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Colorado State University

COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY, Ft. Collins (visited 10/3/12)

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One of the large quads on campus.

This was not the clichéd large state university full of concrete and large, looming buildings. We arrived on campus next to a long tree-lined quad. Kids were playing Frisbee or lounging in the sun, and it looked more like a stereotypical small college quad – until we passed by a class of about 16 students sitting on the grass with notebooks and a professor writing on a portable white-board. That was a first for me; although I’ve seen classes meeting outside, those have usually been discussion groups rather than a teacher bothering to bring a white board. It was great to see.

CSU pondCSU started in 1870 as the land-grant institution for Colorado. It’s a major research university with a medium-sized school feel. About 12% of classes are taught by TAs, but those are almost all labs and recitation sessions.

The city of Fort Collins is a big draw for students: with a population of about 144,000 people, it’s diverse and active. They just admitted their largest freshman class – and have had four record years in a row. They expect that next year, there will be more out of-state applications than in-state apps. 200 miles of hiking and biking trails are accessible from campus, and (like other places in Colorado) it has about 300 days of sunshine each year. Students get outside and do a lot; for $40 a semester, they can use rent outdoor equipment from the student center for camping, kayaking, skiing, etc. Students get free city bus passes which run by campus all day. The city and the campus are both extremely safe; the biggest crime on campus is bike theft.

CSU2They’ve done quite a bit of building and renovation on campus. They’re looking to build an on-campus football stadium to replace the one that’s currently two miles off campus. One of the projects that they’re most proud of is the recently completed new engineering building. Students can complete a dual degree in biomed and engineering which is fairly unusual. Students do two separate majors rather than a single biomedical engineering degree. The Biomed Sciences major is the only one to which students must apply to directly. There are only 100 spots so people should apply early. Last year, they filled those spots by mid-December.

CSU dormsThere are six majors (including business, computer science, art, and engineering) which require applicants to have a higher GPA because the programs are more competitive. CSU’s business program is highly ranked, and students often take advantage of internships at places like Hewlitt Packard and other big-name companies in town. Engineering is strong, and the graduates of the program pass the national test at well above the national average. Pre-vet, health, and exercise sciences are very popular and well regarded. The university also has one of the top landscape architecture degrees in the country.

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The Business Department building

CSU differentiates tuition: business and engineering have an additional tuition charge of $60/credit hour because of the increased costs associated with running those programs. They are a WUE school so students residing in one of the 15 Western states can receive this award; the WUE is considered a merit-based deduction and is renewable with a 3.0 GPA. There are also other scholarships available for students outside the WUE states, including an Honors Program scholarship. The Honors scholarship can be stacked with other merit awards, but other than that, students can only get one merit scholarship.

CSU chapel and hillAdmission to the Honors Program comes with the offer of admission to the university and is based on GPA and test scores. Students can also apply after the first year if they don’t get it coming into the school. There’s an Honors Living Learning Community. The tour guide loves the coursework because of the discussion. Other benefits include early class registration and smaller classes. Our tour guide’s smallest classes had 17 students (Honors) and 30 (non-Honors). The biggest class he took was Oceanography with 300 students. When asked if there’s a lot of need for Oceanography in Ft. Collins, CO, the tour guide laughed and said, “It’s really more theoretical.”

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Another large open space between several academic buildings and their new athletic center.

The university is committed to helping students get comfortable on campus and to adjust to campus living. Thy run orientations throughout the summer, including one for students coming in from a distance; this happens directly before Ram Welcome (the fall orientation program) in August, so students only have to travel to campus once but still can take advantage of the extra orientation time. Freshmen are required to live on campus; the housing application is due by May 1 and costs $150; $100 of that goes towards the cost of housing. Off campus housing is close, cheap, and easy to find. The university has an off-campus housing office to assist students in finding places to live. Our tour guide said that he had no problem; he’s paying $375 for his bedroom in a three-bedroom house about a five-minute walk from campus. Even people who live off campus stay engaged in on-campus activities, leading to a vibrant campus environment. Only about 10% of the student body are members of fraternities or sororities, but Greek Life is active and many activities are open to any member of the community.

(c) 2012

University of Northern Colorado

UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN COLORADO, Greeley (visited 10/3/12)

UNC 6Getting off the bus, another counselor turned to me and said, “Well, we’re in farm country.” There was definitely a faint odor of manure in the air (which luckily seemed to be localized to the area where we got off the bus). We asked the tour guide about that; he said that once a week, they can get that odor from a local plant, but it’s rarely strong or long-lasting. He’s a senior and only twice did he remember it being overwhelming.

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University Center

The University Center is one of the best I’ve seen. In addition to the usual things like food kiosks and the bookstore, they also had a full hair salon, a bank branch, and several other services not usually seen in student centers. Their student ID, in addition to all the usual things it does on most campuses now (food, access to dorms), also acts as an ATM to Wells Fargo. The tour guide described the campus as being like a bowtie with the University Center as the knot in the middle of campus.

UNC dormSeveral academic programs merited special mention: the Business department has won awards, Nursing ranks in the top 5, and Musical Theater is also a top program. The tour-guide’s class sizes range from 12 (Sociology) to 125 (Public Speaking). He really likes the “mentor feel” in which students work shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers who work hard to create place where students can contribute. They help students shape and design research, publish in journals, and present at conferences. Students talked about feeling stretched and challenged; even though it was scary and they were pushed out of their comfort zone, they grew from being here.

UNC2Outdoors activities are big (not a surprise); the university has an agreement with a local ski resort; students pay $70 for three full days on the slopes that includes ski or snowboard rentals, full-day lift tickets, and rides to and from campus. There’s also a lot to do on campus, including a full Frisbee-Golf field. The yearly “Undie Run” that happens in the spring tends to be a favorite tradition; students will meet in the quad, strip down to their undies, and run across campus. The clothes they leave are donated to Goodwill or other charity organizations.

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One of the newer residential units.

UNC 5UNC has 10,000 undergraduates but has the feel of a bigger school in terms of opportunities, activities, sports, off-campus options, etc. They have DI athletics which are highly participated in as well as supported by students in the stands. Club and intramural sports are also active. There are 10 fraternities and 10 sororities. Although the actual percentage of students involved in Greek life is relatively low, they do provide a lot of social activities open to the campus at large. Students said that they like the small, safe feel on campus. I asked the tour guide when the last time he knew of that the blue lights had been used, and he couldn’t think of a time. The campus is a bit sprawling but there are a lot of open spaces, and the quads were well used by the students. Even on a dreary day, people were outside. Our tour guide says that it can take 25 minutes to walk across campus, but that’s at a leisurely pace. Parking is fairly easy to find, but not necessarily close to where you need it. Everyone can have cars, and passes cost $255 a year. Most students will walk where they need to go in town; downtown is only 10 blocks away. They like having cars to get Ft. Collins (Colorado State Univ) which is only about 45 minutes away, or to go to Denver (a little over an hour).

UNC acad bldgThe admissions rep spoke very eloquently about making sure the students’ needs are met, even mentioning Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy. They are deliberate in designing campus and the buildings with this in mind, even to the extent that students can control their environment in the dorm rooms. “They come from a home where they’re used to being able to change the temperature; they should be able to do that here. If they aren’t comfortable, they can’t learn.”

(c) 2012

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