Tag Archives: tuition

Montclair State University – Public Option Part I

30 Nov

Monkey Mama is willing to risk an onslaught of vituperation from the Tea Party movement when she avers that the United States of America owes a great deal of its success to its early commitment to public education.  Montclair State University (MSU) began life as a “normal school,” in 1908, dedicated to training teachers.

Today MSU is a full fledged university located on 252 acres in Essex County, New Jersey, 14 miles west of New York City.  Those miles may be traversed aboard New Jersey Transit directly into New York Penn Station.  The original architects balked at the ivy-clad traditions of other northeastern colleges and opted in favor of whitewashed, Spanish Mission-style buildings.  Some newer buildings, including University Hall and the Student Recreation Center, mimic the older architecture, and even the imposing Alexander Kasser Theater, host to many concerts and performances by world-class artists, attempts to meld the Mission motifs with its modern design elements.

Although traditional pedagogical training is still prominent within the university, there are undergraduate colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, Business, the Arts, and Education and Human Services.  MSU is in the process of remodeling several dormitories and constructing a new residence hall.  The main campus is small and students can easily walk around.  There are many dining options, including a traditional-style diner with 24-hour service during the school year.  Tuition and fees for New Jersey residents in 2011-2012 is $10,646 with room rates ranging from $6,802 for a triple in the irresistibly-named Frank Sinatra Hall, to $10,140 for a single.  Meal plan options range from several hundred dollars to about $4,000.

Monkey Mama and Son had arranged for a personal meeting with a representative of the theater department following our campus tour.  She showed us the main theater, “black box,” and rehearsal spaces, and shared some insights regarding the audition and application process.  MSU’s overall acceptance rate is about 50%, with roughly one-third of its accepted students enrolling.  The average composite SAT score for admitted students is 1500 out of 2400, and the average unweighted G.P.A. was listed as 3.2.

The acting B.F.A. program, on the other hand, only accepts 14 to 16 students each year, and is considered highly desirable.  MSU holds some auditions on campus and also participates in the regional Unified Auditions.  The Unified Auditions give the university an opportunity to view a wider pool of the most talented candidates but as a state-funded college, it is not able to offer generous financial aid packages to out-of-state applicants, thus giving an advantage to private conservatories.

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Fordham University at Lincoln Center

22 Oct

Fordham University labels itself as “The Jesuit University of New York” to highlight its Catholic pedagogical tradition but the satellite campus at Lincoln Center on West 61st Street has a decidedly secular and ecumenical atmosphere.  The campus incorporates some graduate divisions, including the well-respected law school, as well as an undergraduate college.  With 1,700 undergraduates enrolled, Fordham College at Lincoln Center has approximately half as many students than the main Bronx-Rose Hill campus and is heavily focused on the performing arts.  It is a newer facility, built in 1968 on eight acres adjacent to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

All students must fulfill requirements in a broad-based liberal arts curriculum, and so there are course offerings in all the standard departments, albeit somewhat abridged.  Our tour guide, Sophie, had auditioned for the theater performance major, but was only accepted as a liberal arts B.A. candidate.  She is a classical civilizations major, and apparently loves Fordham’s humanities curriculum (classics and humanities are traditionally strong at Jesuit colleges).  The college has extensive opportunities for foreign travel and study for those who would like to branch out beyond Manhattan.

One of Fordham College-Lincoln Center’s greatest magnets is the dance conservatory program, offered in conjunction with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  This program not only attracts many dancers, but it contributes to the already highly diverse makeup of the student body.  We noticed many attractive young women at our open house and Monkey Mama chose to withdraw slightly after one spectacularly beautiful student initiated a conversation about various theater programs and Fordham College-Lincoln Center’s advantages among them.  She preferred the smaller class sizes at Fordham-Lincoln Center to those at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (more about which will be forthcoming).  Monkey Son listened attentively and nodded sagely at that.

