I did plenty of “research” (as far as that can go I suppose) and had every reason to believe, as you obviously do, that Franciscan is precisely what it sells itself as. How could I doubt the united front of Scott Hahn, EWTN, and all of my well intentioned Catholic friends associated with the school? With so much positive feedback, from trusted sources no less, I would have been kind of crazy…no, obstinate!..to ever think for a moment that Franciscan could be anything but “great”. I just turns out, as a matter of fact, that I was wrong. Franciscan is a mediocre and miserable place, more memorable for its large concentration of mental illness and immaturity than the spiritual fruits that it allegedly bares.
I did the MA in theology, because I thought (like so many before me) that this would somehow translate into “service for the Lord”. I was even a little bit less quixotic than most insofar as I realized that I couldn’t really feed my family as a street preacher or DRE. Thus, I saw my time a Franciscan as an opportunity to build up the requisite education for future PhD work in theology. Only NOW do I know how big a mistake this was. Almost no Franciscan students, despite good grades or good GRE scores, make it into a credible (not Ave Maria) PhD programs upon graduation with any kind of financial support (many have gotten into CUA without funding…which is wrong of CUA to do I might add). This isn’t always because they can’t, though I think it probably often is, instead it’s because Franciscan is not at all geared toward the academic study of theology, in any credible fashion. The classes we take are preposterously condescending, seriously no different than what is probably taught at Catholic high schools. The course requirements are nonsensical: no languages required at all (not even GreeK), but you can bet your pants that you won’t graduate until you’ve taken “Vatican II” (which was a huge waste of time, as a class).
I’m not sure if you are being honest about “70% of your classes being taught by TAs”. What do you mean by “they taught classes”? Because at UCLA we had supplementary discussion groups that accompanied every course which were in fact always (100% of the time) led by a TAs working toward a PhD (these were individuals who had already gone beyond an MA by the way). But these were not actual classes, all of my actual classes were taught/lectured by PhD’s. Do you have something like what I am describing in mind?
I would like to point out that if your “giant lecture hall classes” were good enough to be described as “video-tapeable”, that you then probably got your money’s worth. I’m sure they (the professors) would see that as a complement! The truth is, small lectures really ought not be different. If its a lecture based class, why should it be any worse/less organized just because you have fewer students present? Anyway, I too had giant lecture hall style classes at UCLA and I loved them. This didn’t mean that the professor wouldn’t field questions though, they did. Nor did it mean that they were never available in office hours, they were there…it’s there job. You probably could have had far more “personal contact” with professors if you had simply sought it out. At Franciscan however, this was a real problem (despite the intimacy of our class sizes). Some professors were NEVER in there posted office hours, questions/discussion was discouraged, etc. In part this is due to the fact that Franciscan puts too much of a burden on teachers, sometimes making them teach like 6 classes a semester, but often one got the feeling that professors at FUS had very little respect for the hordes of students seeking them out (in vain). After-all, if we were any good, why didn’t we go to a recognized graduate program? (I ask myself the same question from time to time).
I expected no “garden of eden”. I did expect the school to live up to its lofty claims though. The fact is, the school completely misrepresents (lies) about its academic standing and Catholic atmosphere. Just reading the dubious claims off of the website now makes me cringe to think that other Catholic students might be lured into what is really not much more than a big scam (I wish I had the time to point out, for you, all of the blatant lies I’ve noted from just the website, but I don’t).
I would also just like to point out that your tacit claim that you’re friends are more educated than you because they went to Franciscan is a non-sequitur. I remains logically possible that your friends could be more educated than your in-spite of going to Franciscan or any other school. What you perceive as “being more educated than you” probably is nothing more than “they majored in something other than engineering and now know things in other fields that you do not know”, I doubt that they are really “more educated than you” just as much as I doubt they have anywhere near the level of technical expertise that you probably have. My brother, who is also an engineer, always beats himself up in this way and it drives me crazy. We can’t all be philosophy majors!
I think that the average American college graduate, coming out of the top 50 universities or so (see my distinction?) represent some of the most educated people on the planet. Perhaps not the wisest, but trust me, Franciscan is NOT the answer to the lack of wisdom problem. It’s a mad house.