Episode 117: The Best Case for Historically Black Colleges and Universities?

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We know that some of you are still discussing which college your teenager should attend next fall, and we are sure that, by now, you are tired of re-listening to Episodes 69, 70, 71, and 114 of USACollegeChat–all of which we hoped would guide you through these difficult days. So, we thought we would let someone else do the talking today. Not us, but rather a college student–one we found to be remarkably insightful.

This episode will also start a new series, which we are calling Colleges in the Spotlight. Now, to be honest, I am not sure that we can sustain this series for very long, but we do have a few colleges or types of colleges we find ourselves wanting to put the spotlight on because of what they are doing. You will recall that we took a close look at Georgia State University back in Episode 103, and now I wished that we had saved it for this series. If you can’t remember the impressive stuff we said about Georgia State, you should go back and listen again. Really.

Today’s spotlight is on Spelman College and indeed on HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) generally; therefore, the episode is especially relevant for students of color, but not just for black students. You might recall that we talked about the enrollment of HBCUs back in Episode 100. We noted then that HBCU enrollment seemed to be on the rise and that HBCUs were also becoming more attractive to Latino students for a variety of reasons, which were well described in our episode.

And, if you were with us way back in Episode 30, you might recall that we highlighted Spelman, a well-respected all-female liberal arts college, founded by Baptist leaders, which offers 27 majors to just over 2,000 undergraduate women, drawn from most states across the country (with our home state of New York as one of the top five states sending students to Spelman). Spelman has an enviable student-to-faculty ratio of 10-to-1, meaning that students should typically be in small classes and get close attention from faculty members.

For those of you with seniors and with a letter from an HBCU in your stack of college acceptances (maybe even from Spelman!), this episode is for you. And for those of you with freshmen, sophomores, or juniors at home, this episode should make you think twice.

1. Ms. Mitchell’s Piece

As our regular listeners can probably recite by now because we frequently find ourselves talking on this topic, HBCUs were founded to serve students who had previously been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. The three earliest HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio before the Civil War, but many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War. Those Southern HBCUs share a proud tradition of becoming the first colleges to provide higher education to the family members of freed slaves. Over the years, HBCUs have produced extraordinary leaders in every field of endeavor and thousands and thousands of well-educated American citizens.

Today’s focus is on an opinion piece published in The New York Times by Skylar Mitchell earlier this month. It is part of the On Campus series in the Times?”dispatches from college students, professors and administrators on higher education and university life” (quoted from the website). That makes two weeks in a row we have used the On Campus series to bring you an insight that we thought was extraordinary. Last week, the piece was written by a college admissions office staffer, but this week it is written by an actual college student. And now we are going to stop giving the Times free advertising unless it wants to start sponsoring the podcast.

Because Ms. Mitchell wrote her piece in her own voice, with a rare combination of thinking and feeling for a college sophomore, I would like to read it to you in its entirety. It is not long, but you won’t forget it anytime soon. Her voice is, quite obviously, not our voice, so here are Ms. Mitchell’s own words from “Why I Chose a Historically Black College.” Listen on the podcast or follow this link to read her essay.

For once in my life, I have absolutely nothing to add. She speaks eloquently for herself.

2. Think Again

Ms. Mitchell obviously did a great job in choosing colleges to apply to, and we have tried again and again to emphasize how important that step is. Choosing colleges to apply to is every bit as important as choosing which college to attend–probably more so.

And I believe that Ms. Mitchell did get into some great ones, if Swarthmore and Spelman are any indications. What she had, obviously, were options. And regardless of whether your teenager is as smart as Ms. Mitchell must be, what you need are options. Remember that, parents of freshmen and sophomores and juniors.

And, finally, we will say this one more time at USACollegeChat: Think hard about putting an HBCU on your teenager’s list of possibilities. If we couldn’t convince you before, surely Ms. Mitchell has.

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Episode 100: Historically Black College and University Freshman Enrollment on the Rise

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Well, it is the 100th episode of our podcast, which started out as NYCollegeChat and then rapidly became USACollegeChat when we realized that everything we had to say was useful to families all over the USA and not just in our home state of New York. In the television business, having 100 episodes is a big deal because it means that the show lasted long enough and with sufficient quality to be syndicated (actually, it’s really only 88 episodes, or what used to be four full 22-episode seasons–not that anyone can figure out how many episodes are in television seasons anymore or even when the seasons begin and end). In our case, 100 episodes is about two years at our weekly pace. It’s as though we are now Law & Order–rest in peace, song-and-dance man extraordinare Jerry Orbach. And while we won’t be reaping the financial benefits of all those residuals that Law & Order stars get, we are still happy about the work we have done on these first 100 episodes.

historically-black-college-and-university-freshman-enrollment-on-the-rise-on-usacollegechatToday also brings to mind one of my own favorite podcasts: Sodajerker On Songwriting, brought to you by the U.K. songwriting team of Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor, who do fascinating interviews with great songwriters. They are fond of saying that they have the #1 songwriting podcast in the world. Even though they have no credible evidence to back up that claim, they thought that, if they said it enough, it would be true. In the spirit of Simon and Brian, let me say that Marie and I are proud to have the #1 podcast on college issues and college access in the world. Evidence to come.

In light of our recent presidential election and the understandable response to it by many, many Americans, including many Americans of color, we thought we would use today’s episode to pay tribute to our nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). This is something we do relatively often, I think, and for good reason. It’s no secret to our regular listeners that I think Fisk University (an HBCU in Nashville, TN) is one of our national treasures, and I won’t bore you here with all of the reasons I think that. Just trust me that it is (or go back and listen to Episode 32, among others).

As recently as Episode 90, we spotlighted HBCUs. We said then that there are just over 100 HBCUs, and that they are public and private, large and small (even very small), faith-based and not, two-year and four-year colleges and universities; some also have graduate schools.

As our regular listeners know by now, HBCUs were founded to serve students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. The three earliest HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio before the Civil War, but many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War. Those Southern HBCUs share a proud tradition of becoming the first colleges to provide higher education to the family members of freed slaves. Over the years, HBCUs have produced extraordinary leaders in every field of endeavor and thousands and thousands of well-educated American citizens.

1. Enrollment Is Up

Today, HBCUs enroll students who are not black–just as predominantly white institutions (PWIs) now enroll students who are not white. Some observers have said that it had become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students now that they are welcome at all kinds of colleges all across the U.S. Well, perhaps we are seeing a change in that trend.

According to a late September article by Timothy Pratt in The Hechinger Report (“Why more black students are enrolling in historically black colleges“), Spelman College, an excellent women’s HBCU in Atlanta, had a record number of applications for spots in this fall’s freshman class. Pratt explains in his article that many other HBCUs have also enjoyed enrollment increases:

Although many schools are still crunching the numbers, about a third of all HBCUs have seen spikes in freshmen enrollment this year, said Marybeth Gasman, higher education professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. Some are reversing declines that date to the economic downturn of 2008. (quoted from the article)

Some of the freshman enrollment statistics that Pratt provides in his article are rather amazing:

2. Why Is Enrollment Up?

So, why the increase? Pratt offers some explanations in his article:

Several observers, including Gasman, primarily attribute the surge in interest to racial tensions on and off college campuses. . . . But others say the schools themselves deserve at least some of the credit, for making changes in everything from recruiting practices to out-of-state tuition prices. . . .

