I am currently a photography student at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn Illinois (about 25 miles from downtown Chicago). This is a 'junior college' or 'community college', a 2 year program.

And as to your points/questions..

The equipment at my school is well maintained, the black and white printing 'gang' darkrooms are stocked with roughly 35 4x5" enlargers and one 8x10 elwood enlarger (split to two separate rooms, one equipped for 35mm and one intended for the more advanced students and geared to larger formats, offering 4 cold light heads) The studios have just recently been upgraded to new Profoto strobes and powerpacks, stuff that is broken is generally fixed quickly and when things get damaged measures are taken to ensure students understand how to avoid damage in the first place.

The way the program is run it divides the emphasis on concept and technical quite well, with a separate class for pure lecture on the concepts of image making and one for technical skills needed for image making (photographic skill, darkroom work) at the beginner and intermediate level.

While most of the instructors don't generally show their work off, I have seen the work of some of the instructors and it is quite good, the traditional black and white prints are superb and the traditional color work is also very good, nearly all of the instructors I have talked at length to, full time or part time seem to primarily focus on large format.

About the mastery of the materials I believe it is required in order to succeed in the program, if you are producing prints (digital or analog) or transparencies that are not technically great you will not receive a high grade and will be informed of the issues. Mastery of materials at my school seems to be a very big aspect to the program, after all the name for it in the college catalog is "Photography Technology".

Are students being pushed to improve their skills I believe this is true for nearly every instructor and every class, it is up to the student to take the initiative though, some students just don't seem to care and go through the program without pushing themselves... some students take the advice and opportunity of the environment and are pushed to learn more and improve their skills.. The motivation to improve is given by the instructors, but many students aren't motivated to improve and learn the depths of the technique whether it be digital or analog.

I don't believe anyone is herded along, I believe some students do as little as possible to get through it and some students use the instructors as someone who can help them improve and learn. On this topic I believe the student is more of a problem than anything an instructor can do, you just cant get some students to work hard.

At my school the wet darkroom is not a thing of the past, every student is required to spend at least one full semester in the wet darkroom (likewise every student must spend at least one semester learning digital). As well as the requirement of the history of photography class that puts an emphasis on old processes there is an alternate processes class that while isn't required, is usually taken by many students as part of their required "elective" courses. With this being said, there has been a marked drop in the amount of people filling up the darkrooms in the past year. When given the choice most students (likely at least 75%) will choose to go digital... This doesn't reflect on the program as much as where the students and the world at large are headed, In my opinion the program seems to encourage students to do what they please yet still kind of hinting that analog may be an option where the students could learn more.

The school I attend offers two separate paths, one focusing on digital and one on film. All students leave the program having experienced the zone system working in a traditional black and white darkroom, having worked with color transparency and negative, and having done digital capture and printing as well as worked with 35mm, med format and 4x5 in the studio and in the field. In some ways there is an emphasis on digital sprouting through the cracks, just this year they stopped making traditional color prints in the color classes and converted the color darkrooms to 'color ink jet' rooms yet you must still work with color slides/negs in order to get a degree, prints are merely made digitally or through a commercial printer.

Some instructors emphasize that people ARE still shooting things traditionally out there, though there is the realization that digital is king in the commercial world.. and seeing as the program leans more toward commercial than fine art students do leave having a firm grasp of the digital technology whether they choose to or not..