US News, among other sources, just released its 2020-21 college rankings, the best time for me to announce my Public Ivy schools. This is one of my most-read posts. No doubt that some will agree with me on which schools are or are not a Public Ivy. I have a very different view on this topic. So I hope you will read on.
I like the University of Michigan. It was at the top of my own list when I was a high school junior, until I got my SAT scores. But the university estimates total costs of attendance of over $69,000 for a non-resident freshman or sophomore and over $73,000 for a junior or senior. Michigan gets 40 percent of a freshman class from out of state, and asks most of them to pay close to Ivy League costs to be there. I also like the University of Virginia. But they estimate a cost of attendance of around $70,000. They get 30 percent of a class from out of state. UC-Berkeley estimates a non-resident cost of attendance of over $69,000. But unlike the University of Michigan or the University of Virginia, UC-Berkeley does not use its own funds to offer need-based or merit-based aid to non-residents.
Public institutions should cost significantly less than private universities for every student, regardless of a family’s ability to pay or whether they hail from in-state or elsewhere. The estimated total cost of attendance should be less than the least expensive Ivy charges for tuition and fees alone. This year Harvard charges $55,800. It should cost less for a student to succeed academically, financially and socially at a Public Ivy than it ever could at a private Ivy or an Ivy-like/near-Ivy school. That requires me to consider what a school expects students to spend beyond the charges on the term bill.
One great characteristic of the private Ivies as well as Ivy-like/near-Ivy schools is that virtually everyone who gets in stays in. The same should be true for a Public Ivy. Flagship state universities have gotten much better at retaining their students since I was in college. The resources dedicated to academic advising, honors-level instruction and career development are much better than they were four decades ago.
Another great characteristic of Ivy League and Ivy-like/near-Ivy schools is that most of their students graduate on time. The same should be true of a Public Ivy. There are some exceptions. Early entry into an advanced degree program is one, so is cooperative education, aka ‘co-op’. Co-op students alternate between classroom instruction and full-time work experience for as much as three years. Two schools on my Public Ivy list for this cycle have large co-op programs
If you were looking for the best value, excluding merit scholarships, it’s Binghamton. New York residents pay less than $30,000 all in. Non-residents would pay less than $48,000. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is a great value for the money, especially if you want to do co-op. Christopher Newport, Miami of Ohio and The College of New Jersey have the most generous merit scholarships for non-residents. The University of Delaware might have the most achievable combination of merit aid and honors college admissions. The largest schools on this list, Penn State, Illinois and Minnesota, plus Georgia Tech, have the largest alumni bases.
Only one school on my list, Miami of Ohio, is an original Public Ivy, dating back to 1986. Binghamton, Georgia Tech, Penn State and the University of Illinois were runners up back then. However, costs for non-residents, freshman retention and graduation rates were less of a concern. These schools were less expensive. Tuition and fees alone took a much a smaller percentage of a family’s income than they do now. If someone needed an extra semester or year to earn a degree, it was not as much of a pain in the purse as it is now. But in 2021 families are more cost and value conscious, especially if know that they will struggle to cover college costs while planning for their retirement.
If you are looking for a pre-professional business or engineering program that can send one right into the workforce after graduation, it’s often tough to undercut public universities, especially if you live in a state like New York or Virginia. But I have also visited private liberal arts colleges that prepare their students exceptionally well for work or further education. They offer a more personal experience and leave families in less debt than much larger public schools. Some are quite selective, but others are not. This is especially true in Pennsylvania, the state that has more liberal arts colleges than any other. It has been common to hear that a mid-pack admitted student at Penn State or Pitt can qualify for enough scholarship aid to make an in-state private college experience less expensive than the large public universities.
Don’t leave this page believing that Ivies, mid-sized Ivy-like/near-Ivy and very large state schools are the only colleges worth your time and effort. Many schools offer instruction, direction and networks within a success-driven culture. I write these posts to help families find them.
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