Palin: Five colleges in six years.

Sarah Palin went to five colleges in six years to get her undergraduate degree. Hawaii Pacific University, business administration, first half of freshman year; North Idaho College, general studies, second half of freshman year and first half of sophomore year; she took the spring off; University of Idaho, journalism, second half of sophomore year and first half of junior year; Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna College, second half of junior year; back to University of Idaho, where she required three semesters to wrap up her senior year. She ultimately got her degree in journalism, but never worked for any of the campus media outlets.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

36 replies on “Palin: Five colleges in six years.”

  1. I hadn’t thought about the candidates’ particular academic histories until I saw this mentioned elsewhere. Without being able to say where the line might be, it really does seem that Palin is very weak here.

  2. And he earned a Juris Doctorate in Law from Harvard, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review.

    Makes you wonder just how much more educated a black man has to be in order to achieve parity with a white woman (whose education can be described charitably as “mediocre”), in the minds of many 21st century Americans.

  3. Anyone know McCain’s place in his class at West Point? I have a vague memory of it not being high but could be wrong. More generally, why wouldn’t we want a President and Vice-President who are smarter than the average bear? Is there some reason we should want leaders who are NOT the smartest kids in the room? I don’t get it. When did intelligence become elitism?

    Oh and Palin is Just like Clinton who graduated from Smith in 4 years and went on to Yale Law School, just like her, except for all the ways she isn’t…. :)

  4. Anyone know McCain’s place in his class at West Point? I have a vague memory of it not being high but could be wrong.

    You are wrong. “Not being high” is a gross understatement. He was 894th out of 899. That’s “piss poor,” “five from the bottom,” or perhaps even “a miserable failure.” “Not being high” implies respectability.

  5. Makes you wonder just how much more educated a black man has to be in order to achieve parity with a white woman (whose education can be described charitably as “mediocre”), in the minds of many 21st century Americans.

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that Palin has a superior academic record to Obama, or that Obama should be favored because he’s well-educated. Certainly there are saints and scoundrels at every point of the academic spectrum.

  6. You are wrong.

    Technically and linguistically, she is right. Your response supplemented but did not contradict her vague recollection.

    It’s Friday night and I’ve got my pedant ON.

  7. For goodness sakes people it’s the Naval Academy in Annapolis not West Point that’s the Army. It makes the rest of your rant look silly

  8. I didn’t attend the Naval Academy, but I served with hundreds of fine officers from what they jokingly called, “Canoe U.”

    It is very difficult to gain admission to the USNA, or USMA or the other Service Academies.

    In McCain’s case, the fact that he was a son of a rising star (his father was already headed for Flag Rank) and a grandfather who was also famous in military ranks, John McCain was targeted for special “attention” back when hazing was still the norm.

    Being near the bottom of the class at Navy, while no mark of distinction, often is where some of our greatest leaders have emerged from. Based on my experience with Naval Academy graduates, I would take any of their 2.0 level grads over most colleges 4.0s any day of the week.

    However, this blunder McCain made in anointing Tammy Faye Palin as his trophy VP, does not mean that he is a goof-up. I served with men who flew with John McCain and who served under him in his squadron. From all of those Naval Aviators whom I have met, McCain earned great respect from everyone who had worked with him and for him in the Navy.

    I am hoping for a more substantial discussion about issues and ideas, than rants about whether or not the sleazy Palin wrote for her school paper. Let’s hear McCain’s case as to why he deserves to keep the White House in Republican hands for another four years and let’s hear Senator Obama’s vision for a brighter future with enough details for the American People to hand him the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

  9. The focus should be more on the degree and not the number of schools she attended. This wont get any traction.

    We need to wake up and stop this hyperbole. She’s unqualified, but not because she transferred a lot.

  10. I did attend the Naval Academy. (I even had lunch there once with a little-known then-freshman Senator named McCain, back in the mid-1980’s.)

    Some of the sharpest folks at Annapolis didn’t exactly distinguish themselves with their GPAs, though it wasn’t because they were demerit-king party animals (as McCain has more or less admitted to being). Rather, it’s because they really focused on the military-leadership training aspect of being a Midshipman. Unfortunately, excelling at that wasn’t reflected in their GPAs, as it wasn’t an academically measured component of their education.

    Some of my classmates are now putting scrambled eggs on their hats (achieving the rank of Commander) and assuming command of fleet warships. Among the first to assume command is an officer whom I have regarded since our Midshipman days as the most likely person to become our class’ first admiral. His undergraduate GPA wasn’t particularly distinguished, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort or intelligence. (And he’s since gone on to graduate school and been a fellow at the Naval War College.)

    That all said, I’m not a McCain supporter, but that’s simply because I fundamentally don’t agree with him policy-wise.