Gasman said she is hearing more than ever before from parents who ‘don’t want [their children] to deal with what they’re seeing in other places.’ Black students, she said, ‘are feeling they need a place to go that has them in mind.’ Such calls and emails from parents usually increase after police shootings, she said. (quoted from the article)

And we have to wonder whether calls and emails from parents will increase in light of the results of our presidential election–an event that has clearly worried many black families. Perhaps the subtitle of Pratt’s article says it all:

In the era of Black Lives Matter, some students feel safer on majority-black campuses

But the results of our presidential election also understandably worried many Latino families. Interestingly, there was an article a year ago in The Atlantic that focused on an increase of Latino students at HBCUs. Here is one quotation from that article:

Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that promotes the interests of Latinos in higher education, says that HBCUs generally tend to be more student focused and have faculty who are culturally competent, making them attractive to emerging populations such as Latinos. (quoted from the article)

Gasman was also quoted in The Atlantic article, saying that Latino students often felt more comfortable in the family-like environment of many HBCUs and that low tuition rates at HBCUs were an added plus. Will the election results drive even more Latino students to HBCUs, where they, too, will perhaps feel safer and more valued? Or will the election results drive up enrollment numbers at Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), which we have also talked about at USACollegeChat in several episodes? That’s just a thought.

But let’s look further at both the favorable tuition rates and the caring environment at many HBCUs. Pratt wrote about both in his article:

Cost has long been seen as a plus for HBCUs. Penn’s Gasman estimates that HBCU tuition rates are 50 percent lower than those of their historically white counterparts; about a third of HBCUs have tuition and fees under $15,000. As more attention is drawn to rising tuition and student debt, these schools may become more appealing, said Melissa Wooten, sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of ‘In the Face of Inequality: How Black Colleges Adapt.’

A Gallup poll released last year of black graduates of HBCUs and other colleges also sparked conversation, noted Robert Palmer, a professor in the department of educational leadership and policy studies at Howard University. The poll results showed that HBCU graduates were about twice as likely as graduates of other colleges to strongly agree with such statements as, ‘my professors ? cared about me as a person.’ (quoted from the article)

Now that we have given you all of these arguments, what might you do with them before college applications are due in just about six weeks? Well, we believe that you should think hard about putting an HBCU on your teenager’s list of colleges, especially if your family is black or Latino. It is not too late. HBCUs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are well known (like Fisk, Spelman, Morehouse, Howard, Tuskegee, Hampton, and Lincoln), and others are not–just like PWIs. Some are very selective, and others are not–just like PWIs. Is there an HBCU for you? There probably is. We hope you find it.

3. It’s Thanksgiving!

So, in case you hadn’t heard, next Thursday is Thanksgiving. We are going to take the day off. Instead of listening to our podcast, why don’t you just listen to what your kids are saying about school these days? We have been seriously troubled–even enraged–by some of the stories we have heard about how kids have reacted to the results of our presidential election. One of the saddest of those stories comes from Queens, right here in New York City, where a group of white seventh grade students in a class built a wall out of textbooks to separate their Latino classmates from them.

Now, Queens is the most diverse county in the U.S. Our kids here have classmates of every conceivable cultural, racial, and ethnic background from the time they are kindergartners–and now pre-kindergartners, given Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent push for pre-K public education. So, how did the seventh graders in my story end up like that? It is something I am going to ponder this Thanksgiving, and I hope you will, too.

The Kindle ebook version of our book, How To Find the Right College, is on sale for $0.99 through 2016! Read it on your Kindle device or download the free Kindle app for any tablet or smartphone. The book is also available as a paperback workbook.

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Episode 90: Assignment #10: It’s Never Too Late To Add One More College

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This is an episode we like to call “It’s Never Too Late To Add One More College.” Now, if your teenager and you have done your nine assignments this summer to expand and then investigate seriously the colleges on your teenager’s long summer list of college options, you are probably wondering what we mean by “adding one more.” But, first, let’s review the nine assignments you have already done?and it’s an impressive group:

We are truly impressed if you got all that done. Even if you didn’t do it for 50 colleges–one from each state, which was our original challenge–we are impressed. Even if you did it for just half that many colleges we are impressed. But, let’s say that we hope you did it for at least 20.

1. Your Assignment #10

Download the Assignment #10 Worksheet

And so, we come to the last assignment in building and investigating your teenager’s list. This assignment is not like the others. It is designed to give your teenager and you one last chance to consider a college you might have missed in your search, and it does that by looking at several categories of colleges you might have overlooked or you might have thought were not right for your teenager. At the end of this episode, you might be able to rule out each category we are suggesting; if so, your list is done. On the other hand, you might want to look further at one category or another and consider adding a few colleges to that long summer list of college options.

2. What About Faith-Based Colleges?

As we explained at some length in our book How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students (on sale at Amazon until we declare the summer officially over), “faith-based”–that is, religious–colleges and universities are a broader category than you might think. This category includes hundreds of small Bible colleges, which are indeed dedicated to religious life and the study of religion, but it also includes very large universities that offer all fields of study, though with an underlying religious or moral or service-to-others orientation.

Some faith-based institutions require more religious study than others. Some require students to take just a couple of courses in theology or perhaps philosophy instead, while others infuse much of their curriculum with their religious beliefs. Some require students to attend chapel services, but many do not.

In our experience, faith-based institutions are usually quite up front about what they are all about. They are not trying to trick your teenager into going there, because that wouldn’t be good for you or for them. Sometimes a college application will give you a clue by asking for your religion and the name and address of your church. Some ask for a recommendation from a minister. Many have a statement of their religious beliefs on their website or in their student handbook; you can read it and see whether your family supports it.

As a matter of fact, more U.S. colleges and universities than you might think have been founded by religious denominations–especially a lot of our earliest and most prestigious colleges, as you learned if you listened to our virtual nationwide tour of colleges (Episodes 27 through 54). Some of them retain their religious affiliation today, and many do not. Some faith-based institutions are Jewish, some are Catholic, and some are Protestant. One very interesting choice is Soka University of America (SUA), located in Orange County, California: “Proudly founded upon the Buddhist principles of peace, human rights and the sanctity of life, SUA offers a non-sectarian curriculum” and welcomes students of all beliefs (quoted from the website).

Understanding the world of some 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. is particularly complicated because they have been founded by various orders (including the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, and more) and by other groups within the Catholic community. And, in case you didn’t listen to our virtual nationwide tour of colleges, many respected Catholic institutions, including some of the best-known ones, actually attract many students who are not Catholic.

As I have said in previous episodes, I sent my daughter Polly to the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University joint dance B.F.A. program. Fordham is a Jesuit university, something I am always embarrassed to admit that I knew very little about before I sent Polly there to dance. For those of you who don’t know, the Jesuits–that is, the Society of Jesus–which was founded in Paris in the 1500s, traces its commitment to education to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the first Jesuit college in Messina, Sicily, in 1548. Jesuit institutions today place a strong emphasis on intellectual rigor and a liberal arts foundation, social justice issues worldwide, and a life of service. It is my belief that students of all faiths, including my daughter who is not Catholic, are welcome and comfortable at Jesuit institutions. When I heard Father Joseph McShane, Fordham’s president, speak at orientation, I knew that we had, accidentally, made a great decision in sending Polly to Fordham. Father McShane said that Fordham students were taught to wrestle with important moral and ethical issues, to care for others, to despair over injustice, and to give back to their communities.

