Humongous State U v. Small Liberal Arts SMC?

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by pennak, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Well here is an unexpected twist. DS didn't get USNA or a MO NROTC scholarship, but still is committed to doing MO NROTC where ever he goes. Of the schools he has been admitted to (everywhere but USNA), he has A Wealth of Choices: Humongous State Universities (Texas A&M, University of Washington Seattle, University of Maryland College Park) v. Small Liberal Arts SMC Schools (VMI, Citadel, Norwich). I understand the legal pluses of SMC colleges and certainly, the general differences between a humongous U and a small Liberal Arts school are profound and self apparent (eg., class size, individualized attention). But is there any difference that this assembled body of wise folks can identify in terms of doing MO NROTC? Is it just a matter of money? Is one a Chevy and another a BMW for MO NROTC? I would be particularly interested in any perspectives and comments on MO NROTC at the University of Maryland -- that is in state for us. They don't do it on campus, you have to travel to DC at GW University. Of course we also got the out of state tuition waiver at Texas A&M and the two schools are roughly on par with each other academically -- both very highly thought of. Thanks.
     
  2. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Thanks much Tpg: I did not know that about GWU. I work in DC and walk through that "campus" (hard to call it a traditional campus in this urban setting) all the time. Love the school. Just didn't know much about NROTC there. What you say makes sense.
     
  3. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    I'll try to tackle this from my perspective as the parent of a Fourth Year VMI Cadet. To my mind, the biggest difference between SMCs and non-SMCs is that the SMCs offer a much more intense, 24/7 military experience. Some of the SMCs have their Corps of Cadets alongside a "civilian" student body. I will only speak for VMI, which is all Corps, all the time and requires every student to participate in ROTC. I have grown to appreciate the regimental system at VMI, which is a great equalizer of students from all walks of life and socio-economic background. Every entering student is a Rat, who, along with his Brother Rats, must begin his/her VMI career on a level playing field (located in the sub-sub-basement, metaphorically speaking :wink:) From there, they must prove themselves based on their individual accomplishments, while their mental, physical and emotional endurance is tested to the max. This is great preparation for life, as well as a career in the military. (Although ROTC participation is a requirement at VMI, commissioning into service is optional for those not contracted.

    This 24/7 regimental system is very different from life at a "normal" non-SMC, where the only military experience comes with ROTC training/participation. At VMI, there are very few opportunities for a social life. Some students prefer to have a little more freedom during their undergraduate years, with the opportunity to do ROTC.

    Whatever your son decides, once he has narrowed down his list, it would be good for him to spend some time visiting with the battalions, and talking to the student participants (as well as the PMS/ROO) to get their take on the experience. Overnight visits are really worthwhile.

    Best of luck!
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011
  4. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Thanks very much! DS has visited all these schools overnight, save A&M, to which we are going for Aggie Eagle Weekend this next week. The total immersion at VMI is incredible. It impresses DS, rightly or wrongly, as truly as one of the most mentally and physically challenging programs he has seen. That is a draw for him. My DS is a big strong kid, well experienced in tough wilderness treks (e.g., last summer he led a 125 mile canoe and portaging trip in the Minnesota and Canadian wilderness), and smart as a whip, but I wonder at times if any 17 or 18 year old can really fully understand the sort of challenge presented by VMI. Maybe I am just projecting from where *I* was at 17 (a long time ago).

    VMI is also truly expensive for non-Virginians (over $30,000 tuition), and cost is always a consideration, at least for Dad. In state at Maryland and A&M, for example, is $8,000. Quite a difference. Assuming arguendo that money is not controlling but relevant, do you think that VMI would be worth an extra $22,000 a year? $10,000? And DS is not an only child.

    I have really sought to educate myself, as has DS, in these differences. It is now narrowing down to crunch time. The options are on the table and they are radically different in some respects. There seem to be three main options: The VMI/Citadel total immersion, the Washington/Maryland regular college experience with Nrotc, and A&M, which has a small SMC corps (1730 at last count) sheltered amidst an enormous state university. Norwich, a small SMC with a 50% civilian student population, is somewhere in between.

    I am most intrigued that the A&M corps seems to be such an central part of A&M even though it is so small compared to the rest of the campus. My sense is that ROTC at most civilian big state universities is almost invisible and largely if not overwhelmingly irrelevant to most of the student body and to the university itself. A side show, if you will. Some say that is a plus (a normal college experience), some say a minus (its a *unwanted* normal college experience). I am hearing that A&M is different, but I am hoping that the trip will give me and DS a good sense for that. In any event, it will be DS's decision (it is his life, after all) and I will support it the best I can.
     
