This can be a difficult question. At least with respect to my classes, we're talking about SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras. There are a lot of choices out there and a number of companies who make or have made excellent cameras.
My first two criteria in making this decision have to do with MONEY and USE. What sort of budget are you working with and what will you be using this camera for, i.e. will I be making a living with this piece of equipment or just taking some good snapshots? Answering those two questions can narrow things down quickly. Another way to think about it is, what sort of camera quality and capabilities/amenities would I like or do I need, and how much am I willing to pay for that?
At one point in time, that's how I decided on a Nikon N80. It did the things I liked and gave me some flexibility that more basic SLRs couldn't; and I didn't need the capabilities and price tag that came with the more "pro" level cameras. My most recent camera is a Nikon D200. It's a pretty serious camera that comes at a more serious price. I don't totally need all the amenities that the D200 provides, but I DO like and need the image quality that this DSLR (digital SLR) produces.
And that comes to another point: film or digital? Well, for my classes it's film (for now). But almost the entire photographic industry has moved to digital. So, maybe you get an old used camera or even just borrow one for the class to tide you over so you can save up and set your sights on the camera you'll be using in the not too distant future.
One more note- if you are buying a new camera, I would recommend a Canon or Nikon. Reason being...both Canon and Nikon have a very large variety of lenses to equip their SLR or DSLR bodies. And from what I've been told, even their basic lenses are very high in quality.
So good luck- and if you have more questions...we'll talk after class.