The theater department stages a variety of performances annually and we were impressed with the facilities.  Potential majors must audition but they must also be accepted academically.  Fordham’s acceptance rate is approximately 50% but only 14% of accepted students actually enroll.  The admissions representative hinted that highly talented applicants might be forgiven some academic shortcomings but they still need to have achieved certain benchmarks and requirements.  Monkey Mama inferred that the theater department might be able to prevail over other skeptics on the admissions committee but are probably somewhat less influential than the head basketball coach (Fordham’s Division I team plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference).

Fordham-Lincoln Center’s vertical campus is expanding horizontally to include sorely needed student housing.  Like other Manhattan student accommodations, the dormitory facilities are comfortable but without frills.  Room and board can exceed $16K for a single, bringing the total cost of attendance to more than $55K.  Although the campus chapel includes worship spaces for Moslems and Jews (the main building is named for its prime benefactor, Mr. Leon Lowenstein), the dormitories do observe nominal parietal regulations, banning overnight guests of the opposite sex.  Despite that, Monkey Son declared Fordham College at Lincoln Center his favorite among those visited thus far.

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.

Northern Exposure: Dartmouth, Middlebury and Hamilton Colleges

5 Oct

This summer we visited three colleges located north of the 38th parallel – Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Middlebury College in Vermont and Hamilton College in upstate New York.  They share many similarities – all offer a liberal arts education surrounded by mountains (Green, White, or Adirondacks) and have beautiful, traditional campuses with elegant brick or stone buildings.  Being so far north, winters can seem interminable.  When we visited in midsummer, the weather was so pleasant and mild that it was hard to imagine these campuses blanketed under thick snow and ice, assailed by bitter winds and frigid temperatures.  Tuition and board are expensive, costing more than $50,000; to soften the sticker shock, they all offer need-blind admissions and a commitment to meeting a student’s financial need.

Because of their remote locations, students going to any of these schools must love the great outdoors because there is little else around.  Sure, Hanover, New Hampshire is a charming historic town whose sole purpose seems to be supporting the college community with restaurants, stores, and hotels (I highly recommend staying at Six South Street) but it is a small town nevertheless.  The same can be said of Middlebury Vermont, and Clinton, New York.  Students who enjoy winter sports will find lots to do.

Some key differences stand out.  Dartmouth’s academic calendar is divided into 12-week quarters instead of semesters so there is little or no easing into the workload.  Most students take three courses per quarter.  All sophomores are required to spend their second summer on campus at Dartmouth.  Dartmouth also offers an engineering degree in addition to liberal arts.

The presence of sophomores, numbering about 1,100, on campus made the campus seem livelier and less deserted when we were there.  The students we saw were fit looking so it should be no surprise to learn that fifty percent of the student body is involved in varsity sports and another 25% plays intramural or club sports.  A friend who is a Dartmouth alumnus recalls being surrounded by athletes when he attended 30 years ago and that has not changed.  Sixty percent of Dartmouth students are also involved with fraternities or sororities.

An hour and half away on the other side of the Green Mountains, Middlebury College has no fraternities or sororities.  It is a smaller liberal arts college with only 2,450 students and is most known for its foreign languages, English, and environmental studies programs, among others.  It also offers 5-year dual-degree engineering programs with Dartmouth College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Columbia University.

For students contemplating time off before college, each year Middlebury offers deferred admission to 90 to 100 students who enroll in February.  In case anyone wonders whether admission standards are looser for February admits, the admission representative was quick to note that a disproportionate percentage of “Febs” take on leadership roles in campus life.

To our disappointment, none of the tour guides were studying any foreign languages, which is what my daughter was most interested in.  As we walked around campus, we could see that there is on-going construction and renovation of campus facilities.  The tour guide raved about the food, which is supposed to be quite good, with local farmers supplying the college with organic, fresh produce and raw ingredients.

Hamilton College is the smallest college on our visit, with only 1,850 undergraduates.  Its academic program features an open curriculum that allows students to take whatever courses they want without needing to fulfill any distributional requirements.  Depending on your perspective, this could be good or bad; if a student enters college with a well-developed and strong focus, an open curriculum could be liberating (e.g., no more pesky math or science courses, ever).  But, if students are undecided about what to study, requiring them to sample different discipline areas may help them to decide.  The college is not completely without requirements though; students have to take three writing intensive courses.  The college was quick to tout its strong alumni network with over 50% of alumni donating to the college.