  5. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    I don't thinkanyone can fully understand, or imagine, what the SMC experience will be like, short of experiencing it. My son had been to a couple of summers of army camp, and had at least some idea of what to expect, but he confesses that the Ratline was much more difficult than he imagined.

    Expense: VMI is out-of-state for us New Yawkers, and when son did not get the AROTC scholarship, we were confronted with Plan B, a state college with an unappealing battalion which our son had absolutely zero interest in. We looked at North Georgia College and State U., an SMC which also offers in-state tuition to those in its Corps of Cadets. But, as it turns out, VMI offered him a financial package which made it do-able for us; still more than those in-state tuitions, but worth it to us and our son (who has a bit of skin in the game with federal student loans.) I think the question of "is it worth it?" is one that has to be answered by each family faced with their own circumstances, needs and wants. Many will argue (and rightly so) that the school experience is what you make of it. (On another forum, it was pointed out that Colin Powell went to a "no-name" state school - coincidentally my alma mater, CCNY :thumb: - and clearly became very successful.)

    I bet we all wish it were as simple as deciding between a Chevy and a BMW!
     
  6. patentesq

    patentesq Parent

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    The same can be said about ROTC. I went to an SMC, and now I realize that I don't have a clue what it is like to be an ROTC cadet at a civilian school (although I am learning fast!).

    I know you know that SMCs have guaranteed active duty (this includes A&M) upon graduation. Although nothing in life is certain, I strongly suspect that 4 years from now, the big topic on the SAF ROTC board will be about how only the best get active duty, while the rest go in the NG & Reserves. I really think that is where we are headed in the coming drawdown of our armed forces. I also read somewhere about how the Marine Corps is doing some major restructuring (Navy Times?), but tpg may know better because he likely follows that closer than I do. But if you are a Marine from an SMC, you are guaranteed active duty.

    Also keep an eye on opportunities outside of USMC. The VMI alumni network is likely much stronger in Maryland/Virginia than anywhere else. In contrast, Norwich is stronger in New England, and Texas A&M is stronger out west. This will become important if your DS ever leaves active duty and settles down in the MD/VA area and needs to pull VMI alumni strings to land a job. He is likely not thinking about this as a HS student right now, but this is an important thing to consider. If he goes to VMI and stays in MD/VA, I would expect his options down the road will be greater. If he wanted to go to Boston, however, I'd recommend Norwich.

    Also, if your DS has educational goals outside of MO NROTC, like study abroad, etc., you may find more opportunities as Humongous Univ. than at an SMC that seems principally focused on taking the kids out in the woods on the weekend (don't mean to say that there are NO opportunities at SMC for study abroad, etc.).

    Also, the class sizes are typically much smaller at an SMC than at Humongous Univ., where you can have 200 students jammed in a lecture hall while you can have fewer than a dozen at the small SMC school.

    Also, look at the number of Marines at each place. The more Marines, the better the MO NROTC program in terms of peer pressure, faculty, etc. (this is a totally over-generalized statement, I know).

    Finally, you'll have to just visit each place and go with your gut.

    Sorry, pennak, I know that I likely didn't make your choices any easier. :eek:
     
  7. pennak

    pennak Member

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    "But, as it turns out, VMI offered him a financial package which made it do-able for us; still more than those in-state tuitions, but worth it to us and our son (who has a bit of skin in the game with federal student loans.) I think the question of "is it worth it?" is one that has to be answered by each family faced with their own circumstances, needs and wants. Many will argue (and rightly so) that the school experience is what you make of it."

    We have yet to hear from VMI regarding financial aid. DS has applied for Institute Scholar scholarships, which can range from 5000 to the difference between out of state and in state ($18,000!!!). So we will see. The equivalent of in state tuition would certainly would make VMI more competitive in cost. Of course to keep the scholarship, he has to keep a 3.5 gpa, which might be tough in light of the time demands. The Marine Capt. there told my on March 4, that a full 60% of the entering class is below a 2.0 after the first semester. Yikes! That seems extreme. In any event, the parent to parent chat is *most* helpful. Your situation sounds quite similar to ours. Thanks very much!
     
  8. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Patentesq. Your post is most helpful and your points well-taken! The future force structure is, as you say, quite uncertain. It may turn on politics and *that* is an unknowable proposition, especially 4 years down the pike. That said, it does seem clear the every service is going to down size. The budget realities are going to get only worse and manpower is expensive (a big reason they re-mothballed the battleships after all the expense of refitting). The deficit spending is simply mind blowing and the military services are going to take a hit. It has already started.

