College Tour at Thrifty U.

With the Hoboken train station out of commission, Steve left the house at 6:45 to begin his new two-hour-each-way commute to work. I got up with him like I always do, and then began the hour-long process of getting Jonah out of bed. The boys didn’t have school for the Jewish holidays, but he still had to get moving early. His cross country team was training on a course in the Bronx to prepare for this Saturday’s meet.

His team is pretty good. They might be two or three in the state this fall. Jonah might be among the top fifty runners in the state. We’ll see how things go. In the meantime, he’s training for two or three hours, seven days a week, 12 months a year. We pushed him to do track, so that he had an activity and would be too busy to get into trouble. He would have preferred to get a job at King’s along with his burner friends, but we thought that this was a better choice. So, we bought the $200 sneakers, nagged, and picked him up each day from the school. We hadn’t really banked on him being good, and this activity being such a time-suck.

Since yesterday was a rare day-off this fall, we had to squeeze in a school tour. So, I drove up to the Bronx, over the GW Bridge, and double parked outside of Van Cortland Park at a designated street corner. I do find it surprising that there are still some dirt roads in New York City.

At 10:00, I see him and a buddy racing up a hill at full speed. He knows that I’m anxious to get moving. So, he grabs his gym bag out of his coach’s car and bounds into our car. Sweat is dripping of his ear lobes.

“I need to change”, he said. “I’m gross. I’ve sweat through my underwear. I packed everything but underwear.”

So, we find a Target in White Plains. We buy a pack a boxers and he changes in the men’s room.

Then he needed to eat, so he powered through about $15 worth of carbs at a Barnes and Noble cafe. One hour later, we were finally ready to drive to Thrifty U. at its Earthy Crunchy Campus. Because my nerves were still jittery from the city driving, I turned the keys over to Jonah and got stuck sitting in his pool of sweat in the passenger seat. Ian popped in his earbuds and played video games in the backseat.

An hour and half later, we were too late to do the tour at Thrifty U., but we’ve done enough of these things to manage on our own. We walked into the shabby visitor center to get some maps. We hoped to sign our names on some registry to show that “we cared.” Caring matters for a lot of schools. It didn’t matter at Thrifty U.

Unlike other state colleges, there weren’t a whole lot of new building or fancy amenities. Most of the buildings were put up in the 70s and had about the worst student union that I’ve ever seen. But the tution is really great. It’s about the same as our in-state college, and about $15-25K cheaper than other flagship, out-of-state schools.

This particular branch of Thifty U used to have a pothead reputation. The nearby town still has that vibe with Deadhead posters and head shops. But I didn’t pick that up on the campus. The library was packed. The average high school GPA is a 3.6. It’s a serious school. They could be serious potheads, but that’s okay. As long as they’re working. Smart kids and good price — we like it.

After we walked around for an hour (14,000 steps), they told us that we could speak with an admission director. Okay.

We waited in a conference room for a minute and a 20-something woman met us. Shook our hands. Didn’t write down our names.

She asked Jonah what he was interested in. He told her plant biology, so she talked about their program. Lots of hands-on, field work, which sounded good. She bragged that their faculty were a teaching faculty and weren’t promoted for research – the first time that I’ve heard a brag about that. She said that classes were small. The biggest lectures were 100 kids. Most were under 30. All good things.

Jonah asked her about admission priorities. She said they mostly looked at the high school GPA. and then spent a long time discussing their formula for recalculating the GPA for their system. They didn’t care about SAT scores, cross country, essays, recommendations, and any of the other time consuming hurdles that he’s done in the past four years. Gun to the head.

After chatting for about ten minutes, Jonah turned to me and said, “are you going to ask the adjunct question?” I had almost forgotten. Whenever we go on a college tour, I ask about the percentile of adjuncts. So, I asked her, “What are your percentile of adjuncts?”

She said, “All of our professors have PhDs!”

I said, “I’m sure they do. But what percentage of them are adjuncts?”

She said, “We don’t use T.A.’s!”

I said, “That’s fine. But how about adjuncts?”

She said, “We have 400 full time faculty!”

I said, “That’s good. How about adjuncts?”

She said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

I said, “OK. I just think that people should be properly paid for their work.”

She smiled. And that ended our tour of Thrifty U. A big “meh.”



24 thoughts on “College Tour at Thrifty U.

  1. I can remember the first time we toured the college Rory chose and they said they didn’t use weighted GPAs. For her, this meant that if she didn’t get an A in an AP course, taking that course actually hurt her (thinking theoretically she could’ve gotten an A in the regular course) when it came to grade based scholarships. Sigh.


  2. That two hour commute sounds horrible. I hope Steve can at least read or something while traveling. Or maybe Pokemon Go works well from a train?


  3. Oh, I love Jonah for reminding you to ask “the adjunct question”! WOW… which reminds me that I really need to talk to the admissions office at the fancy-pants historic state univ. where I live so we know exactly what my freshman son should be worried about. At the moment he’s not doing sports… and he doesn’t want to… sigh… But we’ll see. I imagine it’s a really really competitive school to get into. My students are pretty awesome… Two months into high school and Kelvin is doing good as far as grades are concerned, he’d better keep that up!

    I wonder if my husband interviewed for a postdoc at the school you’re talking about.


