I found this great post about the questions one needs to ask before enrolling at a college. Some of them are really great while some made little sense to me.
Here are the questions I consider to be extremely important. People who fail to ask them before deciding on a college are irresponsible and unintelligent. I’ve seen folks who shelled out $250,000 for their kid to go to college without even realizing how highly probable it was that their child would never take a class with anybody who actually had a PhD. Be vigilant, people, and ask these crucial questions:
- What percentage of courses in the college (and in my discipline) are part-time? Are they paid reasonably? If I’m in a field that tends to traditionally employ a large number of part time professors (like art and music), what’s the turnover rate? Will I get to study with whom I came here to study?
- How many of my part-time professors will also teach the exact same course in the community college on the other side of town?
- What’s the college’s opinion on MOOCs?
- Do you have a women’s center and is it supported by the college community? Where is it? Can you take us in there on the tour? What formal support is there for LGBT students?
- When was the last time a professor walked off the job mid-semester?
- Do professors have to sign a statement of doctrine or church affiliation?
- If the college is religiously affiliated, how does one reconcile bigoted positions on race and sexuality in the classroom? In student life? In use of the campus chapel?
- Can the religious life/chaplain’s office give me a few references of students who self-identify in a similar way to me, to ask questions?
- When was the last time the campus was investigated by the AAUP?
- How often do students not graduate on time because of lack of enrollment for upper-level courses?
- Do full time professors or part time professors service the general education courses? How many TAs will I have to be working with?
- What percentage of non-science students are education majors? What percent of the faculty council are education professors?
- Who was the last great speaker to come to campus for something? Did students actually attend?
- How do professors’ salaries measure up against athletic staff salaries?
Now for the questions I consider to be both useless and offensive. It is crucial to know the relevant information before paying the tuition fees. However, let’s remember that occupying the position of a customer who is always right with college professors is a very counter-productive strategy.
- Explain what happened the last three times an upset student complained to the department chair about a professor.
The internal workings of any department are none of your business. You need to be able to trust that these routine issues are handled in an appropriate manner. What I hear in this question is the voice of a helicoptering Daddy worried that bad, mean ogres will be nasty to his little baby. Grow up, Daddy, and let little Johnny learn to work within a hierarchy. That is a highly marketable skill.
- Do the professors actually live in the community?
What else do you need to know? Their favorite sexual position? It is none of your goddamn business where anybody lives or what they eat for breakfast. The idea that paying tuition entitles you to police people’s private lives is highly offensive.
- Take a look around the student parking lots during the semester and take a look around the faculty parking lots. Which has more Lexuses and BMW’s?
I find the question and the mindset that inspired it to be incredibly vulgar. But I guess you need to go to college before you understand why such questions should not be asked.
- Is the library easy to use? Are the librarians easy to work with? Do your classes actually require you to walk into the library?
Also, how many of the profs actually require you to use type-writers? Come on, folks, dictating course requirements to professionals who design the courses is right there with inquiring into those professionals’ sex lives. What do you think your little Susie will be able to learn from somebody you teach her to see as less competent than her unqualified Mommy to design her own courses?
- May I sit in a writing composition course to observe?
No professor in their right mind will let you mess with the group dynamic in her course just to give you a chance to sit there and feel important. Do you also sit in on a chef preparing a meal, a doctor performing a procedure, a lawyer negotiating a settlement, a dress-maker sewing a dress, a dentist drilling a tooth before you choose to grace them with your custom?
Overall, this list is very helpful but I find it curious how easily it slips from the “university should be a place of learning, not a place of making a quick buck” into the “professors should be my humble slaves because I have paid them” model.
P.S. I looked at the discussion following the linked post and discovered, to my intense disappointment, that it very soon became about the incredible hardship of asking questions because being an adult is intensely complicated. As a result of this approach, people end up getting into enormous debt in exchange for a piece of toilet paper sold them by some diploma mill. And all because they couldn’t get themselves together and ask a few questions.