    But, ultimately, you gotta go with the present. I think the trump card will be the type of experience DS wants to have.
     
  9. bjkuds

    bjkuds Parent

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    Just to throw this in the mix...VMI Financial aid actually uses a formula based on the EFC from the FAFSA. Without Institute Scholars program DS got appx 35% knocked off in cost. You can ball park the offer you will get if OOS by looking at the EFC and add 20% to it for your and DS's expected costs. For us it was almost equal to Norwich and Penn State Main campus which is in state. The offers we received put everything he was remotely interested in on pretty much an even plane. You may do much better though if he qualifies for their scholar programs, at least I would hope that academic prowess counts for some extra $$. Basically the person at Financial aid told us they try to meet up to 80% of what is remaining aside from the EFC for OOS students..(I hope that is clearer than it sounds). For us its a big financial hit, yet its possible to pay the bills, eat and show up at parents weekend so we are taking on the debt. Like wise Bruno posted several weeks ago..if it means not taking a cruise or driving the latest model car, its a different problem than not being able to pay for the car you already have. DS could have lived at home and gone to a much cheaper school without loans at all...for us its not the answer, for you..could be. Best wishes sorting all those choices out.
     
  10. tonk002

    tonk002 Member

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    From a students perspective: I prefer a liberal arts school. Large schools have a large student:teacher ratio, and its much more difficult in my mind to be known by teachers and peers than at a liberal arts school. Its also more of a challenge to be involved with the entire school community. That's just my opinion.

    From an ROTC perspective: ROTC at a normal university (not TAMU, though. Its an SMC), is different because its not always in a military setting. To me, being in a military setting in college would be beneficial - I like the structure the academic programs that places like VMI and Norwich offer. ROTC at a traditional college would be a mix of normal college and military. Both are great ROTC options- its just a matter of what lifestyle you want to live in for four years.
     
  11. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Thanks bjkud. That's a valuable perspective. I can afford to offer my DS options that my parents never could but I still did ok. I would like to keep some powder dry for DD and still retire before I'm 70
     
  12. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Thanks tonk002. The lifestyle point is hugely important to DS. Right now tamu seems to offer a great mix. Just not total immersion. How key is that?
     
  13. bjkuds

    bjkuds Parent

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    honest self evaluation

    smc vs regular college....

    DS has never been a problem child...respectful, kind and many friends that eat me out of house and home occasionally. For him he chose SMC's over "regular college" because he felt he needs the structure. If the impositions of the school itself don't govern his choice to go to class vs sleep in, he realizes that he may sleep in if it were up to him. He knows that if he is surrounded by people that work hard and don't party and aspire to do great things, he will follow suit. I have drilled into him that "you become like those you hang with" since childhood. He is a natural leader, yet he recognizes within himself that what and who he surrounds himself with does affect his behavior/thinking to a degree. So odd as this sounds, he actually believes he stands a better chance of excelling at an SMC academically than a college with no demands on time except making it to class. Its not a bad thing to realize you may need or want boundaries that are put in place by others to keep you on the strait and narrow.
     
  14. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Bjkud: Your DS is showing a great deal of maturity and self-awareness! My DS thinks a SMC will make "a better person" (not sure how, he didn't want to go into it. ). The common thread may be that the structure strictness may actually allow them to realize potential that may be more difficult to achieve with the distractions offered by a normal college. Heck, just the ban on video games and cell phones will do that the first semester! Trying to pry my kid away from "Call of Duty" can be a challenge. Being separated from the texting machine (cell phone) might even be traumatic. :rolleyes:
     
  15. tripletpapi

    tripletpapi New Member

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    TAMU vs other SMC

    This is my DS's opinion - so someone from TAMU may offer a different perspective. When he went to Spend a Night with the Corps he found it just as intense and as structured as SSA and visits to VMI. BUT, when he went to observe classes he found that the instructors were not sympathetic to the Corps or the additional duties that they had. "When I left the corps area I suddenly went from Academy to civilian and the civilians didn't appreciate what the cadets were doing." So for him, SA or VMI or Citadel were far more viable.
     
  16. SaltLife

    SaltLife Candidate

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    Hey I just happen to love chevys:yllol:
     
  17. bjkuds

    bjkuds Parent

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    I Hear Ya!:yllol:
     
  18. pennak

    pennak Member

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    All I can say is that I hope you have the opportunity some day to drive a high end BMW on the autobahn :wink:
     
  19. SaltLife

    SaltLife Candidate

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    I rode a BMW tour bus on the autobahn.. does that count?:thumb:
     
  20. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Nope. You have to drive at 160 km/h plus for it to count. Sorry: :biggrin:
     

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