So, if your teenager is interested in social justice, if your teenager has done extensive community service projects in high school and has valued those experiences, or if you would like this sort of underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put a Jesuit college or university on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months. There are 28 to choose from (actually 189 worldwide), and they include small and large institutions all over the U.S. Some that you have likely heard of, in addition to Fordham in New York City, are Boston College, the College of the Holy Cross (in Worcester, Massachusetts), Georgetown University (in Washington, D.C.), Marquette University (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Saint Louis University (which has a great campus in Madrid, too), Santa Clara University (in California), and the University of San Francisco.

3. What About Historically Black Colleges and Universities?

Commonly referred to as HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities were established with the mission of educating African-American students solely or at least primarily. Today, just over 100 HBCUs can be found in many states and in both rural and urban settings. They are public and private, large and small (even very small), faith-based and not, two-year and four-year colleges; some have graduate schools.

HBCUs were founded to serve students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. The three earliest HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio before the Civil War, but many were founded in the South shortly after the Civil War. Those Southern HBCUs share a proud tradition of becoming the first collegiate homes of family members of freed slaves.

Some HBCUs have produced great black leaders–like Booker T. Washington, who attended Hampton University, and like Thurgood Marshall, who attended both Lincoln University and Howard University School of Law. Some have put great black leaders from many walks of life on their payrolls as professors and administrators–like Fisk University, where Charles Spurgeon Johnson, the intellectual architect of the Harlem Renaissance, served as Fisk’s first black president and where Harlem Renaissance writers and artists, like Arna Bontemps, James Weldon Johnson, and Aaron Douglas all worked. If you have listened to many episodes of USACollegeChat, you probably know that Fisk is my favorite HBCU, precisely because of its history (and if you don’t know about the Fisk Jubilee Singers, organized in 1871, you should).

Today, HBCUs enroll students who are not black–just as historically white colleges and universities now enroll students who are not white. Some observers say that it has become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students now that they are welcome at both selective and nonselective colleges across the U.S. That is probably true to some degree. Nonetheless, there is still a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae of HBCUs and a strong sense of tradition on HBCU campuses. For some African-American students especially, that could be a good fit for what they are looking for in a college, and a shared culture could go a long way toward helping them feel comfortable on a college campus, especially if it is far from home.

So, if your teenager is interested in living and studying in the shared culture that characterizes HBCUs or if you would like this sort of cultural and historical underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put an HBCU on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months. There are plenty to choose from, including some small and very accommodating ones that might be a perfect choice if your teenager has not gotten the high school grades or test scores that you might have wished for.

4. What About Hispanic-Serving Institutions?

There are over 250 colleges and universities that have been designated during the past 50 years as Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), meaning that they have a student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. For example, The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, a federally designated HSI, was one of the first minority-majority universities, with an approximately 45 percent Hispanic student body and an Anglo student population of just about 35 percent.

HSIs are located in states across the U.S. from California to Massachusetts and from Washington to Florida. Some HSIs are large public universities, some are large public community colleges, and some are small private liberal arts colleges. Many HSIs receive federal funds to support programs and scholarships that are designed to help low-income Hispanic students succeed in college.

Although HSIs do not have the same kind of historical traditions that HBCUs have–perhaps because they were not founded originally with a mission to serve Hispanic students–they do offer an environment where Hispanic students might more easily find classmates with a similar cultural background. First-generation Hispanic college students–that is, students whose parents did not attend college–might find it easier to fit into this supportive college environment, thus improving their chances of long-term success.

So, if your teenager is interested in living and studying with a substantial number of students from a similar cultural background or if you would like this sort of cultural underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put an HSI on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months. Remember that many HSIs are two-year colleges, so look over the options carefully.

5. What About Single-Sex Colleges and Universities?

Let’s start by remembering that colleges and universities that were started in America’s earliest days were all institutions for men. They were all single-sex institutions then.

Seven of the eight Ivy League institutions served only male students when they were founded in the 1600s and 1700s. Only my alma mater, Cornell University, the youngest of the Ivies, was founded as a co-educational university, which is, frankly, one reason I went there.

As time went on, many of the Ivies created a “sister” school for women: the University of Pennsylvania had its College for Women, Columbia had Barnard, Brown had Pembroke, and Harvard had Radcliffe. Of these, only Marie’s alma mater, Barnard, remains.

The tradition of single-sex colleges is particularly strong in the Northeast, perhaps because that is where so many of our country’s oldest higher education institutions are located. But there are well-known women’s colleges located in other regions of the U.S. as well–like Mills College and Scripps College in California, Stephens College in Missouri, Hollins University and Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, Saint Mary’s College (the sister school of the University of Notre Dame) in Indiana, and Agnes Scott College and Spelman College in Georgia. Spelman has the distinction of also being an excellent HBCU. Interestingly and for whatever reason (probably rooted in financial issues), some of these women’s colleges now allow men to enroll in their graduate programs or in their special programs for returning adult students, thus maintaining the traditional women’s college atmosphere for their undergraduate residential students. Today, there are just over 40 women’s colleges in the U.S.

If you have a daughter interested in a women’s college, check out the Women’s College Coalition website and the available downloadable guide Why a Women’s College? Or, you can just have her listen to Marie talk for the next few minutes.

Okay, what about the men? Interestingly, only a handful of men’s colleges remain. There is Morehouse College, which is an academically rigorous HBCU located in Georgia and which is the men’s counterpart to Spelman. Morehouse has a roster of famous alumni, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee–and that is quite a range. Hampden-Sydney College was founded in 1775 in Virginia and has a fascinating history (Patrick Henry and James Madison were among its first Trustees). And there is Wabash College, which is located in Indiana and is my father-on-law’s alma mater. Wabash is cited in the book Colleges That Change Lives as an institution that is successful in creating engaged students, who become leaders in their chosen fields. If I had a teenage boy at home who needed to focus on his studies so that he could become all that he could be, I would strongly consider Wabash.

While most single-sex institutions have opened their doors to the opposite sex over the years and especially in the past 50 years, those that remain carry on a tradition that their graduates wholeheartedly support. Some of their graduates–and indeed their families–believe that students can focus better on their studies when they are not being distracted by social interactions with the opposite sex in the classroom. Some of their graduates believe that students will develop a stronger sense of community and camaraderie with their classmates in single-sex institutions. Some of their graduates appreciate the histories and philosophies of these institutions–especially perhaps graduates of women’s colleges who feel that they are better supported as young women and are encouraged to set and pursue whatever education and career goals they can imagine for themselves.

So, if your teenager is interested in living and studying in a supportive environment typically with high expectations or if you would like this sort of social and intellectual underpinning for your teenager’s collegiate education, I am going to suggest that you put a single-sex institution on your teenager’s long summer list of college options now so that you can think about it over the next few months.

