March 02, 2005

Do You Want a Date or a Kindergarten?

by PG

Of the million differences between the University of Virginia and Columbia, between Charlottesville and New York, one not immediately obvious is the faculty each school and city can attract.

I've been told that UVa has a hard time getting single professors to teach there, because while Charlottesville has many virtues, a hot singles scene -- for people who aren't dating undergrads or grad students -- is not one of them. On the other hand, professors with young families love being in a small town with decent schools, where property values are still low enough that a nice house and backyard is affordable even on an academic salary.

Columbia is the reverse: tons of educated single New Yorkers, but expensive and crowded in housing and schooling. The most desirable children's education options in Manhattan are private schools that demand money and connections, and public schools that apparently require some combination of high-testing child and phenomenal luck. At a firm lunch, I marvelled at the competition to get children into particular schools, and the attorney next to me said, "Don't joke, it's that season." She was going through the process. It's very different to be an upper class New York parent than to be a 20something law student who figures that if one can go through Texas public schools and still end up at the same graduate schools as the private school kids, it can't really be a big deal.

Columbia attempted to solve the problem by building a school for the children of faculty to attend, but that hasn't been a cure-all either, as demand for seats (as we would say in India, where competition for schools makes people literally suicidal) outstrips supply. While I applaud the School at Columbia's commitment to enrolling neighborhood kids in equal numbers with faculty offspring, social justice doesn't mesh well with the practical purpose of making professors happy -- though I bet few will openly say that they want the school to become Columbia-spawn-only.

March 2, 2005 12:05 AM | TrackBack
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