College has certainly changed. It used to be somewhat affordable and a college degree guaranteed a career after graduation. Now tuition has skyrocketed, while job prospects for college grads have plummeted. Students are scared of being saddled with debt and ending up in low-paying jobs that aren’t in their field. Nonetheless, going away to college is part of the growing-up process in America, so we took our high school senior on a whirlwind tour of campuses.
Our first stop was a small private school in Indiana. We were among a hundred visitors who came to the open house. It was a completely Caucasian crowd, something I’m not accustomed to. The student body also lacked diversity. But I don’t think we should hold a school’s racial makeup against it.
It offered a fundamental Christian education, with a course in Creationism as part of the curriculum. There was a curfew for freshmen and sophomores and attendance was taken in class. The students on the panel said their main haunts were bowling alleys and coffee shops. I was getting the impression it wasn’t a party school.
After listening to a rousing Christian rock band, we ate chicken surprise in the cafeteria. Then we sat in a humanities class and watched the students re-enact William Tell shooting an apple off his son’s head.
At the faculty forum, I learned the school has a connection to Forest Park. It houses the Billy Sunday historical collection and they preserve his home as a museum. I told the history professor that Billy was buried a few blocks from my house. He had made a pilgrimage to Forest Home Cemetery to see the great evangelist’s grave.
We learned that the school would cost about $29,000 a year but this could be defrayed by taking summer classes and graduating in three years.
After leaving the campus, we visited another private institution of higher learning – in South Bend. It had a much more impressive campus, with a football stadium. The student body was larger and the tuition much higher than the small school. I was thinking that my son, who played soccer in high school, might walk-on as a place-kicker for the football team.
On the way home, we escaped the Dan Ryan at 31st Street, so this qualified as a visit to IIT. Like the other two schools, it had been founded as a religious institution. For a change of pace, we tried a public university, eating in Little Italy in the shadow of UIC.
There are so many options: junior colleges, the military, going right into the work force. However, a friend of mine who teaches at a small private college said that going off to college for four years is still a priceless experience.
Easy for him to say – his daughter got free tuition.