first: Camera does not matter! The best camera is the one that is with you, search google and find out about a photographer that got published and all the pics he took was with an IPHONE.
Megapixel does not matter, as of 2009. you can print great photos from 6 megapixel cameras. 90 percent of the gimmicks that Canon and Nikon try to peddle you won't or don't know how to use. ask your friend how to set up ae bracket or change the flash synch! Canon and Nikon should copy Leica M9 ergonomics but if they do they wont sell newer models with useless features.
either get an entry level camera like the d500 or d450(or nikon equivalent) or just go all out with full frame model like the 5dmk2.
don't ever invest in dlsr body and jump on the bandwagon digital rot. for the price of a new body you can get an L lens of ED lens from canon and nikon that you can still use 20 years from now. rent the expensive bodies at camera rental places and let them swallow the cost of digital rot. trust me, some of the lenses from nikon and canon retains it's value on the second hand market, even more for excellent discontinued models, and check second hand dlsr, who in the right mind would want to buy a second hand dlsr when newer models are better and cheaper?
instead of taking photography classes, go to an art class and learn about composition,light, balance, perspective.
don't buy tokina, tamron, sigma lenses no matter what the review or critics say about them, buy patent brands like canon and nikon coz those other brands are pretty worthless on the second hand market.
buy one prime lens and learn how to use it. rent lenses and master them before you buy them, and making sure that you really like that lens and that you really want to use that lens. I rented many lenses from canon and the ones that I want to buy is the ef-s 10-24mm zoom and the 125/f2 L, after renting dozens of lenses from canon. because I know that these two lenses works great in my cheap canon 1000d and the rented 5d full format.
bag?what bags?the best bag is no bag at all!
tripod?what tripod? use tripod only for night shots, you got IS and VR, duh!use them!