The University of Maryland-College Park was one of the first large universities that I visited after starting EducatedQuest, and one of the best. I named the university a “Public Ivy” each year that I compiled the list, using different criteria each time. I had the opportunity to return to campus, staying in College Park to commute into D.C. to visit other schools. I wanted to write an update. There have been changes in general education, admissions practices, career development and of course, athletics with Maryland’s entry into the Big Ten.
Maryland now retains 96 percent of an entering freshman class and graduates around two-thirds of a class on time. Few state universities do better. Within the Big Ten only three schools academically out-perform the University of Maryland-College Park, and one is private, Northwestern. The other two are the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Maryland has a better retention rate than Illinois.
What continually impresses me about the University of Maryland-College Park are the efforts to engage undergraduates into their learning as well as career development from the freshman year forward. The University of Maryland-College Park is very large (around 27,000 undergraduates) university in a very expensive metropolitan area. However, the administration and faculty have worked to make a large school feel smaller through various living-learning communities, some based on past academic performance, others based on an application to join.
The university does have some downsides. Non-resident tuition and fees have crept past $31,000, while scholarships for non-residents are limited. College Park is not the nicest of campus communities though it is conveniently close to Washington D.C. Off-campus housing close to campus is very expensive. And, while there are some innovative approaches to general education including I-Series and Scholarship in Practice courses, there are also the same large introductory courses students typically dread if they attend a large university.
The University of Maryland-College Park is quite similar to “higher-ranked” state universities such as the University of California-Berkeley or the University of Michigan in terms of academic offerings, student body size and location near a major city. Maryland is a less expensive, and slightly less selective option, than those schools. If someone tells you that the University of Maryland-College Park is one of the best state universities in the U.S. don’t argue.
Report Card: University of Maryland-College Park
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