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Richard B. Schwartz
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This is basically a guide to sometimes `overlooked' colleges. As such, its short write-ups on those colleges could prove useful to potential students. Many of the colleges named are fine institutions. Thus, this is one book among many that High School juniors and their parents might wish to consult. The financial information, however, is hit-and-miss. Tuition and fees, room/board costs and scholarship resources are likely to be important to readers and this book is spotty with regard to those details. Much of the material is anecdotal and while that is always vivid and potentially helpful it runs the risk of being unrepresentative. The book's material on applicant pools, average SAT scores, acceptance and retention rates and so on is also hit-and-miss. My advice to potential students would be to begin with a large source book or data set that includes the financial, statistical, geographic, programmatic and demographic information in which they might be interested, then home in on a large number of schools. After that you can turn to books like Pope's which give information on the texture and ethos of a given institution. Then it's time for campus interviews, discussions with enrolled students, and closer, more personal examination.
Pope's book, it should be noted, has strong biases. His preference is for small institutions that are student-centered, i.e., institutions in which the faculty are principally teachers and not researchers, institutions in which the ethos is very `personal'. By and large, the institutions on which he focuses are less prestigious ones, institutions that `really want you' and will `really appreciate you'. There is no question that some `prestige' is relatively hollow, that statistics can be cooked and that some high-priced institutions do not return value for dollar. At the same time, there are institutions that are not prestigious for good reason. There are institutions that are desperate. There are institutions that offer high touch services in lieu of solid instruction, that balance their books by principally employing part-time faculty. Whether or not Pope's picks are overlooked jewels will also depend on the interests and needs of the individual student. Not all seek the hothouse, village environment. Some want a broader experience. Some want more exotic programmatic opportunities than small liberal arts colleges can provide.
The book indulges in some grotesque generalizations: ivy-league schools are scams; students are ignored there; there are no rewards for teaching there; professors do little or none of it; when they teach they only lecture to large groups; in many of these schools you will never be required to write a paper; half of your classes will be taught by adjuncts and many will barely be able to speak English . . . and so on.
There is some modicum of truth to these generalizations, but each ivy league school is different and each top-ranked college is different. I teach at an AAU-public, a land grant institution with far more modest tuition than the schools on Pope's list. We are a research institution, likely to be accused of the same sorts of crimes and misdemeanors which Pope finds in top private institutions. Many of our students participate directly in serious and significant faculty research projects that change their lives. Virtually all of the full-time faculty lecture from time to time and virtually all of them teach small classes. This semester I have a class of 29 and a class of 14. Several students are doing special projects (honors work, directed readings, capstone projects) with me. Good teaching is highly prized. We have multiple teaching awards that involve not insignificant financial remuneration. We have distinguished teachers appointed to special Curators' teaching professorships, system-wide awards, college awards, alumni/ae association awards and departmental awards, including awards for both professional advising and mentorship. Nearly all of the institutions against which we measure ourself do as well.
Part-time teaching is, indeed, a problem, though it is more likely to be a significant intellectual issue at marginal institutions, whose part-time teachers are often senior graduate students from local research universities or gypsy scholars seeking full-time positions elsewhere. On the other hand, dedicated part-time teachers can be of exceptional value. I spent 17 years as graduate dean at Georgetown. We had a number of programs (Public Policy, National Security Studies, e.g.) which drew on local professionals as part-time faculty. Students were taught by the individuals who actually generated the ideas or directed the programs which they were studying. There are adjuncts who are desperate for work and there are adjuncts who are otherwise-employed professionals who love to teach a single class and do it superbly well.
Each student is different and each student seeks an academic experience appropriate to that student's needs and desires. While higher education in America has problems it also offers great diversity in its institutions. Students are best advised to become highly-informed but also to seek an institution in which they themselves are most likely to flourish.