I don't think this is exactly what you're fishing for, but I would like to share with you my opinion of culinary school from the perspective of someone who has attended a smaller state college culinary program.
I am nearly completed with an A.A.S. at a FL panhandle state college and cannot recommend the program highly enough. I felt that the program provided lessons on a myriad of basic skills. Unfortunately, we were only able to spend a day or two of class on each concept. For example, in Pro Baking (baking basics) one day is spent on yeast doughs, one day is spent on artisan doughs, one day on quick breads and so on. In learning new techniques, I felt that the skill baseline (including myself) was so low that we couldn't have delved deeper into techniques because most of us were still trying to figure out how to cut a chicken. The small program-state college approached has whetted my appetite for food learning so much that I am going to start at Johnson and Wales next fall.
Ultimately, I got a high value, low cost education which has given me enough knowledge to enter the workforce with generous proficiency but left me with a desire to know more. Plenty of my classmates will never seek higher education and will be plenty successful with their small program education. I have worked with a chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu who was completely useless, although there are very successful Le Cordon Bleu graduates too.
The culinary experience is totatally, completely and utterly everything you make of it. Regardless of which school you choose, what you take from the experience is up to you.
Go get a job right now, in a kitchen.
Washing Dishes, doing prep, helper, etc.
Get started now so when you graduate you are ready to step up with a degree and experience.
Do not pay to much for your education. If you spend $30,000 in education and only have 10 years to pay it off after school. With starting pay in a kitchen at around $8 an hour. Your loan will be very expensive.
research ACF programs at a community college instead.
I was in the inaugural class of the Dallas LCB. I will tell you that culinary school is what you make of it. My advice is to soak up as much as you can. Take lots of pictures. Write down as much as you can. Record recipes you find interesting and make them over and over until you get them down. And don't be afraid to jump in. Don't be afraid of taking risks. Give it all you've got. Culinary school will definitely give you the basis of a career, but only if you take it seriously.
Best of Luck!
My Advice to you is simple.
Before you go to any school and spend any money... Go work in the field.
See what it is like working nights, weekends, holidays etc. I see a lot of culinary students coming out of school thinking they are Executive Chefs. Not so, you get out of school and have to dedicate the next X amount of years to building your skills and techniques. Before you spend $30 grand on an education make sure this is what you really want to do.
I can say same thing, than these other says... Okey i cant now how these school system works in Usa, but in Finland i recommend for everybody, that they go working. I was studied about 1 year in culinary school of helsinki, and then i stop it because i know that it not giving for me right picture of this business.
Then i found apprentice ship place and in 3 months i am see so much rush and busy and working on weekends and holidays... And i defitinely know that my friends, who has studied now 3 years, and they go first time to work in busy restaurant... They would stop at the same time. Go to work, see what it is. Then it only to you decision what u like it. If u cant do some thing, that`s okey. Either i cant to do. My attitude just are so good, that in 3 months, i know working on grill section. :)
i agree that you can find just as good of a culinary program at a state college as johnson & wales. i got accepted into johnson & wales - charlotte, nc. however, they accepted me 3 weeks after the program started and wanted me to wait to enroll the following year. i went to trident tech college in charleston, sc instead. 90% of my teachers are J/W graduates. I'm paying considerably less tuition, getting the same education and doing better than most my J/W counterparts. I'm on my school's culinary competition team. we beat AI and went to regionals. My team attended other competitions so we got to meet J/W students as well as students like myself who attend culinary school at a state college. I don't see any difference in education between myself and J/W students. The Dean of my school is the President of the National Restaurant Association.
I say all of that to say, if you're in the Atlanta area, try Gwinnett (sp) Tech or if you can go to Savannah Tech. Save your money and get the same education. Good luck!