And let me make one point here: Even though I don’t prefer single-sex institutions now, I had two on my own list of colleges that I applied to. It was only after I had been accepted to them that I figured out they weren’t for me. But I was glad that I had the options and could consider them calmly over some months. And Marie, even though you chose to attend Barnard, you also applied to co-educational colleges. So, having both types of institutions on your teenager’s long summer list of college options might be just the thing to do.

So, have your teenager take the Assignment #10 worksheet and take one last look at whether to add another college to his or her long summer list of college options. And, since Monday is Labor Day, we are going to take a week off while you all enjoy your last three-day weekend of the summer season. Fortunately, this next week will give you and your teenager some time to let that long summer list of college options sink in–right before we start helping you narrow it down and begin the serious application process. We will see you back with us on September 15!

Download the Assignment #10 Worksheet

The Kindle ebook version of our book, How To Find the Right College, is on sale for $1.99 all summer long! Read it on your Kindle device or download the free Kindle app for any tablet or smartphone. The book is also available as a paperback workbook.

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

  • Leaving a comment below on the show notes for this episode
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Episode 46: Colleges in the Mid-Atlantic Region–Part II

Virtual tour of public colleges in the Mid-Atlantic Region on NYCollegeChat PodcastListen to the episode in the player, download it here, or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

This is the nineteenth episode in our virtual tour of colleges across the U.S., designed to help you find colleges that might be great choices for your child, but are outside your geographic comfort zone. So far, we have toured the Great Lakes region, the Southeast region, the Rocky Mountain region, the Plains region, the Southwest region, the Far West region, and the New England region, and we started into the Mid-Atlantic region last week. We are on a continuing mission to see whether we can convince even our nearby listeners in this region to check out colleges in their neighboring states.

As always, we are discussing only four-year colleges, reasoning that students who plan to attend two-year colleges are highly likely to go to the closest one, which makes sense for a two-year college.

And let us say it once again, no college has asked us or paid us anything to include it in our virtual tour. These are our own choices.

1. The Mid-Atlantic Region

As we explained last week, even though The Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce) calls this region the Mideast region, I will continue to call it the Mid-Atlantic region, which, as a native Pennsylvanian, I have always called it. So, with apologies to the Bureau, we will look at the Mid-Atlantic region of Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York—but we are going to put off a discussion of New York because it is the home state of many of our listeners and we know that they will be especially interested in it (though we kind of wish they were not).

Last week, we examined the public flagship universities in the Mid-Atlantic region, including one HBCU, and we will continue to look at public options in this region in this episode. Next week, we will be taking a look at a variety of private colleges here.

2. Other Public State Universities

In each of these states, there are also other public universities—campuses within the flagship system, campuses within a second-tier system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and colleges and universities in their own right. As we said last week, some of these campuses are, in fact, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and we will look at them separately. In looking at all of these other public options, I want to say again that we always consider whether any one of these public options is sufficiently attractive to draw a student away from the public options in his or her home state, which would likely be far cheaper.

I do believe that flagship universities are very often appealing enough to attract students away from public options in their own states, especially public options that are not their own flagship universities. I am not sure how many other public options there are in the Mid-Atlantic states that are that attractive, but let’s look at a few of the best candidates.

Let’s start in Pennsylvania with the University of Pittsburgh (commonly referred to as Pitt), a major urban university in a major city in the far western part of the commonwealth. Pitt was founded in 1787 as Pittsburgh Academy in a log cabin on the frontier and later came to be called Western University of Pennsylvania. In addition to its main campus—which enrolls about 19,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate and professional students, for a total of 29,000 students—Pitt also has four regional campuses.

Pitt has 14 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges, including all the standard undergraduate colleges for a large university—arts and sciences, education, business, engineering, and information sciences—plus a School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, School of Nursing, and School of Social Work. Pitt also has graduate and professional schools of law, medicine, public health, dentistry, and pharmacy. By the way, Jonas Salk developed his world-changing polio vaccine at Pitt in 1955.

Pitt offers over 400 student organizations and 19 varsity sports teams. Pitt Panthers play some good basketball and football. The football team was the first college team to wear numbers on their jerseys, the first to fly to away games, and the first to play in games broadcast on the radio. And in case you didn’t know, Pitt’s four-time All-America Tony Dorsett was the first football player to win a college national championship (and the prestigious Heisman Trophy in 1976) and then the Super Bowl for the Dallas Cowboys in back-to-back years. Unfortunately, Dorsett has been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy as a result of brain trauma from his playing years. So here’s a shout-out to you, Tony Dorsett: We loved to see you run and wish the very best for you now.

The latest class of Pitt freshmen came from 44 states and 17 foreign countries. About 65 percent were Pennsylvania residents (just about like Penn State), with New Jersey and New York being the next-most-popular home states. SAT subtest scores were in the low to mid-600s, and the average high school GPA was about a 4.0 (75 percent of students posted a GPA of 3.75 or higher). About 25 percent of students were non-white—a record high for the University.

Though tuition differs some by school within Pitt, tuition and fees run about $19,000 per year for in-state students and about $30,000 per year for out-of-state students—with out-of-state tuition and fees comparable to the flagship universities in the region, but with in-state costs a bit higher.

Coming along about 100 years after Pitt in the far western part of Pennsylvania was Temple University in Philadelphia in the far eastern part of the commonwealth. Temple had an interesting beginning:

Temple University’s history begins in 1884, when a young working man asked Russell Conwell if he could tutor him at night. A well-known Philadelphia minister, Conwell quickly said yes. It wasn’t long before he was teaching several dozen students—working people who could attend class only at night, but had a strong desire to make something of themselves.

Conwell recruited volunteer faculty to participate in the burgeoning night school, and in 1888 he received a charter of incorporation for “The Temple College.” His founding vision for the school was to provide superior educational opportunities for academically talented and highly motivated students, regardless of their backgrounds or means….

Today, Temple’s . . . students continue to follow the university’s official motto—Perseverantia Vincit, or “Perseverance Conquers.” (quoted, with editing, from the website)

Currently, Temple serves about 32,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students on its main campus in downtown Philadelphia. Temple has other campuses in Philadelphia; three campuses outside Philadelphia, but in Pennsylvania; a campus in Rome; and quite a campus in Japan. The Japan Campus serves about 800 students in undergraduate degree programs (almost half are U.S. residents) and another 2,500 graduate, professional, and corporate adult students from about 60 countries:

Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ), is the oldest and largest foreign university in Japan. Founded in 1982, TUJ has developed into a nationally recognized institution offering an extensive range of educational programs. In addition to its core undergraduate program, TUJ offers graduate programs in law, business, and education; an English-language preparation program; continuing education courses; and corporate education classes….

TUJ is the first educational institution in Japan to be officially recognized as a Foreign University, Japan Campus by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. This status allows TUJ to sponsor student visas, enabling international students to study at the university on either a short-term basis (one or two semesters) or a long-term basis (such as to complete a full four-year program). (quoted from the website)

Temple has 17 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges—including all of the regular choices, plus a School of Environmental Design, a School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, and the Boyer College of Music and Dance. It offers undergraduates over 100 degree programs.

Like the big public universities we have been discussing, Temple has hundreds of student organizations and 19 varsity sports teams. Temple also offers Army ROTC—Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which provides leadership training during the year and in the summer. ROTC cadets graduate as Second Lieutenants, with a required service commitment. ROTC scholarships can pay for up to full tuition for eligible students. Though we haven’t talked about ROTC much, it is available on about 1,100 college campuses nationwide.

