Sure, these days everyone needs a degree, sometimes even more. Heck, a ton of recent graduates have difficulty getting jobs and even more have difficulty paying their student loans. So, we heed everything our parents and teachers tell us about picking the right college: making sure our majors are available, making sure we turn in all our financial aid forms, making sure we find a place to live or a reliable means of transportation. What they don’t tell us is the lifelong friends we’re about to make, the parties that define your everyday or even how to stalk students for parking spaces . . . What they don’t tell us is how amazing of an experience college life can be and all the things you take along with you afterwards. Everything they say about picking a college being like picking the course for your future is true, but there’s so much more to it than majors and loans. So, this year we bring you an insider’s guide to local colleges in our 2012 Back to School Issue.
RCC is never “just” RCC when someone asks you where you study. So what if you’re taking the AA-degree route first to ensure that once you graduate debt will be the last thing on your mind. Many people discredit this community college but it’s come a long way from the single campus it once was. Although price per unit is higher than it’s ever been, RCC still saves its students more money than the black hole of state universities. The routine is simple: commute and go to class. There are no fraternities, unfortunately, and few major community events. What you’ll trade for lack of organized student events will be a few great professors who ditched the highly ranked four-year schools long ago because of the spoiled rich snobs in favor of small colleges like this one. Between recent high school graduates and adults just getting back into the school routine, RCC has proven to be a necessary step in college educations even if the main thing it’s missing is a lack of community events. (Ashley Bennett)
Big Majors: Associates Degree in liberal arts and Associates Degree in science, various trades.
Riverside campus, 4800 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 222-8000; www.rcc.edu.
Moreno Valley campus, 16130 Lasselle St., Moreno Valley, (951) 571-6100; www.mvc.edu.
Norco campus, 2001 Third St., Norco, (951) 372-7000; www.norcocollege.edu.
What would be the coolest job in the world? Could wine taster be a contender? Mt. San Jacinto College can actually help you get the proper bona fides through its Viticulture (grape growing) and Enology (winemaking) program. All kidding aside, wine is serious business, especially with nearby Temecula Valley’s well-regarded wineries. The program also includes classes on proper wine hospitality and marketing. Like other community colleges, Mt. San Jacinto—this year celebrating its 50th anniversary—offers in-demand vocational programs like nursing and fire technology. Also like other CCs you can inexpensively rack up some units en route to a four-year university. Downside? Some of the school’s four facilities are a little remote, making it tough if you’re busing, walking or biking. (Robert Kreutzer)
Big Majors: Varied programs.
1499 N. State St., San Jacinto; (951) 487-MSJC (6752); www.msjc.edu.
Chaffey is known for having an assortment of terrific educational programs, but one of the best things about the community college is its convenience. This western San Bernardino County district rivals its southern neighbor, Riverside Community College, in number of campuses available to students, with three prime locations. The campus in Rancho Cucamonga is the main setup, but there are two additional spots for classes in Fontana and Chino. Students have noted that Chaffey’s satellite campuses are a huge help, especially for those relying on public transportation. Once you’re at the Cucamonga campus, scope out the latest and greatest at the wonderful Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, which is a must-see for the local art scene, hosting a number of intriguing exhibits, all for free and open to the public. Yep, some of the locale’s coolest creations can be found in Rancho Cucamonga out of all places—now, who’d’ve guessed that?! (George Donovan)
Big majors: Applied technology, visual and performing arts.
The “Green” label is everywhere these days, but Crafton Hills College actually lives up to it in a number of ways. First, there’s the location of the campus in the hills of Yucaipa, which offers a breathtaking view of the hills around the campus (well, OK, it’s a little brown in summer). Not green enough? How about this—the college has a solar farm which will allow it to generate its own power and be off the power grid. Then, of course, being a two-year college, students can save the kind of green in their wallets as they work their way through degrees and programs offered at the college. Another plus—the college, celebrating its 40th year this year, also has an enrollment of about 5,500, sparing it the horror stories of awful waiting to get needed classes that are common to the bigger, more impacted schools. (Robert Kreutzer)
Big Majors: Varied programs.
11711 Sand Canyon Rd., Yucaipa, (909) 794-2161; www.craftonhills.edu.
Public 4-Year UC
It might not seem like it, but UCR has one of the best radio stations in Southern California for indie music. KUCR does some fine work getting you connected to the best indie tunes around, not just on the airwaves but right on campus through a series of concerts and festivals. Whether you’re sloshing through the mud at Heat or chilling out with an ice cold beer at The Barn, UCR’s got you covered—and its theater programs aren’t too shabby either. Downside? The parking. It’s expensive. It’s far. And at the end of it all, you know who your Highlander comrades are by how they respond to, “Lot 30.” (Lynn Lieu)
Big Majors: Business administration, engineering and pre-med.
900 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 827-1012; www.ucr.edu.
Public 4-Year State
Cal State San Bernardino is the ultimate commuter school, and can strike incoming Frosh as a big mistake, unless isolation, zombie-esque strip malls and an utter lack of off-campus nightlife are your deal. The key to enjoying your stay here is to stay on campus-the dorms here are loaded, the on-campus party scene (both Greek and otherwise) is better than you’d think. Also, university events tend to be cheaply priced and entertaining. The 5,000 Seat Coussoulis Arena is great place to catch a Coyote basketball game or a show. Another little secret about CSUSB is class size; generally they tend to be smaller, and once you get into your major, taught by professors and not grad students. Your Romantic Poetry professor is more than likely an expert on the subject. That’ll comfort you on the days when the winds are howling and your choices for rowdy shenanigans are a tad . . . limited. (Bill Gerdes)
Big Majors: Business, public administration and teacher credential program.
