So This is gonna be long because I want to give a really honest and comprehensive review of my experience at RPI. Skip to the bottom if you just want the quick pros and cons.
To start off, I plan to transfer schools. I’m currently a sophomore going into junior year. That probably gives you a good idea of how I feel here. Don’t worry though, I plan on both getting into the good and bad about RPI.
When I first looked at the reviews of the school 2-3 years ago coming up to senior year, I was really hopeful that RPI could be a good fit for me. I was looking for a smaller to medium-sized school with a good background in engineering and lots of research and/or employment opportunities. RPI seemed good. The reviews seemed to make it out to be too. The only thing is it was a little expensive, but we’ll get into that later.
Starting freshman year, I made a lot of friends, started classes and then started to feel the weight of them, like a lot so. As to be expected, RPI, like any recognized engineering school, has hard classes, which is a plus because it makes you have to learn the content and be independent towards your learning. I liked that, for sure; however, I quickly learned that, unlike many schools, RPI doesn’t curve almost any grade or test, meaning average student grades in classes would be around a C (typically even worse for upper-classmen). I even overheard the professor during general chemistry ( freshman level chemistry all engineering students have to take) talking about how the 68% test average as “OK”. Again I thought this was just part of being at an engineering school, that you have low test averages and high expectations. But looking at friends in other schools used to getting grade curves on their exams, I saw RPI as a bit of an outlier and did some research.
RPI comes in the top 5 hardest grade curve schools, meaning unlike Ivy leagues that inflate student grades (Princeton being the only exception), RPI makes getting an ‘A’ very difficult. This hit a lot of freshman hard first semester. They got C’s in classes they thought they did well in and couldn’t handle having A’s like they had in high school. So they stressed out the next semester to try to get the grades they wanted.
That’s another thing about RPI, is there’s a lot of stress, like any college, but at RPI the administration does next to nothing to combat it. The walk bridge that goes over 15th Street is covered in fencing not to keep snow off in the winter but to keep students from jumping off of it. The fencing inside of the staircases in many of RPI’s taller research buildings isn’t there for effect, it keeps students from committing suicide.
And these cons just kept building up:
RPI shut down student protests and took disciplinary action on students that led it.
RPI is currently being federally investigated for violating civil rights like freedom of speech.
RPI’s counseling center is being investigated for negligence on the part of not taking depression or mental/emotional turmoil and sexual assault hearings (this in particular) not as seriously as they should.
RPI’s president, Shirley Ann Jackson, put the school in massive debt by building the new EMPAC building and made the Arch Program so she can bring money back into the school by forcing students to do a mandatory summer semester so they can have a semester in the fall or spring to do an “away semester” where they have an internship with a company.
The newly appointed vice president and dean of students, Travis Apgar, suspended, to the point of nonexistence, 5 fraternities over the course of just Fall 2019 alone over baseless and outright unjustified logic.
The president implemented the Arch without nearly enough discussion with faculty on how it would change the curriculum or housing, as was advised to her by her “The Arch” team before she laid them off and implemented it herself.
Most of the faculty dislike the implementation of The Arch but don’t speak up about it.
Tuition is on par with the top 50 most expensive schools with a total price of around 70k per year. This turns out to be a lot but doesn’t go towards things regarding students, instead it goes mostly into research or directly into the president’s nearly $1 million salary toward her over $7 million base annual pay (based off money.com 2015).
Students discussed with greek life deans over letting them stay in their respective houses over the Arch summer semester, were ultimately denied by Travis Apgar, protested against the Arch, resulting in every faculty member associated with greek life either being fired or leaving.
The employees at Sodexo (RPI’s catering company) are overworked and underpaid.
So with all these cons I’ve come across and experienced the downsides of, I was really tempted to transfer by the end of my freshman year. Looking back on it, I was too passive and didn’t want to risk so much change at once, but I feel that I should’ve acted sooner.
What really broke my trust in RPI’s administration beyond repair was actually recent. When everyone was kicked off campus because of the Corona Virus (that’ll probably be a throwback when people see this, thinking about it now), I was concerned for my housing and if RPI would refund students for the months they weren’t paying for by being back home. I was surprised to find out that RPI had purposedly moved the day classes start again to be just outside a window of refunds stated in fine print in the housing contract students sign. So basically they won’t refund me or anyone their housing money. This was just a downright dirty and unacceptable move, as other universities refunded students. This convinced me to actively look at transferring.
Don’t be like me. Don’t go to a school that doesn’t care about your education or your opportunities. Don’t sacrifice your personal happiness for a college and let them get away with it. And to be honest, because I don’t see RPI changing for the better anytime soon. If you’re ok with being extremely passive and complacent, then only then would I recommend RPI.