Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wahoo Is Just Another Word for Tool

The University of Virginia was the first university I visited during my senior year of high school and topped the list of colleges/universities that I was considering. One quick campus visit was all I needed to understand that it would be a bad fit: the level of arrogance, snobbery, and elitism displayed by the admissions staff and student tour guides was astounding and ludicrous. And the constant references to "Mr. Jefferson" were surreal by the end of the visit, at which point I'd decided that those university officials who claimed themselves heirs of Mr. Jefferson's educational ideals could kiss my ass.

Here are two fascinating posts from the May 7, 2009, Marc Fisher chat on the WaPo website that help illustrate why I firmly believe that UVA has a higher percentage of tools than the vast majority of state-funded colleges and universities in the nation:

McLean, Va.: McDonnell has got the in-state thing wrong. My son is a junior at UVA, and my daughter is currently a sophomore. What's more, my husband and I donate heavily to the University.

The biggest thing we like about UVA is that the out-of-state kids, paying full tuition, are the "right" kind of kids for a place like UVA. They're kids who you would feel comfortable hosting at your beach house without embarrassing yourself with the neighbors. Having quotas of in-state kids just leads to more Richmond gang influence and Winchester Dukes of Hazzard types, and that undermines my children's college experience. Keeping the in-state quota low lets my children attend a university that is essentially private, yet with the lower tuition and our donations we get substantially more influence than paying full tuition (with no money left for a donation) at a Princeton or a Yale.

Marc Fisher: Well, that's an interesting perspective. It's clear from the admissions statistics that by bringing in top-shelf students from out of state, places like UVa and William & Mary can powerfully boost their reputations and the quality of education they offer. And those Virginia kids who do get in--still a huge majority of the students at each of the state's schools--benefit both from the mix of kids and from the massive subsidy that out of state students pay. But I don't know that you'd have such an easy time proving that the next batch of Virginia applicants, the ones who just missed getting in, are the Dukes of Hazzard types who so repel you. In fact, any admissions officer would tell you that they could easily fill the entire class with kids who are absolutely identical to those who are admitted--it's a numbers game, and in Virginia, the out of state kids do boost the academic profile, but most of all, they boost the bottom line.

McLean, Va.: Just a clarification -- I'm not saying we should BAN the Richmond/Winchester types forever. Just have them prove themselves, that they can contribute something tangible to the University family. If a kid walks away from the Crips or the Boar's Nest and spends a good 8 years in the U.S. Armed Services fighting terrorism there so we don't face it here, then I can understand giving the kid GI Bill benefits to apply to his tuition bill. But make them DO something first for our security and our stock market, rather than just looking for an in-state handout as though nothing's expected of them.

Marc Fisher: Shovel, please.


Amazing, isn't it?

(Oh, and just to clarify before someone makes the accusation, no, I did not attend Virgina Tech. I went to Tech for some incredible parties -- the sort of parties that would undoubtedly have mortified McLean's beach neighbors -- but never paid a penny of tuition -- in-state or out-of-state -- for the privilege.)

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