  4. I forgot about the whole Jewish holiday-thing but yesterday I was walking home and a guy in very Jewish clothing asked me if I was Jewish. I realized that this happens pretty much every year about this time. I’m not sure if talking to other Jewish people is part of the holiday or if it’s seen as an opportunity to get the slacker-Jewish people to become more observant. Anyway, about fifty yards down the street was another very Jewish family, so I said “Happy Rosh Hashanah.” The father said, “Oh, are you Jewish.” I said I was just repeating what the guy ahead of him said to me.


    1. The first fellow you saw is most likely a member of a certain fundamentalist Jewish sect that actively seeks to bring “fallen away” Jews “back,” and work year round to do so.

      Many of us find this rather irritating and insulting, who are they to decide who and what is Jewish enough? I should note that other sects and branches leave well enough alone, which is a much more Jewishly authentic approach.


      1. I didn’t think these guys were very fundamentalist. For one thing, I was within a block of the Reform Synagogue. For another, the men weren’t wearing black jackets and just had on the bishop-style hat, not the fedora.


      1. Gentiles are really lazy that way here. It was a perfect afternoon and I walked past maybe 100 people waiting to take a bus. Nearly all were under 30 and, based on past experience, about three out of four were only going to ride maybe 1.5 miles.They were all crammed on the first couple of buses that passed me. They might have saved ten minutes.


  5. I am a pretty strong believer that doing things you really don’t want to do isn’t a good plan for preparing for college admissions. Now clearly there are caveats. I still think you should take math, even if you really don’t want to, but I guess, not to prepare for college admissions, but because you just should. Kids need guidance to think of the future and not just today, but that shouldn’t mean they only think of the future. As Laura points out, the process is just too variable.

    Checking out the requirements for a few “likely” college choices, meaning ones you can afford and ones you think your children are suited to and ones they are likely to get into is always a wise plan.


  6. I do not have the aversion to adjuncts that this blog seems to have. In college, some of my better instructors were non-tenure-track faculty: a graduate student in economics who now runs a hedge fund (that was Econ 201); a graduate student in English who is now a tenured faculty member at Notre Dame (English 201); a history professor from another school. That said, the worst instructor I had, by far, was a marketing instructor adjunct who purportedly worked in the business world. (Of this I remain skeptical.) It would be nice if there was a good strategy to figure out whether the teaching that is non by non-tenure-track faculty will be effective. At my college, I think it was handled effectively overall. It’s pretty clear that other people have different experiences.


      1. Did you read the story about Clemson? A choice paragraph:

        “The most absurd personal moment of rankings-driven madness was when all faculty who weren’t tenure-track were summoned to a meeting with the provost, who proceeded to tell us how great it would be for Clemson’s ranking if we all went out and got Ph.D.s in our spare time. (The proportion of faculty with terminal degrees is part of the rankings.) Would we be eligible for the tenure track if we did this? No. Would we get a raise? No. Meanwhile, I worked in an English department where more than 75 percent of the sections offered were taught by contingent faculty, most of us making $25,000 a year or less.”


  7. I don’t understand why Thrifty U is a big ‘meh’. Smart kids and an affordable price with an emphasis on teaching sounds good.


  8. I think she might sincerely not know. Also, I think the problems with adjunct faculty is that they are “contingent” faculty, underpaid and no consistent employment and no benefits. In theory, the adjunct concept was developed for people who had other primary duties (i.e. lawyers who taught one class, or practicing psychologists who supervised clinical rotations, . . . ). “Adjuncts” have now become a way to exploit the gig economy, but separating the terms might help us be more precise about the issues we have with them.


  9. If I were causing trouble in a college interview, I’d be asking how the university felt about due process and freedom of expression. Especially if I were the parent of a boy.


    1. As the parent of a boy, in fact two of them, I have been making sure they see all the stories about girls who find themselves regretting consensual sex and then bring charges against the boy involved. Mattress girl for example. And the charades which are put in place for process in the witch hunts which ensue. This negative message is also coupled with exhortations to form loving and positive relationships which no one involved will regret, either in the morning or in the months to come, and by the way, fucking a drunk girl is icky and I have no idea why it would be fun. As the parent of a girl, I am talking about not getting stupidly drunk, but she usually shrugs me off with the claim (so far, as far as I know, true) that she doesn’t drink at all.


      1. “Women are liars who change their minds out of vindictiveness, so be sure to form a loving relationship with one”?


      2. “Men are patriarchal oppressors who have created “rape culture,” so try to form a loving relationship with one”? I say yes to all of the above, although it might be phrased more tactfully, e.g., “mutabile semper est femina” and “boys only want one thing.” My wife and I say that sort of thing to each other all the time.


      3. MH said,

        “Women are liars who change their minds out of vindictiveness, so be sure to form a loving relationship with one”?

        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!


  10. “boys only want one thing.”

    While this is tongue in cheek and the heterosexual young women I know don’t think of it in such negative terms, many of them do seem to be eschewing romantic relationships for similar yet subtler reasons. Their female friends provide much better emotional support and encouragement than their past boyfriends ever did and, with battery-operated boyfriends and the opportunity to have as many purely sexual relationships with men as they like, many of them seem pretty happy foregoing serious romantic commitments indefinitely.

    That will likely change as they age and want to start families, but it does feel like a cultural shift that many more young women can envision a happy and full life where finding a mate isn’t of focal importance.


    1. I have taped up on the door a cartoon showing two women in a restaurant booth, one says “Men! They only want one thing!” and the other responds “Yes – a shop!”. And the door on which I have taped it is the door of my shop. So I am a happy guy, and have what I want…


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