Is it really worth going deep into debt to attend a “name” school? Is
your life over if you start your higher education in community college
or your state university? We chop through the hype.
What are the “best” colleges? Most of us have a general idea. It’s the
Ivies and the “Seven Sisters” (the seven historically women-only
colleges where Ivy students used to troll for future wives). Plus some
top engineering schools, such as MIT and Caltech, and some top liberal
arts colleges, such as Pomona and Washington and Lee. Oh, let’s also
throw in the U.S. military academies, and a handful of conservative or
Christian colleges, such as Hillsdale and Wheaton. To that add some
well-known state schools, such as UCLA and University of Virginia. To
find out exactly where each school ranks, all we need is to grab the
latest copy of U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges. We’re
“Wait a minute!” the more savvy reader might say. “There are other ways
to pick the best colleges, such as the guides Mary Pride reviewed on
page 39 of this issue! There you can find which schools are most devoted
to drunkenness or academics, which are hardest to get into, and lots of
other useful information!”
Or perhaps the entire way colleges are ranked needs to be rethought.
Let’s take U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges guide, for
example. According to a Forbes magazine article on “How to Choose a
College,” in terms of sales it wipes the floor with its competition:
U.S. News’ product is way out in front in visibility; in addition to its
usual circulation of 2 million, it sells 9,000 newsstand copies and some
20,000 of its college guide book.
America’s Best Colleges might be popular with the public, but not with
the presidents of many top private and liberal arts colleges. In June of
this year, a large group of them met in Annapolis to consider jointly
refusing to fill out the “reputation survey” on which U.S. News’
rankings are based in part, and to plan ways to provide information of
similar quality on their own.
The Annapolis Group’s new rankings (or whatever) are yet to be seen. But
here’s yet another way to rank colleges, based on what they produce
rather than who they enroll. It comes from the serendipitously named
Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
The head of the CCAP, Dr. Richard Vedder, wrote that Forbes article I
mentioned earlier. Everyone interested in “best” colleges should
click here to read the article. In it, Dr. Vedder explains
how his rankings include what students actually think of each school
(using one of my favorite sites, RateMyProfessors.com). They also include
how many students won prestigious awards and how grads are doing
according to Who’s Who in America.
The article contains charts for National Universities, National Public
Universities, and Liberal Arts Schools, with both their CCAP rank and
their U.S. News rank. Take the time to print them out. You may be
And here’s another twist:
It matters more to end up with “the best” than to start with “the best.”
To make this clear, which is better: an undergraduate degree from an Ivy
school, followed by a grad degree from a low-ranked school, or vice
Think about it.
You could spend your first two years in college at community college
(practically free). You could then transfer to a nearby state school
with an Honors program (still practically free, especially since Honors
programs typically grant scholarships). Get good grades and apply to
prestigious graduate schools. This is where you can actually be taught
by and do research with famous faculty.
If you’re not able to earn a 3.5 or better GPA at community college, you
can still transfer to state school with as little as a 2.5 GPA. If you
pick up your pace here, you might still be able to get into a good grad
And if grad school or professional school aren’t in your future, what
probably matters most is the effectiveness of your college’s careers
In the end, the “best” college for you is the one where you can do well,
learn what you need to know, and graduate as debt-free as possible,
without having your morals and worldview scrambled along the way. It’s
not mainly about the name; it’s about the education.
Breaking News: University of California rejects Christian texts
Since August 2005, we’ve been keeping our eyes on a shocking development
in the University of California system. That was when we became aware of
a complaint filed by the Association of Christian Schools International
(ACSI), Calvary Chapel Christian School, and a number of parents of
rising seniors on behalf of their minor children. The complaint alleged
“viewpoint discrimination by defendants toward Christian school
instruction and texts.”
Reading the complaint, the facts were compelling. Basically, these
Calvary Christian school seniors were being denied admission to schools
in the University of California system, solely because “some courses at
Calvary Christian School are disqualified from approval . . . because of
the Christian viewpoint added to standard subject matter presentation in
those courses and their texts.”
Note the word “added.” The state was NOT claiming required subject
matter was not covered. The texts in question included everything
required in state standards, plus Christian commentary and Bible verses
pertinent to some issues.
The case has finally made it to federal district court. On July 18, a
WorldNetDaily story summarized the issue as follows: “Whether a state
university system can dictate that private Christian schools in the
state teach their college prep courses from exclusively secular, Bible-
and God-free textbooks.”
UC officials specifically declared A Beka and BJUP textbooks
“insufficient,” just because state-required content was supplemented
with Christian material.
However, courses from other schools and publishers such as “Western
Civilization: The Jewish Experience,” “Issues in African History,”
“Feminine Roles in Literature,” “Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in
Literature,” “Intro to Buddhism,” “Introduction to Jewish Thought,” and
“Raza Studies” were all deemed OK by UC officials. In other words, UC
appears to think it’s OK to add viewpoints to your curriculum-just as
long as the viewpoint in question is not biblical Christianity.
Since this became official UC policy last year, and since there are only
two ways to get accepted into UC schools (score in the top 2-3 percent
on a standardized test or complete a UC-approved core curriculum in high
school), the message couldn’t be clearer:
“Christian school students and Christian homeschoolers, stay away-unless
you are willing to chop the Bible and Christianity totally out of your
Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech. Equal protection under the law.
So many rights are being violated here.
This all started, according to court documents, when U of C began
“expanding the reach and impact of requirements for students in
nonpublic secondary schools to be eligible for admission to the
University of California. . . . Methodically and ominously, [UC
officials] have assumed increasingly more authority over secondary
schools in California. . . . Even without authority for and guidance in
doing so, [UC officials] press onward from deciding admission guidelines
to determining what viewpoints may and may not be taught in secondary
school classrooms, which books may and may not be used, and what
students with the same tests scores are and are not eligible for
admission to the University of California.”
Those of us old enough to remember the Iron Curtain may recall that
communist nations routinely prevented Christian students from attending
college. Now California is following in Stalin’s infamous footsteps.
Three cheers for liberal tolerance.
The moral here is that we homeschoolers need to keep our eyes not only
on what is happening in K-12 education in our state, but on what our
state college officials are up to. As for me, I’m off to purchase a few
more BJU textbooks. If they bother UC, they must be doing something
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