College guide: what parents should ask on the college tour

I am often asked for advice from people I know whose children are thinking about going to college or are “interviewing” for colleges, probably since I work part time in higher education and I guess I keep on top on what is going on “in that world.”  What kinds of questions should we ask that are beyond the obvious?  What kinds of questions will really make the student tour guide squirm?  Here’s some I came up with.  Obviously, college tour guides aren’t going to know the answer to all of these–especially the second–but with some research one can discover this information.

At the risk of opening up for a whole lot of snark, what questions would you add to this list?

  • 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 emply 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?
  • Explain what happened the last three times an upset student complained to the department chair about a professor.
  • What percentage of non-science students are education majors?  What percent of the faculty council are education professors?  Why would someone come here to study education rather than the state college nearby?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Is the library easy to use?  Are the librarians easy to work with?  Do your classes actually require you to walk into the library?
  • 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?  Do the professors actually live in the community?
  • May I sit in a writing composition course to observe?

What are your questions to add?

12 thoughts on “College guide: what parents should ask on the college tour

  1. The percentage of non-tt faculty should be a number publicized on all of the college rankings. Someone should be able to go to a secretary with a schedule of classes and answer some of the questions in a few moments.

    One thing that dumbfounds me as I have been observing a campus ask questions about their enrollment is this, which I am sure the students don’t know: The same professors are teaching the same classes at the five or six surrounding colleges. The same syllabi, perhaps the same books, but different price.

    I recently looked at the course schedule of a local college with which I have no affiliation. In the philosophy and religion departments, I recognized every single name of the part time faculty from all of the neighboring colleges (and seminaries), sometimes over 2 hours away. I was actually a little surprised, and I looked up what I could at the other colleges’ fall course schedule. One dude was teaching at least 8 classes between 4 schools. That I know about. Now, I know that’s not right, I know how it happens, but what would change if the consumers in the consumer model knew? Does the class model demands of college admissions and identity even care at this point (or did they ever care)?

  2. Chris,

    To answer your question directly, my college does not care. We know the chancellor doesn’t care, specifically, and the other admins either follow-suit or become quiet to protect their jobs since the board of trustees doesn’t care either. When asked about it, the chancellor notes that our wages are competitive for the area. Yes, sir, they are, and all the other third-tier colleges and junior colleges are doing it too.

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