Camcorder Info just published an article about the best camcorders available that filmmakers would appreciate (student or not). They limit their list to 4 cameras that are the most current offerings from Canon, Panasonic and JVC (Canon actually gets two nods). These are all good devices, available for under $1500.
While I appreciate this list, it should be noted that that there are cameras out there that are not the most current offerings, but are great cameras for shooting. They are also way more frugal than the above selections, coming in at under $700.
The first camera I'd pick is the Canon VIXIA HFS100, which is the one I bought late last year. It's a great little HD cam that shoots to SD cards, making transferring video to your computer a snap. It also offers some nice pro features like manual audio control, zebra stripes and the ability to limit video gain. It's a nice all around camcorder that also puts out a nice picture. B&H is offering these little beauties with case and 8 gig SD card for $699--a sweet deal.
If I didn't own the Canon, I think I'd pick up the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000A. It's a small, "pistol grip" style camera that has also has a nice picture and records HD to an SD card, but doesn't have as many features as the Canon. It's also $200 less, so if the HFS100 is too much for your wallet, the HD2000A might be a better choice. I think it's the perfect "fast cam" that you could carry at all times, making you ready for that perfect viral YouTube moment. With a good picture no less!
Whatever you pick, a camera is the most important tool in your video arsenal. We are in the business of creating pictures and any of these cameras do that rather well for this price point. I just want to make everyone aware that you don't have to spend $1500 for a good camcorder. Half that will suffice.