Pros: Broad curriculum, great instructors, location and facilities, diverse student population.
Cons: expensive, large class sizes.
I graduated in 1984 when tuition was about $8000 per year, expensive at the time. Back then there were fewer culinary programs around the country than there are now. CIA was considered the Harvard of culinary schools and J&W was considered the Yale. If you met alumnus from one or the other, the reply would be "Oh, you went to the other school." You were required to have at least a year of experience working in restaurants and this was discussed in your interview to make sure you knew what you were getting into.
They started everyone off with basic skills classes, then moved you through increasingly advanced levels of the curriculum. Several classes were arranged to be complementary, in that one would be cooking, one learning the rudiments of good service and the third acting as customers. This gave you a good perspective on the need to work together.
The curriculum was broad enough at the time to provide insight into many areas of foodservice although by necessity limited mostly to an overview of each. International cuisine, garde manger, baking and pastry, production kitchens, fine dining, facilities planning and proper store room and ordering procedures were all covered not so you would be expert in each but more so that you were at least familiar with them.
The class rooms and kitchens had all first class equipment, sometimes donated by companies looking for rigorous field testing so there wasn't much you hadn't seen before when you graduated, even though you may not have had much opportunity to work with them.
More than anything they insisted on the students maintaining very high professional standards of dress, comportment and sanitation. Any instructor at any time was allowed to do a spot inspection of your uniform (kept spotless) and your knife kit (clean and sharp). You were expected to learn how to work clean, neat and organized and get along with others at all times. Discipline was quick and frequent so you knew they meant what they preached. As an example, wearing dark blue, not black socks as required for waitstaff, would get you sent home to change.
Class time varied according to purpose. Production class for breakfast started at 5:15 am sharp. Late arrival or insufficient attention to uniform/knife kit earned you demerits.
While most instructors were complete professionals, there were a few who should have been otherwise employed. As they were few and far between, I don't think my overall education was the worse because of them and I'm sure they are no longer employed.
While the culinary center was located in one spot, the entire school is spread throughout the city of Providence. This was not a problem as a bus system is provided and at the time you got a free bus pass to utilize the city busses as well so getting around was fairly easy. Providence is beautiful, old city with a diverse population. FInding part time restaurant work while in school was not a problem and there were plenty of distractions available when you had free time.
The school has developed considerably since my time there, particularly the culinary center campus. An athletic center, improved teaching facilities and expanded curriculum, new dormitories, really cool culinary museum, impressive library and expanded on-campus dining options have all been added.
I will also add that the mood on campus is much more friendly and hospitality oriented than during my time there. Back in the day there was a much more somber, military like seriousness, perhaps due to the "Colonel" who was in charge of serious disciplinary offenses. On my occasional return visits it has been refreshing to experience a much lighter, congenial atmosphere.
I don't know what the current tuition is but if you can afford it, I would highly recommend it. If I can figure out how to pay for it, I may go back for an advanced degree.