Of the three colleges, Dartmouth College is the most selective, being in the Ivy League.  Last year its admission rate was 10%, Middlebury’s was 18% and Hamilton’s was 27%.  For students interested in going to college in rural areas, play sports, and enjoy nature and the outdoors, these three schools offer all that in descending order of selectivity.

A Visit to Rutgers University

21 Jul

State universities often lack the aura of prestige that go with the Ivy League and comparable brand name schools.  Hence, many a high-achieving student sees them as safety schools.  But in this day and age, when economic times remain uncertain at best, state universities may offer a better bet over some lower tier private universities for its cost effectiveness and access to resources.

I came to this conclusion when my daughter and I took a tour of our home state university, Rutgers University in New Brunswick.  The university is so large that it spans five campuses and we had to take a bus tour of it.  During the school year, students use the Rutgers bus system – I was told it is the second largest bus system in the state – to get around.  According to one student admissions representative, she never had to wait more than five minutes for a bus.

The campuses are expansive, with lots of open green space, a lake, and even a golf course.  We saw signs of building activity everywhere and were told the construction is mostly for new dorms.  Housing is guaranteed for all freshmen but after that, it is based on a lottery system.

The student body is large, with over 30,000 undergraduates and 8,500 graduate students.  Because of its size, it can support many academic programs so there are over 100 majors across seven schools, including liberal arts, visual and performing arts, engineering, pharmacy, business, nursing, and environmental/biological sciences.  Apparently there are many opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research.

The cost of this education for in-state residents is half of what many private institutions charge: last year tuition and board came out to $23,466 for in-state residents.  Even for out-of-state residents and international students, it compares favorably at $35,222.  The Board of Governors just approved a tuition increase of 1.6% for next year and room and board will likely increase 3.3%.  It is still a bargain.

The admissions rate in 2010 for New Brunswick was 59%, making it an easier college to get into.  Lest one thinks that a higher acceptance rate translates into a less than stellar student body, 81% of freshmen at New Brunswick ranked in the top 25% of their graduating class.  This academic profile is similar to some private universities like Northeastern University or American University.

Other than the cost, Rutgers’ size dwarfs that of many private schools and its sheer size can be daunting, unless one is looking for a large school experience.  It has a football team and by all accounts, school spirit is feisty (this is New Jersey after all).  We passed the football stadium and it looks fairly new.  With such a large student body, students will have to take a pro-active approach to their education.  Faculty advisers are assigned to each student to help with academic planning and course and major selection but this is not a place where they will hold your hand through your four years.  But perhaps that more closely reflects real life.

Rutgers is known for its diverse student body, with students coming from all socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities, the vast majority of whom are from New Jersey (92%).  In New Brunswick, whites constitute less than 50% of the student population.  In what must seem like a bitter ironic twist, the university launched Project Civility to promote civil discourse on campus at the same time that the Tyler Clementi tragedy was unfolding last September.  (Tyler Clementi was a young gay freshman who committed suicide after finding out that his roommate had secretly videotaped him having a tryst with another man.  The case is wending its way through the legal system.)

The application process is fairly straightforward.  Students apply online at the Rutgers website (no Common Application) and self report their grades.  There is an essay; the SAT or the ACT score is required.  No teacher recommendations are needed.

For those students who may not qualify for a lot of financial aid, going to Rutgers may make more sense than going to a higher priced, lower tier, private university.  Besides, I like knowing that my tax dollars are being put to good use.

Trip review: American University

9 May

American University (AU) was the last college we visited in the Washington D.C. area in February.  Located off Massachusetts Avenue within walking distance of the Tenleytown metro stop on the red line, AU is similar in size to Georgetown with 6,300 undergraduates.  Most of its campus buildings are arrayed around a large green quadrangle and the buildings are an eclectic mix of modern and neoclassical architecture.

We were shut out of the information session (AU requires early registration to attend an information session) so we waited around for the campus tour to begin.  There were others who were also waiting for the tour and soon more and more people were coming in.  Seeing our growing numbers, an admissions officer decided to create an informal information session just for those of us waiting around.  She had extra chairs brought into a smaller room nearby and ushered us inside.  Even though we were packed cheek to jowl in the small room, it was considerate of them to accommodate us this way.

