theatremomma, I just had a long (probably too long!) post disappear but I'll try to recreate at least some of it. So frustrating! Anyway, I think there's probably some truth to what your friend told you, but it's just SOME truth and not the whole truth of the situation. There can be connections made at probably all schools but there's no question that some schools 'do it better' than others. It isn't surprising that the opportunities for exposure to industry professionals is going to be better in NYC and L.A. than it is elsewhere. That isn't to say that it won't happen elsewhere, just not to the same extent.
I've read through the years here on CC posts where parents and students talk about wonderful guest artists/master classes at various schools, and I agree that these are a terrific experience for students. Not only are they terrific for the possible connections but also for the experience/learning/exposure to these professionals. The difference between the availability of these experiences is that at some schools, these events may happen a few times during the course of the school year. My daughter's experience in NYC was that it was not unusual to be a weekly occurrence. The other part of that equation is that many industry professionals come to see the college productions in NYC, and likely in L.A. This isn't to say that it won't happen in other cities but it won't be to the same extent.
Connections are just one piece of the puzzle, though, but an important piece. Not every kid will take advantage of the opportunity to make connections, and so not everyone will reap the same kind of benefit from them, but it can be an important part of a young actor's career so it's wise to keep it in mind. There are two schools that many of the people I know of in the business feel do a good job at this even though they are not on either coast, and they are CMU and Northwestern.
Susan is right that making connections and getting a degree are not mutually exclusive. In my opinion, a degree is something which every young actor should have. An education is never a waste and the training is essential for most to have a sustained career as an actor. I would not recommend that any young actor forego a college education.
Being able to have a good, sustained career on the stage without the education and training provided during the college years is rare. Heck, a good and sustained career on the stage *period* is rare, even with a degree and excellent training. Of the hundreds of young actors I know, after having family and friends in this crazy business for decades, I can think of only a few who have been able to achieve this without getting a college education.
One is 26 and has appeared in four Broadway plays, has received a Tony nomination for one performance and won a Drama Desk award for another. She has ~50 film and TV credits in her bio and continues to be in demand in all three areas. She began as a child actor and is truly exceptional.
The other is 31 and currently in his fourth Broadway production. He began at age 19 in an Equity tour and has worked steadily every since. He's also a musician, with CDs released, and continues to play gigs in NYC on the nights that his show is dark. Interestingly, his wife who also has four Broadway credits and a Tony win, is now a regular on a popular TV show. She attended CCM.
So, there really is no method to this madness!