  11. Well now that I’m not alone here let me say “what do you call the bottom of the class at a medical school?”. A doctor
    Change the joke to Annapolis and the answer is soldier.
    Would this be the place to mention that Kerry had lower grades then Bush. Reagan a worse student than Carter. And that on paper, Bill Clinton had the thinnest resume of anyone elected president in 20th century.

  12. I’m sorry, but as someone that took eleven years and three schools to get his degree (finally) this is not an issue. In fact, it could play to her common, “just like us image” more than anything.

    Also, I know many mass com kids who have not worked with school publications for any number of reasons, yet they still do well on their own. Many vcu students take part in the Capitol News Service program but never write for the CT student paper. Most radio kids never work for WVCW. But they still know their stuff.

  13. That’s two people who have said that this isn’t an issue. I pointedly didn’t say that it mattered, I just recited the facts. What I would like to know is why she did this. Going to so many schools in so compressed a time frame is an enormously unusual thing to do. For graduate school admissions staffs, that would be an big red flag requiring explanation for admission. Jason, your eleven years and three schools likely wouldn’t be, nor would my eight years and two schools—over that time frame, that’s almost certainly somebody doggedly, gradually working on a degree for which they don’t have the luxury of time or the money to complete in one go.

  14. waldo – You can’t just say it’s an interesting bio fact and leave it with a wink. That you would like to know why this is says that to you this is or very well could be an issue. But it shouldn’t be. It’s a fishing expidition, really, and not necessary.

  15. You don’t understand my intentions, Jason; there was no wink. The fact that she hopped around between schools, in itself, doesn’t interest me. It’s the why. On one extreme, was she running from the law? Expelled? Did she kill a man (just to watch him die)? Or, on the other extreme, was she just restless or uninterested, on the hunt for a better college and a more satisfying education experience? The education bit doesn’t interest me, it’s the extremely abnormal huge and frequent geographic shifts (Hawaii, Alaska and Idaho) accompanied by the enormously expensive and disruptive process of switching universities that indicates something unusual was going on. What was it?

  16. More Americans probably identify with a patchwork of educational experience than the increasingly uncommon straight four year college experience. I would be interested to know if her experience moving between schools gives her more insight into the challenge often faced by students in the 21st century.

    I honestly don’t know what the answer is, but it may not be as much of a liability as it seems on the surface.

  17. The McCain Republicans have tickled Bush, and now we have the Navy’s USS Mount Whitney sitting in Poti, Georgia an “in your face” demonstration for the Russians. On board are 1000 American service members, pawns in a dangerous and unnecessary confrontation. Sitting vulnerable in the middle of a fight that is not America’s. Beyond the question of why, I am am outraged by this cynical gamble with our best – the officers and crew that simply salute and say, “yes sir”.

    The thought that this confrontation, or many others to come would be Commanded by Sarah Palin, Snowbilly Commander in Chief; is an affront. Not just to me, but to the men and women who must execute America’s projection of force, and die trying. It is OUR responsibility to give them the best and brightest.

    I’m having none of this “she’s ready” crap that the Republican Party is offering up. You would think that after 8 years of George Bush fumbling his command Republicans would show a willingness to put America first, and give our fighting men and women the leader they deserve.

    Say it with me: President Sarah Palin. Commander in Chief…
    and answer this: Will you stand up for America?

  18. Sadly, Bubby, I think a goodly number of people would say yes to President Palin. They say yes to her for the same reason they say yes to Hummers, cheap Wal-mart goods, and interest-only mortgages. There’s no sense of tomorrow’s consequence beyond today’s satisfaction. And the suggestion that they might want to consider that is met with exactly the kind of reaction you get when you suggest that none of those choices are very good ones – you’re an elitist bastard and they double down.


    But all this discussion of Palin should serve to highlight what phenomenally warped judgment McCain has. Even if you take everything that’s come out in the *very best light*, McCain comes off either a deeply cynical man willing to risk the country for his electoral gain or he is recklessly uninformed.

  19. That’s it, MB. How many colleges Palin attended isn’t the issue. It’s what she did while she was at those colleges, and PTA president, and mayor, and governor, that goes to her judgment. I’m sure she was a fine PTA president, but her performance elsewhere has shown poor, poor judgement.

    Same with McCain. I don’t care where he finished in his class or how old he is. I care about what he will do if elected President for the next four years. And his choosing Palin is one of many examples of very, very poor judgment on his part.

    Candidate McCain’s poor judgment doesn’t have many ramifications. But a President McCain has access to the red button and all of the other responsibilities of the office. I don’t want a hot-headed man who has consistently shown poor judgment anywhere near that button.

