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.”