Straight TalkWithout putting myself in too much of a compromising position I'll just say I have extensive experience with both schools and I'll give you the low down.
I attended Western more than 10 years ago and I will say that I recieved a great education. I worked very hard for it though and there are a lot of students at WCI then and now who aren't really sure that this is the field that they want to be it. 40K is way way too much to spend on something you aren't sure you are interested in.
Western has an excellent facility and excellent instructors who are very passionate about what they do. My main concern for the students is that they accept anyone, so unfortunately the student that is really working hard is next to the bozo that doesn't give a cr_ _ , and that really brings down the class. The poor student that doesn't care is paying the same, money, maybe even picking up a "Chef's" loan to pay for his room and board while he's going to school and that's based on their credit, so they could be paying up to 25% interest. Students leaving the school can have $1500 a month loan payments when they leave (high end). And they are still going to have to start just like everyone probably working a line cook position for $9 an hour. I feel just as bad for the ones who shouldn't be there as the ones who should.
That presents a couple of issues, you are letting people out into the industry with a WCI le cordon Bleu stamp that earned it, and who didn't and make not only the school look bad but also the other student who graduated from there. It's a hard stigma to get over if your boss has had a bad WCI staff experiece. But you have to remember that every college turns out people with a degree that they might have barely earned, though I think if you graduate from a technical school you are supposed to have some skills.
Besides the very scary financial problem, though Western does have a variety of classes they only have each class for 3 weeks, and in a 5 hour day they'll have demo and lecture and maybe have their lab time for working on a few projects. (some classes more projects than others, but speed isn't really empasized as being essential as much as it is at OCI)
Oregon Culinary has much smaller class sizes and burners per student even though the school is small. 3 minimum hours a day in the kitchen and speed, efficiency, consistancy and knife skills are drilled everyday. They are daily put into situations where they have to work quickly and cleanly. They are in 5 week blocks, so the cirriculum looks different so it's hard to compare on basis of how many classes. The knife skills and the food coming out of the first 10 weeks floored me, as I saw students graduatings from WCI with no where near the calliber of work.
The instructors know all the students names, they specifically decided against name tags just so that would be encouraged. If someone is not pulling their wieght, not doing the assignments or showing a general disinterest, they get the "talk". It's straight forward, is this what you want to do or not? We aren't going to take your money if this isn't what you want to do.
You would never in a million years hear that at Western. It wouldn't matter if you were living in your car (true story) and a little sketchy about cooking for a living, they would bend over backward to keep you in the program.
Can you get a good education from Western? Yes of course you can, there might be a lot of stuff to put up with both with management and other students but if it's something you are passionate about food and work hard you make your own education.
Can you get a good education from Oregon Culinary **** yes. You will work hard, you will be surrounded by others as passionate as you are, and they won't take you for a ride. It's straight talk all the way. And you pay less money.