, entitled “Rich School, Poor School,” by Erin Einhorn, and the subtitle of her article tells it all: “How the class divide is widened by gaps in counseling kids for college.” Ms. Einhorn’s story tells the sad truth that many professional educators know, but would like to forget, and that many parents know instinctively. The sad truth is that there is no equity in college counseling services for U.S. high school students; in other words, a student’s chances of getting into a selective college are clearly improved by attending a great high school—public or private—where dedicated college counselors know how to make the college applications system work for those students. Quite often, those public schools are in relatively wealthy suburban locations.

I worked recently with a couple of students who attended two first-rate high schools in the metropolitan New York City area. One was a famous competitive public high school in New York City, where only the best students are admitted, based on their high school admissions test scores, and where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college; the other was a well-respected, academically rigorous public high school in one of the richest towns on Long Island, where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college. To be honest, I was not impressed with the work of the college counselors in either one. They recommended to my two students mostly colleges in New York State, plus any colleges outside New York State that the students had already discovered for themselves.

Now, the two schools had full-time college counselors, who had access to fancy software that kept track of where students had applied and who, at least, tried to keep students on a schedule that would get college applications done on time. Of course, these students were also supported by the strong college-going culture that is present in such schools—schools where students spend a lot of time talking to each other about the great colleges they are applying to and then the great colleges they got into.

It’s just not fair, I thought, reflecting on Ms. Einhorn’s story about the vastly different college counseling services available in a private school and a public school not 20 miles apart in Bloomfield Hills and Detroit, Michigan. But what is fair? Our wise principal at the Early College public high school we co-founded in Brooklyn had an unusual definition of “fair.” Chris Aguirre used to say, “Fair is not when every student gets the same thing. Fair is when every student gets what he or she needs.” Man, with that definition, low-income students in poor urban neighborhoods should be getting three or four times as much college counseling support as upper-middle-class students in rich suburban high schools and private schools. Everyone knows that it is just the opposite now. The kids who need college counseling least actually get the most. Upper-middle-class kids whose parents and school culture could handily make up for a lack of counseling time and expertise benefit from the most counseling time and expertise.

Marie and I like to think that NYCollegeChat can help make up for that lack of counseling time and expertise—whether your child is in a large urban high school where guidance counselors typically have their hands full or a medium-sized suburban high school where there is a lot of competition for college counseling services or a small rural high school where a guidance counselor might have to wear many hats.

So what we are going to do during this fourth series is take you around the country to different regions and spotlight some colleges you might not have thought about for your child or indeed might not even have known about. We are going to look at some selective colleges for students with great grades and admissions test scores and some not-so-selective colleges for students with just average grades and admissions test scores. We are going to try to take you out of your geographic comfort zone to show you some places that might be more appealing to your child than what is right next door. We are also going to talk about why going away could be a financial plus for you and why going away might actually get your child into a better college than staying at home. So tune in next week.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…
The kind of personalized list of colleges your guidance counselor should be providing for your child
What we lost when college field trips were cut out of high school activities
The pluses and minuses of online searches for colleges you might be interested in

Links to all the higher education institutions we mention can be found on the show notes for today’s episode at http://usacollegechat.org/25

Connect with us through…
Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn!
Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat
Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education
Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help
Following us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nycollegechat

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…
Commenting on the notes for today’s episode at http://usacollegechat.org/25.
Calling our hotline at (516) 900-NYCC.
Emailing us at paul@policystudies.org to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately

This episode is the first in Series 4: Looking at Colleges Outside Your Comfort Zone.

Episode 25:  Why Guidance Counselors Are Not Enough on NYCollegeChat

Our fourth series is going to deal with getting you outside your comfort zone of college choices. For many families, that comfort zone is actually a physical, geographic zone. We have talked with many families who would strongly prefer their children to stay near home to go to college—often that means in the same city, sometimes it means within weekend-commuting distance, and it almost always means in the same state. I saw a statistic recently that more than 70 percent of high school graduates go to college in their home state. Wow.