There are five undergraduate schools: arts and sciences (the largest school), business, communication, international service, and public affairs.  In addition to the standard majors, they offer some unusual ones, such as a major in business and music (good for those wishing to work in the music industry), an interdisciplinary major in communication, legal studies, economics and government, and audio production/technology.

There is an emphasis on languages across the schools.  For example, the Kogod business school offers a major in business, language and culture studies with tracks in Arabic, French, German, Russian, and Spanish (alas, not in Chinese).  The School of International Studies (the largest international relations school in the US) offers language and area studies in French/Europe, German/Europe, Russian/Area Studies, and Spanish/Latin America.  The School of Communication offers a major in Foreign Language and Communication Media.

The strength of the university lies in its international relations, political science and business programs much like other D.C. universities that benefit from Washington’s location as the nation’s capitol.  For prospective students who want to be in D.C. and wish to study those disciplines, AU is easier to get into.  This year’s admission rate is 41% and the number of applications grew 10%.  The freshman retention rate of 91% indicates that most students are happy with their education here.

The top 15% of admitted freshmen are eligible for the honors program.  Academic merit scholarships are also available.  Tuition is about $37,554 for the 2011-2012 academic year, and average room and board costs $13,648 a year.  By now we had gathered from our visits that living in D.C. is expensive but for those who are interested in politics, government, and international affairs, you cannot beat Washington D.C.’s location with its access to international organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and all the foreign embassies.  It would be an exciting place to spend four years.

The George Washington University – a trip report

24 Mar

The big, brightly lit hall was packed with prospective students and their parents and there were no more seats left since we had arrived late to the information session.  But the staff at George Washington University (GWU) kindly brought in chairs to accommodate us and other latecomers.  An admissions officer and a student were up front, already deep into their presentation about the university.

GWU is a stone’s throw away from the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. and its very location attracts students who are interested in all things political, regardless of what they are studying.  And there is a wide range of undergraduate academic programs to choose from, starting with the largest undergraduate school, liberal arts, to business to engineering to international affairs to media and public affairs to public health.  One student’s experience was that no matter the class subject, the conversation topic inevitably turns to a discussion of politics.  This can take some getting used to, if one is more apolitical.  The university also prides itself in hiring professors who have had work experience in government, industry, and international affairs and because of its location, attracts an impressive roster of guest speakers.

The main campus is located in Foggy Bottom, about four blocks from the White House.   GWU’s 9,500 undergraduates are spread between the Foggy Bottom campus and the Mount Vernon campus, acquired twelve years ago and located a few miles away.  Shuttles run regularly between the two campuses on a 24-hour basis.

The Foggy Bottom campus consists of buildings spread out over several city blocks and there is no discernible campus to speak of other than signs that identify the buildings as belonging to the university.  The buildings are modern looking structures and blend into the cityscape.  As such it is very urban and this will likely appeal to some students and not others.  Although we did not see Mount Vernon, word is that it more resembles a traditional campus with green spaces, trees, quads, and is set in a quiet suburban-like area.  Our tour guide told us the appeal of having both types of campuses was what attracted him to GWU.  In addition, the university is planning on erecting a brand new science building in the next few years as the existing science facilities are aging.

GWU offers a lot of flexibility in their academic programs.  Students can major and minor across undergraduate schools, double major across schools and even switch schools.  They also offer an honors program and combined bachelor/graduate degree programs.  In the thirty years since I applied to college, GWU has risen significantly in rankings and become more competitive.  Last year the admission rate was 31% and this year, the number of GWU’s early decision applicants swelled 18.5%, attesting to the university’s ever-increasing popularity.  This is not your grandfather’s GWU.

Like any big university, the bureaucracy can be frustrating, according to a former GWU parent.  It is not cheap either, with tuition costing $42,860 a year and room and board adding another $10,120.  GWU offers a fixed tuition plan where students pay the same tuition for four years.  Ten to fifteen percent of the students receive merit aid.

In a few days I’ll post some photos of the university.

 

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