After our detour into the subculture of People Who Live On Boats, we braced ourselves for a rigorous schedule of tours, hotels, and states. The plan had been meticulously arranged weeks ago with hotel reservations, driving plans, and college reservations. An itinerary was typed out with scribbled tips in the margins about restaurants and bars from friends. (Thanks all!)
By limiting this search to the big public schools in nearby states — URI, UConn, UMass, UNH, and UVM — we compared apples to apples. And since both Steve and I attended similar public colleges as undergraduates and both taught at public colleges, we thought we could add our own apples to the comparison. Well, our apples didn’t count – either the apples were from too long ago or weren’t from flagship public colleges. We were rather shocked at what we found.
Even URI with its sagging window air conditioners in the administration building, was a damn sight more impressive than we expected. All of the schools were in the midst of major construction projects. There were cranes and tractors and scaffolding everywhere. New dorms at UVM! New science building at URI! New everything at UConn!
Ian, who was an absolute champ on these two hours tours in the 95 degree heat, observed that these schools were cities. And he was right. Weird, little cities of young, beautiful people. No old, no babies, no sick, no disabled. Just 30,000 cheerful, clean-cut, middle class kids with endless enthusiasm for sustainable water bottles and semesters abroad. They were identical even if they were of different races.
And like real cities, these universities provide services for their citizens, but way beyond the range of what any real city does. It’s a real city on hormones, cocaine, and a pack of unfiltered Camels. The tour guides explained that their schools provide everything from parking spaces to free laundry to counseling to tutoring to 24 hours of food to career counseling. Oh and they also teach the kids stuff, too.
So, if you figure that these universities manage nearly 50,000 students and staff, it’s rather a remarkable administrative feat. They work with an efficiency of Disney Land.
We didn’t see the rockwalls or the lazy rivers that I’ve heard tell about, but we did see very impressive exercise buildings with hundreds of treadmills. One tour guide gave us the list of all the free exercise classes — yoga, bro-ga for the guys, strength training, and dance. There were intramurals, club sports, varsity. UConn had national basketball champs. UVM had an enormous ski club with free lift tickets at the nearby mountains.
Jonah was probably most impressed with UConn and UVM for both real and superficial reasons. He just fell in love with the campuses. UConn was spotless. We watched a video about UVM in its brand new visitor center with exposed pine wood rafters in Adirondack style. The campus in on a green hill overlooking Lake Champlain and the town of Burlington. We wanted him to look past the buildings and get at the substance, but it was tough. UVM was extremely beautiful.
The kid loves plants, and we saw impressive fields and greenhouses at those schools. The tour guides at UConn and UVM just happened to know about that stuff and talked about it a lot on the tours. But he also likes architecture and German. All the schools were big enough, so he could take a range of classes his freshman year until he was ready to narrow down.
We made a point, just to be annoying, to ask the tour guides at all five schools about the percentage of adjunct professors there. (None knew that answer.)
I asked one of the tour guides who have all blended together in my head into one perky composite face what were the most commonly asked questions on the tours. She said, it was about parking and food.
The price for these schools as an out-of-state student is frightening — $40K to $55K. We’ve got the NJ state college tours coming up later in August, but even in-state here is expensive. It’s $30K. But after seeing these schools, I can see why parents go into so much debt to send their kids to these places. They were wonderful. I wanted to go back to college. I’ve always liked colleges. That’s why I ended up in grad school until I was 34. With all these opportunities, both Steve and I were drooling. We wanted it, too. We bellied up to the Kool-Aid bar and drank deeply.
One perk that was common to all these schools? Puppy petting hours. That is a bit weird.