5500 University Pkwy., San Bernardino, (909) 537-5000; www.csusb.edu.
Public 4-Year State
It’s so easy to blow past Cal Poly Pomona when flying along the 10 or 57, but taking a slow ride through the school’s grounds reveals a Cal State that’s like none other in the vicinity. That’s because for all its forward-thinking engineering and technology-driven programs, Cal Poly’s campus is an almost step back into a time when the Pomona Valley was an agricultural mecca. The marked-for-replacement CLA building—with its prominent beak—doesn’t help advance our stroll into yesterday, but the duck pond, horse stables, pigs, cows, and fields do, surrounding students stressing over their midterms, and visually assuaging the nerves. The rolling hills, which find commuter Broncos hiking it to the parking lots, add to these organic environs. And that’s more than what could be said about the concrete-and-pavement campuses of other local schools, where the closest you’ll get to nature is crossing paths with a pigeon. (George Donovan)
Big majors: Engineering, architecture, animal science, hotel and restaurant management.
3801 W. Temple Ave., Pomona, (909) 869-7659; www.csupomona.edu.
So it’s not Harvard, Yale or Princeton, but look at any of the college rankings books and you’d see that the 7Cs rival its East Coast brethren when it comes to breeding the academic elite. In fact they do fine work when it comes to training future lawyers and politicians for creative spin tactics. One honorable, but clandestine group who provides such fodder is MUFTI (slang for “undressed” or “casual dress”). In business since the 1940s, MUFTI periodically arouses the ire of college officials by posting cryptic messages and double entendres riddled with literary references, pop culture allusions and sexual innuendos in well-heeled locations around campus. So effective is it that even the student store has cashed in through T-shirt sales of MUFTI’s most revered witticisms. Claremont is also home to an order of another sort: Oldenborg Center, whose creatures of habit (students leave only to attend class) inspired the image of the Borg for Star Trek: The Next Generation writer Joe Menosky. (Nancy Powell)
Big Majors: Political science, economics and psychology; engineering and the physical sciences (Harvey Mudd); art (Scripps); biological sciences (Keck Graduate Institute and Scripps).
Pomona College, 333 North College Way, Claremont, (909) 621-8000; www.pomona.edu.
Claremont McKenna, 550 E. 9th St., Claremont, (909) 621-8000; www.claremontmckenna.edu.
Harvey Mudd College, 301 Platt Blvd., Claremont, (909) 621-8000; www.hmc.edu.
Pitzer College, 1050 North Mills Ave., Claremont, (909) 621-8000 ; www.pitzer.edu.
Scripps College, 1030 Columbia Ave., Claremont, (909) 621-8000; www.scrippscollege.edu.
Claremont Graduate University, 150 East 10th St., Claremont, (909) 621-8000; www.cgu.edu.
Keck Graduate Institute, 535 Watson Dr., Claremont, (909) 621-8000; www.kgi.edu.
For Christians, the morals and values of CBU will allow you to balance your education with desires for religious study and immersion. For non-practicing Christians, this will hardly affect your quality education. Much of what makes CBU such a desired school is how it takes a step away from the norm as a private university (such as the requirement that students attend 15 of the 20-ish Chapel sessions available for every semester). Compared to larger universities, CBU has a small number of accepted students but not only will this allow for smaller class sizes but also a closer, more intimate sense of camaraderie to blossom. In turn this means that CBU offers quite the community of clubs and events to keep the stress of college at bay. The amount of money paid per year, equal to an arm and a leg compared to public colleges, is clearly seen through the campus’ gorgeously clean grounds as well as (and this is most important) amazing cafeteria food. Who knew? (Ashley Bennett)
Big Majors: Liberal studies, business administration and psychology.
8432 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 689-5771; www.calbaptist.edu.
Those of us who don’t like the structure of traditional education might find the University of Redland’s Johnston Center for Integrative Studies a refreshing departure from the ordinary. Here, rebels with an intellectual cause who like to think outside the box can chart their own educational paths by mixing and matching classes. And in true Montessori style, grading occurs as “narrative evaluations,” which reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each student in a nurturing setting without the stigma or stress of failure. They even have a separate mascot (the Buffalo vs. the Bulldog). If it sounds like an out-there remnant of 1960s liberalism, it is. But the beauty behind the concept is that while these students tend to be “special” they keep the campus interesting and well-rounded. Think Fame in a Head of the Class atmosphere, albeit in the college years. And to highlight the sense of difference, the school slogan and chant (Och Tamale) is a creative jumble of nonsensical words written in the 1920s by a cheerleader and that only insiders could possibly understand. (Nancy Powell)
Big Majors: Business administration, biology, social sciences and liberal arts.
1200 E. Colton Ave., Redlands, (909) 793-2121; www.redlands.edu.
A Seventh-day Adventist school in the La Sierra area of Riverside initially seems, well, boring frankly. But this school lately is anything but. Not only does it boast of an awesome business school, as well as a free-enterprise program that has won several competitions; it’s also smack dab in the middle of the evolution versus “intelligent design” controversy. When students complained that elements of evolution were being taught in the school’s biology program the university was accused of apostasy by the national church. Who doesn’t like a little controversy? Apostasy though? That’s badass Galileo-type business. If all the contentious debate makes you hungry the campus is wicked close to one of Riverside’s hidden foodie gems, the Oasis Vegetarian Café, a place that proves vegetarian coking doesn’t have to suck. (Bill Gerdes)
Big Majors: Business, religious studies, not biology.
4500 Riverwalk Pkwy., Riverside, (951) 785-2000; www.lasierra.edu.