We know that many families are perfectly happy to be part of that group for a variety of reasons, including money concerns, cultural background, safety concerns, and general worries about sending their less-than-perfectly-mature teenagers too far from home. However, we are going to talk about another reason that we think so many students stay in their home states for college, and that is the role of guidance counselors in high schools.

Over the past 40 years, I have spent a lot of time in high schools all over the U.S. and have had a lot of chances to observe students and staff members at work. As an outside consultant, I have worked closely with many of those staff members—teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and others—and I have talked for hours and hours with students and their parents, individually and in groups. I have watched guidance counselors deal with students in serious trouble—especially personal and interpersonal trouble. I have been amazed at what students have to cope with at home and at school and how guidance counselors are called upon to help them cope. That is a full-time job for anyone.

Perhaps that is exactly why a high school guidance counselor cannot help your child enough when it comes to exploring college options—especially options not located close to home. That is not to say there are not some guidance counselors whose high schools have allowed them to specialize in college placement and who have become experts in the world of college and its overwhelming number of opportunities. If your child’s high school has such a guidance counselor, you are lucky indeed. But that is not what is typical, in my experience.

1. Questions To Ask Guidance Counselors

If I were a parent of a high school student now (as I have been in the last decade, three times over) and if I were relying on a guidance counselor—or any other college advisor at the high school—to help my child navigate the world of college options, I would ask that person these three questions:

1) How many colleges have you visited? This sounds like a low hurdle, but I am convinced that many guidance counselors and other college advisors do not have a broad background of visiting and investigating in person a wide variety of colleges—in your home town, in your state, in your region of the U.S., in other regions of the U.S., and abroad. Even though your child might end up going to college in your home state for a variety of reasons, it is not good enough for someone to advise your child on what colleges to consider if that person has not “seen it all”—or, at least a lot of it. Your child’s college advisor should be able to talk about a variety of urban, suburban, and rural college campuses from firsthand impressions of those campuses and then to discuss whether a beautiful campus or a certain geographic location close to or far away from home or a particular type of setting makes any difference to your child.

Based on my own college visits, I might ask someone trying to advise my child these questions: “Have you seen the handsome University of Washington campus or the color of the buildings at Stanford University or Thomas Jefferson’s realized vision for the University of Virginia? Have you been in the freezing cold of the University of Chicago or the sweltering heat of Rice University? Have you been on the University of Pennsylvania’s City-of-Brotherly-Love urban campus or Savannah College of Art and Design’s campus in the prettiest city in the South or the picture-perfect setting on the Thames River of the lower-division campus of Richmond, the American International University in London? Have you seen the grand LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas or the world-class Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University? Have you seen idyllic Kenyon College’s Middle Path in the middle of nowhere or majestic Columbia University in the middle of everything?”

Why do you think that parents who can afford it take their children on the traditional college tour so that they can see the options? Because sometimes place means a lot. If someone has not seen, say, 150 such places—college campuses of all sizes, locations, and settings—I would not want that person advising my child.

2) How many colleges have you studied at or had family and close friends and former students study at? Yes, I know that most people (guidance counselors and other college advisors included) probably studied at only one or two or possibly three colleges, but were they all pretty much the same? Ideally, someone advising my child would have some experience—either firsthand or close secondhand—with the variety of higher education institutions available.

Remember, as we said in earlier episodes, there are the public and private and combination public/private institutions, two-year and four-year institutions, liberal arts and technical schools, big universities and small colleges, single-sex and coeducational schools, faith-based institutions, HBCUs, military service academies, fine arts and engineering and business schools, and more. That is a lot. While no individual can know about each of these types of institutions firsthand as a student, I would want someone advising my college-bound child to know about most of these at least secondhand—that is, by the testimony of thoughtful family members and informed friends and trusted former students who had attended them. If a guidance counselor or other college advisor cannot be an expert in every individual college, he or she should at least be an expert in the types of institutions that are available to my child.

