Pros: Cost, Gen Eds, Facilities
Cons: Not technically a culinary school, Very limited food classes
I have attended NIU for three semesters now and am currently enrolled in its Hospitality Management program. It wasn't my first choice as I was unsure of my education path, but I choose it because it was practical cost wise and close to home. NIU is a 4-year university that offers Bachelors' in many areas of study.
The Hospitality Management program is what one should choose if a career in the food industry & service is your ultimate goal. It provides preparation for a career in managing and organizing restaurants, hotels, casinos, catering events and everything else in the Hospitality field. While there is very little to learn culinary wise, it provides classes that teaches you about the ins-and-outs of running a hotel or restaurant.
The closest you get to a food class in the Principles of Food Production, which includes both a lecture and a lab section. The lecture teaches you the fundamentals of the basic foods (grains, deserts, breads, etc.) along with the science behind them, which isn't too much as to keep you from zoning out. It was an easy as well as interesting class and I actually learned a thing or two. The lab is basically a kitchen in which students work in groups to prepare the dishes that are covered in lecture. It's loads of fun and very laid back, and the best part is that you eat and take home what everyone makes.
One of their most famous classes is Quantity Food Production in which the students operate and run (under professor supervision) the Elington's restaurant on campus. The students are divided into teams and take turns managing and operating the restaurant for their day. They decide on the theme, food, and three courses to go along with every meal. Students who aren't managing help out as wait staff and cooks. This class gives the experience of how it feels to run a food operation and includes the financial side of large scale food production as well.
Recently, the Hospitality Management program has split into two smaller emphasis; Hotel Management, and Restaurant, Meeting, and Event Management which makes it easier for future culinary students to focus their attention on their interests.There are other restaurant based classes as well, including Management of Food and Nutrition Services, Catering Operations, Food and Beverage Operations and Cultural and National Food Patterns.
One advantage that NIU has as a non-culinary school is that it is easier to obtain Gen Ed's in addition to a Bachelor's in Hospitality Management, unless you already have those credits in which it is easy to transfer them. Also, the requirements for the Bachelor's in Hospitality Management contain a good amount of requirements for one to easily obtain a minor in Business simply by taking a few additional classes, which may prove useful in the end.
Overall NIU is a good university with many facilities as well as the option to live off campus if you are transferring. The price is fair, unless you are living in the dorms or have a meal plan. But if you know for sure that you want to enter the culinary field, I recommend taking Gen Ed's at a Community College where costs are minimal and transferring into a real culinary school.