I always think your two cents trade well on the Exchange of Ideas.
My college had, and perhaps the past is the correct tense, a good reputation as for Printing (colour and black and white) when it was a Polytechnic. I wouldn't have thought that reputation persists to this day if the tuition I received is now standard there.
You mentioned long days in the darkroom - I can recall the weeks of short days in winter where I barely saw sunlight as I was in the black and white darkroom from before sun up to after nightfall ... I was though often the only one, or accompanied by one or two familiar faces. There were about three or four of us who spent a lot of time there, and another four or five - one or two crossed over - who were regulars of the colour darkroom. I probably spent too little time in the colour darkroom, and perhaps too much time in the comfort of the red safe light.
Your programme with its "slant was more toward the artistic side but still with a heavy emphasis on the technical side" sounds ideal and sadly, I think my school lacked that second part. I do think there was a certain lack of dedication from a lot of the students taking the course though.
Out of interest, did you study where you're living now, Chicago (or nearby)?
On balance, I am pleased that I did my course. I might have studied other things but Photography was my main interest at the time and has remained something important, even defining, in my life ever since. I can't say that I got 100% out of it, as with hindsight there are things I might have done differently, but I do feel like I participated fully in classes, attending lectures not only in body but in mind (among those who turned up there were a lot of mental absentees), and gave my projects everything I had. I was also nearly always photographing things besides my University projects and in the summers I continued working with existing clients photographing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. (After Uni I also got a job for six months with a local wildlife charity, in a Government sponsored scheme where I had to present a portfolio, and interview - and it also definitely helped that I had a degree.)
I don't make a living from photography. I'm happy doing something else and doing my personal work. I can live without the professional work and decided I was happier not doing it. The personal work I have to do and I don't feel myself if I'm unable to dedicate time to Photography in a while. Photography is now something essential to me as a person. I am a photographer (please, let's not start another "who is a photographer" discussion though) because I look at things and see photographs. Part of the reason for this are the three years I spent on my degree course dedicating myself to Photography. As I've pursued Photography, in one way or another, since then, the learning hasn't stopped. I've matured as a person and grown as a Photographer in a lot of ways since then, but a lot of what I learned is still with me and I still reflect on it.
My two pence/euro or Owain cents ... not sure what those are worth against the Allen Dollar.