Enter Portfolio series by Crayola. They have changed my mind and if you have felt similarly as I have noted above -YOU MUST TRY THESE PASTELS!!!! They are incredible.
(Let me just note that I am NOT being compensated for what I'm about to say and I have no affiliation with the Crayola company beyond having a ridiculous amount of their materials in my art classroom inventory.)
I must thank (if anyone) my cohort here in my department. She is a part-time instructor who oversees the upper-level studio classes while I have the foundational courses and the upper-level digital art disciplines. My colleague is the one who ordered a class set of these pastels for her portfolio prep and honors studio art classes. I don't know how much use they are getting but I suspect it's a decent amount and still? They are holding up like champs! They aren't wearing down/out quickly and they don't break easily and become annoying like crayons and some brands of pencils I've known. They are a little on the smelly side for me but I have completely looked beyond that since the consistency and texture they offer is nothing short of buttery. They blend beautifully by finger and even act a little like watercolor paint if you attempt to treat them as such. The color is also beautifully rich and saturated and mixing them for the purpose of color theory study is an amazing experience. They are indeed on the pricey side at around $100 but that's a class set with a decent amount that I expect should last for the whole year even with me digging into them a little with the foundational courses and art club.
So that's my rave about them. Like I said, this isn't a product plug because I'm getting anything for it. I urge you to try them out though because they truly are awesome and absolutely worth the money! I have always been a loyal fan of the Crayola company but these pastels really make me want to expand my classroom inventory even moreso to include as much of the Portfolio grade as possible.