During the February winter break from NYC public schools, Elsa and I embarked on a five day, eight college tour of what I call our "northern schools." Our tour began with three SUNY schools: Binghamton, Oneonta and New Paltz in upstate New York.
We left New York City on Sunday, 2/15 and traveled with our friends and neighbors, Jennifer and Sophia. We shared a hotel room in Binghamton, or Vestal, actually, and signed up for a 10 am tour on Monday, Presidents Day. Binghamton is a Divison 1 school for athletics, which, for Elsa, means that she is probably not going to be a recruit for their soccer team. For this reason, I sort of had to drag her to see this school. None of us were really expecting this to be THE school, but we felt as a SUNY school with a good reputation, we had to see it. Jennifer's approach was a wise one. Her plan was to ask Sophia, "What DID you like about the school?" Here's what I thought: The presentation, the information session was excellent. I felt the whole event was well organized. There were plenty of student volunteers, there was nearby complimentary parking, and we signed in quickly and got materials. The presenter was well spoken, organized and had a nice power point presentation. It seemed that the bulk of it was, however, exactly the same as a glossy brochure we were handed, which we are capable of reading ourselves. The overall message I got from Binghamton is that the school ranks well in many college ranking magazines, top three this, best four in that, yada, yada. It seems graduates are well prepared for the work force as many degrees seem to track students right into the job market: nursing, education, engineering, etc. The killer was the list of salaries which graduates from many heavy hitter schools earn in their first post-college year. Binhamton's are reported to be the highest, making this education the biggest bang for your buck.
Our tour guide, Robbie, an accounting junior, was cheerful and semi-knowledgeable. The campus tour, however, seemed endless to me (and to Elsa and Sophia) because of the size of the campus and the pace and content of Robbie's shpiel. While Robbie generously showed us his own dorm room and introduced us to his brother, he also loved pregnant pauses and used them frequently to allow visitors to think of questions to ask about the school. The Binghamton campus is amazingly, completely cement. Interestingly, the school got a 99 rating for it's greeness and recycling program. The school even composts, which is a foreign concept to Robbie, but there is nary a tree-oaky, I'm exaggerating, there are a few baby saplings on campus-but they do not off set the overwhelimg presence of austere, oppresive bland block-like buildings on campus. But, here's what I did like: Binghamton is serious about recycling and has structures in place to help students do so, it has a great transportation system for students to get around campus and to get to LI or NYC, and we were told that freshmen can participate in hands on research projects with their professors. Elsa's comment was that Binghamton didn't seem as big as it is when we were there. Our friend Sarah attends the school and likes it a lot. Elsa and I were eager to leave to drive an hour or so to Oneonta. We thanked Robbie and took off. In fairness to Binghamton, we never saw the actual downtown. Frighteningly, we were told by a student guide that the "miracle mile" of fast food restaurants and malls was the town, but I'm sure this can't be so.
Elsa's overall rating, on a scale of 1 to 10: 3. Mine, 5.