Incoming freshmen at Temple post SAT subtest scores averaging in the mid-500s, with a high school GPA average of about 3.5. About 75 percent are Pennsylvania residents—meaning to me that Temple is not as well known outside the commonwealth as Pitt and Penn State.

Its tuition differs by school/college, with the College of Liberal Arts running about $15,000 a year for Pennsylvania residents and about $25,000 a year for out-of-state students. But out-of-state students attending Temple’s fine arts schools or business school, for example, will pay closer to $33,000 a year. So, parents, check the tuition rates carefully school by school at universities you are looking at for your teenager.

Let’s turn our focus to New Jersey and its two public research universities in addition to Rutgers: Rowan University and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Let’s start with Rowan, which came rather late to the game for colleges in this part of the country—that is, in 1923. It was started as a normal school to train teachers for South Jersey on a piece of land that 107 residents of Glassboro raised money to buy and donate to the state for this institution. Becoming a junior college and then Glassboro State Teachers College, Rowan got its new name in 1992 from benefactors Henry and Betty Rowan, who gave the university $100 million, with a request “that a College of Engineering be created with a curriculum that would address the shortcomings of engineering education at that time” (quoted from the website). Wow. Glassboro, by the way, is a reasonably short drive from both Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Rowan also has a campus in Camden to serve the needs of its inner-city residents.

Rowan offers its approximately 11,000 undergraduates about 90 degree programs in about a dozen undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges, including the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering. Rowan also serves another approximately 2,500 graduate and professional students, for a total of about 13,500 students, and provides plenty of student organizations and 16 varsity sports teams.

The Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering offers degrees in biomedical, chemical, civil and environmental, electrical and computer, and mechanical engineering. According to the website, “A signature component of the program, the Engineering Clinics, thread the 4-year program of study. The Clinic sequence accentuates a hands-on, team-oriented approach to a highly multidisciplinary education. The importance placed on technical and communication skills make Rowan engineers a valuable asset for the region and the profession.”

Incoming freshmen two years ago posted average SAT subtest scores in the mid-500s and an average high school GPA of 3.5. Interestingly, beginning with this year’s freshman class, students who had a high school GPA of 3.5 or better could choose not to submit college admission test scores—with some exceptions, including engineering students, homeschooled and international students, and students applying for merit scholarships—but rather write an additional admissions essay.

In-state tuition and fees run about $13,000 a year, while out-of-state tuition and fees run about $21,000 a year—which make it one of the better-priced options for out-of-state students we have discussed. Rowan also offers Wintersession, which allows students to take a three-credit course on an accelerated schedule—and out-of-state students pay the same lower cost as in-state students. So, students can finish a degree faster and cheaper!

Let’s move on to NJIT, located on a 45-acre campus in the University Heights district of downtown Newark and founded as Newark Technical School by an act of the New Jersey legislature in 1880 to provide for industrial education for New Jersey residents. Known as New Jersey’s Science and Technology University, NJIT serves almost 8,000 undergraduates and another approximately 3,000 graduate students, for a total of about 11,000 students—one of the smaller public options.

NJIT is a specialized technical university, offering over 45 bachelor’s degree programs in its schools and colleges of engineering, architecture and design, computing sciences, management, and science and liberal arts (which is understandably heavy on the sciences). Despite its technical orientation, NJIT also offers students traditional college life, including over 90 student organizations and 17 varsity sports teams and with about half the freshman class choosing to live in NJIT residence halls on campus.

Almost 20 percent of NJIT undergraduates are female. The Murray Center is dedicated to helping those undergraduate women succeed. As well as serving as an informal gathering place, the Center houses the Society of Women Engineers and NJIT’s Big Sister–Little Sister and Alumnae–Student mentoring programs.

Average SAT subtest scores for incoming freshmen last fall were a 563 in critical reading and a 629 in math. I think this is an unusually clear statement of what NJIT is looking for in an applicant, according to its website:

The average composite SAT score for our enrolling freshmen is 1190. If your score is below 1100, we recommend that you retake the test to try to raise it.

Class rank: We look for students in the top 30 percent of their class. For schools that don’t use a ranking system, we consider a B average to be equivalent. (quoted from the website)

I think that these scores and high school grades put NJIT within reach for a lot of students who thought a highly technical university might be too selective for them.

Tuition and fees for New Jersey residents run about $16,000 per year, while tuition and fees for out-of-state residents are almost twice that at about $30,000 per year. These figures put NJIT about on a par with the flagship universities we discussed last week. Incidentally, NJIT offers rolling admissions, with a decision coming just two to three weeks after an application is complete (and note that some programs in the College of Architecture and Design do require a portfolio of creative work as part of the application).

Let’s head over to Maryland to look at two special colleges: St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the U.S. Naval Academy. Starting with St. Mary’s College of Maryland, The Public Honors College, we find a very small public institution, located on the St. Mary’s River in the Chesapeake Bay region, about 70 miles southeast of our nation’s capital and about 95 miles south of Baltimore. St. Mary’s has a most unusual history from the moment colonists reached the land that is now its campus:

English colonists arrived aboard the Ark and Dove in 1634, determined to establish a settlement under a charter from King Charles I, authorizing them to take dominion of the lands surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. Led by Leonard Calvert, second son of Lord Baltimore, they came ashore within sight of where the College stands today, signed a treaty of peaceful coexistence with the Yaocomaco, and named their town St. Mary’s City. Though the settlement had ceased to flourish by the end of the 17th century, it was the capital of Maryland for 61 years (until 1695) and saw the beginnings of civil rights and representative government on this continent.

From the very first, St. Mary’s embraced the ideal of making an excellent education affordable. In 1846, the first board of trustees designed tuition and living costs to be substantially lower than those at similar schools. After 1868, when the General Assembly began giving the school annual appropriations, the seminary frequently educated up to half of its students…free of charge…. During the 20th century, the school expanded its campus and enriched the quality of instruction to serve the growing numbers of young women, and eventually men, who desired a fine education….

In 1927, … St. Mary’s became Maryland’s first junior college, affording students the unique opportunity to complete four years of high school and two years of college at the same institution.

In 1947, the Maryland Commission on Higher Education slated St. Mary’s Female Seminary-Junior College for dissolution although it was fully accredited and had begun admitting male students. Before the governor could act, a large public outcry, prompted by tireless alumnae, not only saved the school from extinction, but created the momentum for removing the word “Female” and renaming it St. Mary’s Seminary Junior College (1949), and its eventual evolution into a four-year baccalaureate college (1967). In 1992, the Maryland legislature designated it the state’s public honors college. (quoted, with editing, from the website)

Today, St. Mary’s serves almost 1,800 undergraduates (and about 35 graduate students in a Master of Arts in Teaching program). It is the quintessential liberal arts college, offering 24 majors in 17 departments, with seven intriguing cross-disciplinary minors. Students take a truly liberal arts core curriculum, which includes a freshman seminar on the liberal arts skills; a one-course international language requirement; courses in six academic fields that represent “liberal arts approaches to understanding the world” (arts, cultural perspectives, humanistic foundations, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences); and an “experiencing the liberal arts in the world” requirement, which can be satisfied by a study tour or a semester or year-long study abroad program, or a credit-bearing internship, or a service learning class.