  20. perlogik:

    The whole joke goes like this:

    What do you call the person who graduates last in Med school? Doctor. What do you call the person who graduates last in Law school? Waiter.

    (Because, so it has been said, if you don’t finish high in your class at Law School, you may as well not have bothered).

    As for the fellows who attend the Naval Academy, don’t call them “soldier” unless you want a fight on your hands. Soldiers come from the Army. A current student at the Naval Academy is a Midshipman (although the worshipers of political correctness will want this to be Midship-person), the short, slang terms are Mids, Middy, Middie, etc. Both officers and enlisted personnel in the Navy will refer to themselves as “Sailors” although most reserve this term for those among the enlisted ranks.

    Also from the Naval Academy, comes many of our Marine Corps Officers. Don’t call them soldiers, either. They are Marines, also known as Leathernecks, or Devil Dogs (and these are the nice names!)

    Once someone is a graduate of the USNA (Naval Academy) they are typically commissioned as Officers in either the Marines, with the rank of Second Lieutenant or as Naval Officers at the rank of Ensign.

    When you see USNA that refers to the Naval Academy. When you see USMA that refers to West Point, also known as U.S. Military Academy.

    The other service academies are the Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and the little known Merchant Marine Academy. The MMA is also in competition with several state and privately operated Merchant Mariner academies (Main Maritime, Mass Maritime, NY Maritime, Cal Maritime and Texas Maritime, to name a few).

    If you have a talented son who is approaching college age, perhaps the best deal going is the Merchant Marine Academy (also known as King’s Point). MMA students get a fully funded tuition ride and at the completion of the program they get a commission in the service of THEIR choice and have the OPTION of going on active service, or remaining in the Reserves, unlike the other federal academies that require a long stint on active duty. Furthermore, the MMA grads get a Third Mate’s license, so if they want, they can serve at sea on a merchant vessel. This is in addition to a highly regarded degree in an engineering field or other area of study.

    The MMA is a great program and I wished I had known about it in time to go there. I found out about the MMA while serving as a Propulsion Engineer on the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). While at sea, I met two Air Force officers who were on exchange tours aboard the Kitty. To my surprise, they both were MMA grads, who had then elected to go into the Air Force, where both had become pilots.

  21. Palin was a “pageant” girl.Maybe she didn’t go to school or switched schools to keep entering pageants.Pageant girls who say they are attending Radford or Tech take 1 or 2 classes and then drop out. Happens all the time.They take the scholarship $$ they win and transfer.

  22. J. Tyler Ballance,

    Nice writeup!

    Obscure fact:

    It is (or at least it was in the 1980’s) possible–albeit very rare–for someone to graduate from the Naval Academy and choose to accept a commission in a service other than the Navy or Marine Corps (called an “inter-service transfer”).

    I remember one such transfer while I was there: a Midshipman accepted an Air Force commission upon graduation.

    This wouldn’t really affect the joke though, as anyone graduating last in his/her class would not likely be considered for such a transfer. Order of service selection (when you pick your career path–surface warfare, submarines, aviation, Marine Corps, etc.) is determined by your “order of merit” within your class, order of merit being a mash-up rank that includes academic GPA, conduct & fitness scores, military evaluations, etc.

  23. I don’t know if it’s actual for Palin but when pageant girls are always in pageants they don’t always attend college regularly. I have taught girls who were pageant queens and some never finished college but were constantly enrolled!

  24. Do I get any points for having in common with Barack Obama the fact that I started my college career at Occidental in Los Angeles and then transferred? (After my freshman year, for a fairly different reason: L.A. is where I grew up, and I was chafing to see more of the world, so I transferred to another small college back East.)

  25. Who cares? Strange Waldo that you like Martha’s explanation – its just speculation. Should we have a post about Biden’s college past including plagarism or does he get a pass since he’s a guy?

  26. J., I didn’t say that I liked it, just that “it’s the sort of explanation that I’d hoped somebody might volunteer.” I hope that others might offer other, competing explanations that also fit the facts. Biden doesn’t get a pass because he’s a guy—it’s because he’s a Democrat. ;) Though, FWIW, I’m not sure how much there is to debate. Biden admits he lifted chunks of prose from another article, for which he failed the class, presumably learning why one mustn’t plagiarize, or at least not to get caught. ;)

  27. I work with a girl who did her four years at Occidental, and she’d get pissed at me for saying this, but Obama transfaring after a year to Columbia is definitely a case of “transfering up.” Palin made a bunch of lateral moves, by contrast.

    It would be interesting why she did that. Despite Duane’s assertion that people can identify with that, the plain and simple truth is that among people who attend and finish college, most people don’t spend six years at five colleges getting a four year degree in one of the three majors they try. If only because even if you have the money, it’s a pain in the ass trying to get all of your credits to transfer over.

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