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Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts

8 Oct

It’s irresistible; imagine dropping Bard College, Hampshire College or Bennington College on lower Fifth Avenue and you might get something like Eugene Lang College of The New School.  The New School occupies a special place in New York history as the first college founded to teach adults, especially recent immigrants, who were underserved by traditional universities like Columbia (where the New School’s founders had previously taught).  The New School now comprises seven separate faculties, the largest and best known of which is the Parsons School for Design.

Philanthropist Eugene Lang provided the capital to create a liberal arts college for full-time, traditional-age students in 1985 and his namesake college emerged from the former New School for Social Research.  Its curriculum fosters social engagement and debate, with a strong focus on writing.  Students may design their own majors and curricula, with some core requirements.  The staff and student hosts were good-naturedly clear about the fact that Eugene Lang is not the college for anyone profoundly interested in science, technology or sports.

Although the college is small with approximately 1,500 students, it has a fairly encouraging acceptance rate of 69%.  Standardized test scores are optional, and the admissions representatives indicated that intellectual curiosity and writing ability are the most important criteria for consideration.  Eugene Lang was originally called “The Seminar School,” and classes are almost exclusively symposia requiring universal participation.  They believe that their applicants are somewhat self-selecting because the college will not appeal to everyone.

Eugene Lang students may enroll in electives at other New School faculties and some dual-major opportunities exist for the artistically or musically inclined, but most of the courses relate academic fields of study to the “outside world” and encourage students to apply their interests through civic engagement.  They also have access to library resources at other universities including New York University just down the street, as well as the New York Public Library network.

We were not granted a tour of any student residences, which rankled a bit.  The freshmen accommodations sound somewhat bleak, but the neighborhood is unbeatable for charm and convenience.  It is quieter than NYU’s environs several blocks away and has some beautiful side streets nearby.

Eugene Lang, like other private colleges in Manhattan, is not a cheap date.  Tuition for 2011-2012 will cost about $37,000 and double rooms cost more than $14,000.  It is highly unlikely that most students will find apartments near campus for a comparable price and so they (and their parents) must desire the prime location and be willing to trade off many other creature comforts for this luxury.

Monkey Mama and Monkey Son were both intrigued by Eugene Lang and agreed that it provides a very attractive alternative to the intensely competitive audition-based programs he is applying to elsewhere.  We are almost reluctant to publicize the school, since it still seems to be something of a secret, hidden in plain sight on Fifth Avenue.

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