St. Mary’s offers public higher education students a small-college atmosphere, with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 10:1 (very unusual for a public higher education institution)—as well as 85 student organizations and 17 varsity sports teams. While designated as an honors college, the academic profile of its freshman class seems achievable by many college-bound students. Average SAT subtest scores are a trio of scores in the high 500s, and the average high school GPA is about a 3.4. About 90 percent of its students are Maryland residents, and I am guessing that is partly because St. Mary’s has a low profile outside the state.

Maryland residents pay about $14,000 per year in tuition and fees, and out-of-state students pay about $29,000—or twice as much. That out-of-state figure is equivalent to many of the other public institutions we have been discussing. But families and students who are looking for a small liberal arts college vibe at a public price might find St. Mary’s remarkably attractive.

Another almost-unique public institution in Maryland is the U.S. Naval Academy (often referred to by its location as Annapolis)—one of the nation’s five military service academies—founded in 1845. As we said in an early episode of NYCollegeChat, the federally funded military service academies are all outstanding, academically rigorous institutions, whose mission is to build highly trained and highly ethical leaders, in this case for the Navy and the Marine Corps. Students are classified as midshipmen on active duty in the Navy.

Young men and women at the Academy graduate with Bachelor of Science degrees in a choice of about 25 majors—mostly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics related to their future careers, though they can major in Arabic, Chinese, economics, English, history, or political science (and minor in other foreign languages). Upon graduation, they are commissioned as Ensigns in the Navy or Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps. Academy graduates serve at least five years after graduation—a significant, and perhaps scary, commitment for many high school seniors to make.

Admissions to the Academy is a multi-step process, which includes the well-known appointment by a government official, typically a U.S. Representative, a U.S. Senator, or the Vice President of the U.S. Those government officials look over applications from interested students and decide which to put forward for possible admission to the Academy. Clearly, admission to the Academy is highly selective in every possible way.

As with all federal military service academies, tuition, room and board, and everything else are free. Midshipmen also receive a monthly stipend while in school, though certain expenses are deducted from it. Actual cash pay is about $100 a month to start. Midshipmen get normal holiday breaks, but only three weeks of vacation in the summer. The Academy and what follows are a way of life—with enormous benefits and likely some sacrifices.

3. Historically Black Colleges and Universities

As we said last week, we have talked many times about historically black colleges and universities (commonly referred to as HBCUs), which were established with the mission of educating African-American students solely or primarily. You might recall that there are just over 100 HBCUs—public and private, rural and urban, large and small, two-year and four-year and graduate schools. They all have a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae and a strong sense of tradition and shared culture on HBCU campuses.

Eight of the public HBCUs are located in this Mid-Atlantic region—the University of the District of Columbia, the flagship university, which we discussed last week; The Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania; Delaware State University; Morgan State University in Baltimore; and three campuses of the University System of Maryland, namely Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Let’s look briefly at two of these.

Starting in Maryland, Morgan State University is located in residential northeast Baltimore and carries “the responsibility of addressing the needs of residents, schools, and organizations within the Baltimore Metropolitan Area” (quoted from the website). Though Morgan awards more bachelor’s degrees to African-American students than any other higher education institution in Maryland, it has served and continues to serve students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Morgan has an interesting history:

Founded in 1867 as the Centenary Biblical Institute by the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the institution’s original mission was to train young men in ministry. It subsequently broadened its mission to educate both men and women as teachers. The school was renamed Morgan College in 1890 in honor of the Reverend Lyttleton Morgan, the first chairman of its Board of Trustees, who donated land to the college. Morgan awarded its first baccalaureate degree . . . in 1895. . . .

Morgan remained a private institution until 1939. That year, the state of Maryland purchased the school in response to a state study that determined that Maryland needed to provide more opportunities for its black citizens. . . .

By the time it became a public campus, the College had become a relatively comprehensive institution. Until the mid-1960s, when the state’s teachers colleges began their transition to liberal arts campuses, Morgan and the University of Maryland College Park were the only two public campuses in the state with comprehensive missions. . . .

[I]n 1975 the State Legislature designated Morgan as a university. . . . In 1988 Maryland reorganized its higher education structure and . . . campuses in the state college system became part of the University of Maryland System. Morgan and St. Mary’s College of Maryland were the only public baccalaureate-granting institutions authorized to have their own governing boards. The legislation also strengthened Morgan’s authority to offer advanced programs and designated the campus as Maryland’s Public Urban University. (quoted and edited from the website)

Today, Morgan boasts nine undergraduate schools and colleges, including the School of Community Health and Policy, the School of Global Journalism and Communication, the School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Engineering, and, appropriately, the School of Education and Urban Studies. Morgan’s approximately 6,500 undergraduates choose among about 45 bachelor’s degree programs. (Morgan enrolls another approximately 1,500 graduate and professional students.)

About 80 percent of Morgan’s students are African American, and about 75 percent are Maryland residents, with nearby New York, New Jersey, D.C., and Pennsylvania being the next-most-popular residences. Tuition and fees are a relative bargain at Morgan, with Maryland residents paying just about $7,500 per year, and out-of-state residents paying about $17,000 per year.

When Marie and I attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last April, we spoke with Grayson Savoie, an admissions officer, who offered the following audio pitch for Morgan for NYCollegeChat. (Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode.)

For a last look at HBCUs in the Mid-Atlantic region, I would like to spotlight The Lincoln University, located in Chester County, Pennsylvania—just southwest of Philadelphia and northwest of Newark, Delaware. The University “formally associated” with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a public institution in 1972, but its roots go far, far back as the oldest degree-granting HBCU in the country. Chartered as the private Ashmun Institute in 1854, it was renamed after President Abraham Lincoln in 1866.

Horace Mann Bond, Lincoln Class of 1923 and the eighth president of the University, wrote that it was “the first institution found anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent” (quoted from his book, Education for Freedom). If President Bond’s name sounds familiar, it will be obvious why in this statement by current Interim President Richard Green last month:

Lincoln University’s administration, faculty, staff and students are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Julian Bond, an admired civil rights leader who leaves a rich legacy that others can only aspire to achieve. He spent many years on this campus with his father, Horace Mann Bond ’23, the university’s first African American president, from 1945 to 1957. (quoted from the website)

Currently, the University enrolls about 1,600 undergraduate students and about 200 graduate students. About 80 percent of its undergraduates are black, and only about 40 percent are Pennsylvania residents. For a small school, it has quite a list of prominent alumni/alumnae, including poet Langston Hughes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and the first presidents of both Ghana and Nigeria.

The University offers over 25 undergraduate degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences and in some career fields, including business, criminal justice, mass communications, health science, and nursing.

Applications are accepted any time after completion of a student’s junior year in high school, with admissions decisions made on a rolling basis, with no firm deadline and with decisions made in three to four weeks. Students may apply for spring admission, too. Its incoming freshmen last fall posted average SAT subtest scores in the low 400s and an average high school GPA of about a 2.8.

Tuition and fees run about $12,000 per year for Pennsylvania residents and about $17,000 for out-of-state students—the slimmest difference we have seen.

