Palin’s College Choices

October 22, 2008 | Blog

Here’s a quick post that follows up on Sara’s recent post (“Palin Is A Swirling Student!”) about Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin’s college education.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran a story (“Sarah Palin’s college years left no lasting impression”) that suggests that few professors and classmates can recall Palin from her college years. Even more interesting is the insight it provides into how Palin selected some of the colleges she attended. My guess is that Palin’s is not an atypical approach. One of the reasons given in the article is that her family couldn’t afford — especially from Alaska — to make the campus visits that often are a normal luxury available to students from wealthier families.

Palin’s parents — a high school science teacher and school secretary — could not afford the college tours so common today. Their four children were expected to, and did, work their way through college.


“We didn’t have the luxury of spending a week driving around visiting universities to see what they’re like,” said Kim “Tilly” Ketchum, a high school friend. “We were looking at pictures of campuses.”

Palin and Ketchum picked the University of Hawaii at Hilo from a brochure.


Only after arriving in Hawaii did they realize that Hilo had rainfall approaching 100 inches a year. “The rain,” Ketchum said, “was disturbing.”

They attended orientation but never even enrolled.

The Wasilla girls soon moved to sunny Honolulu and enrolled in Hawaii Pacific University, a small private liberal arts school. They lived in an apartment in the Waikiki Banyan and took a bus to school.

Palin, a school spokeswoman said, attended full time as a business student.

The girls studied on the beach, tried surfing and pulled straight A’s, Ketchum said. “We took the basic classes — chemistry and biology, this and that.”

But there was a problem. “When you’re used to having some cooler weather, you get tired of the heat,” Ketchum said. “We went one semester there before we realized we needed to go someplace else.”

They transferred to tiny North Idaho College, on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Palin’s older brother, Chuck Jr., had gone there before transferring to their father’s alma mater, the University of Idaho in Moscow.

At North Idaho, Palin and Ketchum found what they had missed in Honolulu. They lived on campus before moving to separate apartments their second semester. “It was all very quaint,” Ketchum said. “You kind of felt safe.”

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