Thought I'd reply from a Culinary Student's point of view also. I attend the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, they offer associates or bachelors of science in culinary arts. I keep a full time schedule usually and it will cost you about $3K a semester. JFCI teaches you EVERY aspect of the culinary industry and you will have hands on training, not just an instructor demo for you. I just finished the spring semester taking Bistro, which is where the students in the class operate a fully functional restaurant near campus. It's completely student run with Chef Instructor guidance and you will be required to perform every duty from front of house and back of house. You even get a chance to be Ex. Chef and create your own menu, which requires everything that goes along with it, writing your recipes in HACCP format, fire schedules, purchase orders, pull sheets, etc...everything a real Ex Chef would have to do, you experience it, it's your night. You even do front of house duties, yes we must wait tables, set the dining room, check linens, keep the place clean, all of it. We learn A La Carte, Buffet and Russian Service. It's a wonderful experience and for those who have never worked in a professional kitchen(myself), it's brutal, the pace of a real restaurant. The courses you must take are all lecture and lab, with lab being Chef Instructor demo and the student then performing themselves. You learn how to properly execute the cooking methods, saute, braise, poach, grill, steam, etc and how to apply the methods to vegies, fruit and protein. You also have meat fab classes where you are actually butchering youself and graded on it. These skills are needed for all classes to follow.
As far as having contacts in the culinary world, Nicholls has great relationships with Chefs and Restauranteurs through out the south, with some Chefs, many well known, actually working with students as the visiting Chef and students execute the dinner for guests. Just this past spring I worked under Chef Alon Shaya, Ex. Chef at Dominica (co owned with Chef John Besh). Chef Alon is a wonderful person, kind, patient and you could see the joy in him as he instructed us on preparing his menu. Many other renowned chefs, Chef Lea Chase (Dookey Chase), Chef John Besh (Restaurant August, Dominica, American Sector, La Provence, LUKE) , Chef Andrea Apuzzo, (all local chefs) Chef Edward Leonard (ACF Culinary Olympic Team Manager from Chicago, Ill) and even chefs from Europe have been Visiting Distinguished Chefs to work with students on executing dinners.
Then you have the namesake, Chef John Folse who is world renown as the leading authority on Cajun and Creole Cuisine and History. I also just finished Chef Folse's class this spring and was amazed at the knowledge the man has on Louisiana history and cuisine as a result of the 7 nations of immigrants, as he calls it. He breaks down the cooking techniques we have already learned and specificaly explains each process, his demonstration on a roux was enlightening. I've been making roux for 30 years and he taught me things I had no idea about. He truly teaches you to master heat and flavor, after all, that's what chefs do. All the Instructor Chefs have worked in the industry and now have chose to come to Nicholls to teach, they are all kind, patient, dedicated, knowledgable people who love what they do and will lead you to whom ever it is you need to attain your culinary dreams. Of course it takes hard work and dedication on your part and they see who the dedicated ones are and remember them when the 5 star restaurants are calling for Nicholls students to fill positions.
This is just my experience that I wanted to share with you from the student's stand point. As others have said, you can gain knowledge on cooking techniques from CC's. But if you are interested in taking it to an Executive Chef's position, I personally believe you must be educated in all aspects, including financial, in the cuilnary industry. Nicholls is the place to get it all...it is an option. http://www.nicholls.edu/culinary/
Good luck in your decision and your career.