Again, when we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last April, we also spoke with Kenyatta Austin, an admissions counselor, who offered the following audio pitch for The Lincoln University, her alma mater, for NYCollegeChat. (Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode.)

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Episode 45: Colleges in the Mid-Atlantic Region–Part I

Virtual tour of public colleges in the Mid-Atlantic on NYCollegeChat Podcast, brought to you by Policy Studies in Education

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This is the eighteenth episode in our virtual tour of colleges across the U.S. We are starting the final group of episodes designed to help you find colleges that might be perfect for your child, but are outside your geographic comfort zone. So far, we have toured the Great Lakes region, the Southeast region, the Rocky Mountain region, the Plains region, the Southwest region, the Far West region, and the New England region. This episode takes us just down the road to our final stop: the Mid-Atlantic region, which you might think would be inside the geographic comfort zone of many of our listeners who live right here in the Mid-Atlantic states. However, we know that about 70 percent of high school students stay in their home state—not just in their home region—for college. So, we are going to have to see if we can convince even our nearby listeners to check out colleges in some neighboring states.

As we have said before, we are discussing only four-year colleges in our tour, reasoning that students who plan to attend two-year colleges are highly likely to go to the closest one, which makes sense for a two-year college. We think it makes less sense if your teenager is headed for a four-year college, and we will try to persuade you about that in our episodes.

Finally, as we often have said, no college has asked us or paid us anything to include it in our virtual tour. These are our own choices.

1. The Mid-Atlantic Region

One more time: The Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce) has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s covering from four to 12 states. In this episode, we will start our examination of what the Bureau calls the Mideast region, but which I simply have to call the Mid-Atlantic region, probably because I grew up in Pennsylvania and that’s what I have always called it. So, with apologies to the Bureau: In the Mid-Atlantic region, we will be looking at Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York—that is, four states, one commonwealth, and one district. However, we are going to put off a discussion of New York because it is the home state of many of our listeners and we know that they will be especially interested in it (though we kind of wish they were not). New York will get its own episodes in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

This week and next week, we will be examining public colleges in most of the Mid-Atlantic region and, after that, we will be taking a look at a variety of private colleges here. As always, I hope we will have a few surprises for you. Let me say that I do not like giving more air time to the Mid-Atlantic region than to many other parts of the country; but, I do believe that many of our listeners live here and might be persuaded to go just barely outside their comfort zone to a nearby state if we can motivate them to do so in these episodes.

2. Flagship Public State Universities

As we usually do, let’s begin with the flagship public state universities in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Some of them are better known nationally than others (likely because of some serious football playing—can you say, Nittany Lions?). While state public college systems and flagship universities typically have smaller campuses and branches in other locations in their states, it is the main location—that is, the flagship of each state’s public system—that we will talk about here because that is the campus that is most respected and most widely recognized, both in the state and certainly outside the state.

Let us remind you one more time of what we have said in other episodes about flagship campuses: They are the place to be, if you graduated from high school in that state. Why? Because they are relatively inexpensive, academically respectable, well regarded across the state and across the country, usually super-competitive in sports arenas, chocked full of student clubs and activities, within driving distance of home, and a social hub for high school classmates.

As I have said before, I think that great flagship campuses in other states are the hidden jewels of the college search for lots of students who never consider them.

With all that said, I also want to say that I do not believe that flagship campuses in the Mid-Atlantic states are quite as appealing to their residents as flagship campuses in much of the rest of the country (except New England) are to their residents. In the Mid-Atlantic region, Pennsylvania State University (commonly referred to as Penn State) is probably the one exception to that statement. As we discussed a few weeks ago, it is likely a cultural thing, not an academic thing. Perhaps there is just a longer or more entrenched tradition of private higher education in the Northeast, including in the Mid-Atlantic region, than there is in other parts of the country.

So, what are these flagship campuses in the Mid-Atlantic region? They are the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD); University of Delaware in Newark (UD); Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick; and Pennsylvania State University, University Park, in State College. We will discuss the University of the District of Columbia separately later in this episode because it is so different in size and history from these other four.

First, let’s look at the locations of these flagship universities in a wide variety of communities. Newark, Delaware, and State College, Pennsylvania, are both small towns; College Park, Maryland, is virtually a suburb of Washington, D.C., right over the northeast border of our nation’s capital; and New Brunswick, New Jersey, is truly urban, sitting in the heavily trafficked corridor between New York City and Philadelphia. These communities couldn’t be more different—or, as we might say, something for everyone.

Turning to the four flagship universities themselves, we can put them into three groups by enrollment size, starting with the largest university, which is Penn State. At the University Park main campus, Penn State enrolls about 40,000 undergraduates and another 6,500 graduate and professional students, for a total of about 46,500 students. These enrollment figures put Penn State in the same category as the big Midwestern flagship universities discussed in our Great Lakes episodes.

Only about 60 percent of students at Penn State are state residents—not surprising, given that I believe it is the flagship university in this region most likely to attract out-of-state students, though it also seems likely that the university is seeking some geographic diversity in its student body. Penn State now draws students from all 50 states and over 100 foreign countries. (We should also mention that there is a huge Commonwealth system of 23 more campuses to serve other Pennsylvania residents as well as 14 state colleges in their own statewide system.) The average SAT scores of incoming freshmen at the main campus in State College last year were a pair of reading and writing scores in the high 500s and a mathematics score in the low 600s. The average high school GPA of incoming freshmen is a commendable 3.6—a bit higher than we might expect, given the average SAT subtest scores.

Rutgers and UMD are next on the list, according to enrollment size. Rutgers serves about 32,000 undergraduates and about 8,500 graduate and professional students, for a total of about 40,500 students. About 45 percent of its undergraduates identify as Caucasian/white; about 25 percent identify as Asian. Rutgers draws from about 45 states and 65 foreign countries. Just a bit smaller than Rutgers, UMD serves about 27,000 undergraduates and about 10,000 graduate and professional students, for a total of about 37,000 students. UMD draws students from all 50 states and from about 115 foreign countries. Each university draws a whopping 80 percent or so of its students from its own state. The next-most-popular states of residence for UMD students are nearby and populous New Jersey and New York. Incoming freshmen at Rutgers have an average high school GPA of a 3.7 (about like Penn State), with average SAT subtest scores hovering in the mid-600s (except for the engineers, whose average GPA is a remarkable 4.2). Incoming freshmen this year at UMD have an average high school GPA of that same remarkable 4.2, with average SAT subtest scores hovering in the high 600s.

Finally, we come to UD, with about 18,000 undergraduates and about 4,500 graduate and professional students, for a total of about 22,500 students—about half the size of Penn State, but still not small by anyone’s standards. A university with 18,000 undergraduates is going to feel gigantic to most 18-year-olds. Incoming freshmen at UD have average SAT subtest scores hovering around 600—about like Penn State’s scores. Only about 40 percent of UD undergraduates are from Delaware, perhaps because Delaware is such a small state and the University is a reasonably large school.

Let us remind you, listeners, again that most colleges are looking for geographic diversity in their student body and that students might be able to get into a better college far from home if that college is lacking, but wanting, that diversity. My guess is that any of these flagship universities would be interested in a student from the other side of the country if that student posted a decent high school GPA and some decent college admission test scores. Now if that student comes from New York or another reasonably close state—as we know many of them do—then the GPA and test scores might need to be a bit better since there will be competition from other appealing candidates from New York.