3) How many colleges have you worked at or closely with? Most guidance counselors and other college advisors based in high schools have not also worked at colleges, and that’s a shame. Yes, they were all once students in college, but that view is very different from the view you get as an employee at a college or even as a consultant to a college. You can learn a lot about the operations of a college when you are working backstage, and you can better figure out how those operations impact students.

For example, if a guidance counselor had worked with college support services offices, it would be easier to judge what services might realistically be available for a student with special needs. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with a number of college department chairs, it would be clearer how difficult it might be for a student to change his or her major if that student started down the wrong path. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with college registrars, it would be easier to figure out how to get a student credit for college courses taken while a student was still in high school.

Of course, all colleges are not the same. But a firsthand dose of working at a college can sometimes go a long way toward helping students choose a college that is a good fit.

If your guidance counselor or college advisor does not have good answers to these questions, then get whatever additional help you might need so that your child makes the best college choice possible.

2. Inequity in College Counseling

Recently, I read a powerful article in The Hechinger Report, entitled “Rich School, Poor School,” by Erin Einhorn, and the subtitle of her article tells it all: “How the class divide is widened by gaps in counseling kids for college.” Ms. Einhorn’s story tells the sad truth that many professional educators know, but would like to forget, and that many parents know instinctively. The sad truth is that there is no equity in college counseling services for U.S. high school students; in other words, a student’s chances of getting into a selective college are clearly improved by attending a great high school—public or private—where dedicated college counselors know how to make the college applications system work for those students. Quite often, those public schools are in relatively wealthy suburban locations.

I worked recently with a couple of students who attended two first-rate high schools in the metropolitan New York City area. One was a famous competitive public high school in New York City, where only the best students are admitted, based on their high school admissions test scores, and where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college; the other was a well-respected, academically rigorous public high school in one of the richest towns on Long Island, where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college. To be honest, I was not impressed with the work of the college counselors in either one. They recommended to my two students mostly colleges in New York State, plus any colleges outside New York State that the students had already discovered for themselves.

Now, the two schools had full-time college counselors, who had access to fancy software that kept track of where students had applied and who, at least, tried to keep students on a schedule that would get college applications done on time. Of course, these students were also supported by the strong college-going culture that is present in such schools—schools where students spend a lot of time talking to each other about the great colleges they are applying to and then the great colleges they got into.

It’s just not fair, I thought, reflecting on Ms. Einhorn’s story about the vastly different college counseling services available in a private school and a public school not 20 miles apart in Bloomfield Hills and Detroit, Michigan. But what is fair? Our wise principal at the Early College public high school we co-founded in Brooklyn had an unusual definition of “fair.” Chris Aguirre used to say, “Fair is not when every student gets the same thing. Fair is when every student gets what he or she needs.” Man, with that definition, low-income students in poor urban neighborhoods should be getting three or four times as much college counseling support as upper-middle-class students in rich suburban high schools and private schools. Everyone knows that it is just the opposite now. The kids who need college counseling least actually get the most. Upper-middle-class kids whose parents and school culture could handily make up for a lack of counseling time and expertise benefit from the most counseling time and expertise.

Marie and I like to think that NYCollegeChat can help make up for that lack of counseling time and expertise—whether your child is in a large urban high school where guidance counselors typically have their hands full or a medium-sized suburban high school where there is a lot of competition for college counseling services or a small rural high school where a guidance counselor might have to wear many hats.

So what we are going to do during this fourth series is take you around the country to different regions and spotlight some colleges you might not have thought about for your child or indeed might not even have known about. We are going to look at some selective colleges for students with great grades and admissions test scores and some not-so-selective colleges for students with just average grades and admissions test scores. We are going to try to take you out of your geographic comfort zone to show you some places that might be more appealing to your child than what is right next door. We are also going to talk about why going away could be a financial plus for you and why going away might actually get your child into a better college than staying at home. So tune in next week.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • The kind of personalized list of colleges your guidance counselor should be providing for your child
  • What we lost when college field trips were cut out of high school activities
  • The pluses and minuses of online searches for colleges you might be interested in

Check out these higher education institutions we mention…

In New York State

Outside of New York State

 

Connect with us through…

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…