UD is the oldest of these institutions, and it has an impressive history. It was founded in 1743 in Pennsylvania as a private academy to educate clergy and was moved to Delaware in 1765. Its first class of students boasted three students who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence, one of whom also signed the U.S. Constitution later. UD’s colors of blue and gold were taken from the Delaware State flag, which got them from the colors of George Washington’s uniform. They also represent the colors of the flag of Delaware’s first Swedish colonists.

Rutgers came along in 1766 as Queen’s College, a private institution with Dutch religious roots. It was renamed in 1825 for Henry Rutgers, a Revolutionary War colonel and college benefactor. Around 1918, New Jersey College for Women was born; it became Douglass College and is now Douglass Residential College, which offers courses and services to 2,400 women who have been admitted to Rutgers and choose to affiliate with the College.

Penn State and UMD both opened almost a century later, in the mid-1800s, as agricultural colleges. UMD gradually became public over the years, until the State took full control in 1916 and then linked the College Park and Baltimore campuses to create the University in 1920. Interestingly, it was during the Great Depression in the 1930s that Penn State began to open its undergraduate branch campuses throughout the commonwealth for students who could not afford to travel away from home to attend college.

Turning to academics, these flagship universities have from 7 to 12 undergraduate schools and colleges (and additional graduate and professional schools and colleges)—from liberal arts and sciences to many career-related fields, including, at the undergraduate level, engineering, education, business, fine arts and architecture, nursing, earth and mineral sciences, communications, agriculture and natural resources, environmental sciences, information and computer sciences, health sciences, public health, social work, and planning and public policy. In 2013, Rutgers opened its Biomedical and Health Sciences division, housing eight undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, in its own facilities in New Brunswick and elsewhere in the state. In other words, the possibilities for studying whatever a student wants are almost endless.

These flagship universities offer from about 90 to 160 undergraduate degree programs across their undergraduate colleges and schools. Rutgers claims to have one of the top three philosophy programs in the English-speaking world—along with New York University and the University of Oxford in the U.K. UD claims to have started the first study abroad program in the U.S. in 1923 with a junior year abroad in France; UD now specializes in short-term, faculty-led programs abroad. UMD offers what it calls an Education Abroad program the summer before freshman year and a Destination London program, in which freshmen spend their first full semester in London with other UMD freshmen.

At Penn State, typical undergraduates take almost one-third of their courses in the College of Liberal Arts. All students are required to take 45 credits of General Education courses, including three credits of writing-intensive coursework, a course in U.S. cultures, a course in international cultures, and coursework that covers social and behavioral sciences, humanities, natural sciences, quantitative skills, the arts, and health and physical activity—with health and physical activity being one of the more unusual distribution requirements we have seen (can you say, Nittany Lions?).

Like all other flagship universities, each of these four has several hundred student organizations, including fraternities and sororities—with UMD boasting over 800.

There are also varsity sports teams—from 19 to 29 women’s and men’s teams. The most famous of these is likely Penn State’s Nittany Lions football machine—unless you come from the Mid-Atlantic tradition of lacrosse (which is actually a Native American tradition) and find UMD’s Terrapins’ 12 national men’s titles and 459 All-Americans more impressive (by the way, terrapins are turtles). Rutgers and Princeton played the first intercollegiate football game on November 6, 1869, which Rutgers won 6–4 (the game was played with 25 players on each side and rugby-like rules).

Just as we have seen elsewhere, out-of-state tuition and fees at these flagship universities are on the high side, running right around $31,000 per year (about double in-state costs). While that is still lower than many private colleges in your home state—that is, before any financial aid package is figured in—I have to admit this tuition price tag is not much of a deal. But, as we have said in previous episodes, these flagship universities are better academically and more widely recognized than many private colleges where you would pay as much or more, and there is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public university.

In the category of famous alumni, which I often like to mention, I want to note that actor Avery Brooks—maybe best known for his role as Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but certainly most beloved (that would be by me) for his role as Hawk on Spenser for Hire—is an alumnus of Rutgers and has been a theater professor there, where his wife is an assistant dean. So, that’s a shout-out to Avery and Vicki Brooks, whom I have never met, but would love to, if you happen to be listening!

3. An Historically Black Flagship University

In an earlier episode in Series 1 of NYCollegeChat and in quite a few episodes during our virtual tour, we have talked about historically black colleges and universities (commonly referred to as HBCUs), which were established with the mission of educating African-American students solely or primarily—that is, a mission of serving students who had been excluded from many other higher education institutions because of their race. You might recall that there are just over 100 HBCUs—public and private, rural and urban, large and small, two-year and four-year and graduate schools.

As we explained in our earlier episode, HBCUs today enroll students who are not black. Some people say that it has become harder for HBCUs to recruit African-American students, who are now welcome at both selective and nonselective colleges across the U.S. Nonetheless, there is still a strong sense of community among the alumni/alumnae of HBCUs and a strong sense of tradition and shared culture on HBCU campuses.

Eight of the public HBCUs are located in this Mid-Atlantic region—the University of the District of Columbia; The Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania; Delaware State University; Morgan State University in Baltimore; and three campuses of the University System of Maryland, namely Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. We are going to look at a few of them next week, but today we want to talk about the University of the District of Columbia—a flagship university that is also an HBCU.

The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) dates its history back to 1851 and 1873 and the creation of two normal schools for girls—one black, established by abolitionist Myrtilla Miner, and one white. Their merger many years later in 1955 formed the District of Columbia Teachers College—the only public higher education institution in Washington. But what if lower-income Washington residents, who needed a public higher education option, did not want to become teachers? Congress established two additional higher education institutions in 1966: Federal City College, a liberal arts college, and Washington Technical Institute, for vocational and technical training. In 1975, a law was passed to merge these three institutions into the University of the District of Columbia—still the only public higher education institution in our nation’s capital.

UDC is made up of a Community College; School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; School of Business and Public Administration; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences; and the David A. Clarke School of Law. UDC serves just about 2,000 undergraduate students in over 75 bachelor’s degree programs in what it calls its flagship schools, another approximately 2,500 in its own community college, and another approximately 600 in the graduate and professional programs.

UDC bachelor’s degree students all take an elaborately planned and sequenced set of General Education courses worth 37 credits (that is, almost one-third of the courses that are required for the degree). These courses are interdisciplinary and collaboratively taught.

Admission standards for UDC’s flagship programs are set out quite clearly on its website:

  • 2.5 high school grade point average and 1200 SAT or 16 ACT score; OR
  • 2.0 high school grade point average and 1400 SAT or 19 ACT score

About 85 percent of UDC flagship undergraduates are D.C. or Metro area residents. D.C. residents pay just about $7,500 per year in tuition and fees (an appealing bargain), Metro area residents pay approximately $1,000 more, and out-of-area students pay about $15,000 per year (also an appealing bargain, compared to other public institutions we have been discussing).

So, stay tuned next week when we continue our discussion of public options in the Mid-Atlantic region because we have some intriguing ones for you.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • Flagship schools that made history
  • Flagship schools that take the liberal arts seriously
  • Flagship schools at an appealing price

Check out these higher education institutions and organizations we mention…

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