Episode 104: Public Universities–One More Time

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This is our final episode before the holiday break and before those of you with seniors are facing what is likely D-Day–Deadline-for-college-applications Day–at least, for many, many colleges anyway. We struggled to think of something hopeful to say, and we settled on one last look at a group of colleges your teenager and you might not have considered sufficiently, and that is public universities. They have long been a favorite topic of ours, as evidenced by our detailed coverage of them during our virtual nationwide college tour (Episodes 27 through 53) and our oft-repeated description of public flagship universities as the hidden jewels of our higher education system in the U.S.

But recently, I read some new information that might make them even more attractive to you, and that information is about money. Our regular listeners know that I care relatively little about the cost of a college compared to the education and college life it provides and the quality of its match to a particular student. But even I was pleased to find out this information. Perhaps it is just in time for adding one or two more colleges to your teenager’s list (especially if the applications are relatively easy or the deadlines are a bit later than January 1, both of which can be true for large public universities).

1. Out-of-State Tuition Prices Dropping

A few weeks ago, I read an Associated Press article, by Jeff Amy, which had a catchy headline: “Seeking students, public colleges reduce out-of-state prices.” It starts with an interesting story from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg, but doesn’t stop there. Here is the USM story:

The 14,500-student school has cut annual out-of-state tuition and fees from $16,529 this year to $9,964 next fall, even as it increases the cost for Mississippi residents by 4 percent, to $7,963.

The idea is to reverse a 2,000-student enrollment dip by pricing a USM education below some public universities in nearby states, and attract enough high-schoolers from Houston, Dallas and San Antonio to raise overall revenue. (quoted from the article)

Of course, as our regular listeners might say, those high school seniors could also come from New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Why? Because kids need to get outside their geographic comfort zone! And now, USM and other public universities are making it even more attractive and cheaper to do just that.

According to Mr. Amy’s article, “The Associated Press counted at least 50 public colleges and universities nationwide that have lowered nonresident tuition by more than 10 percent in recent years without making similar reductions for in-state students.” Is there any particular reason for that trend? Mr. Amy’s article offers this statistic:

Many [colleges] are squeezed by falling numbers of traditional college-age students. High school graduates have fallen nationwide since 2011 and won’t peak again until 2023, according to the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. (quoted from the article)

Well, that was something I didn’t know. So now, let’s head way north from Hattiesburg and take a look at the University of Maine‘s flagship campus. Mr. Amy tells this story:

One widely noticed move was made by the University of Maine in Orono, which charges high-achievers from nine other states the same tuition they’d pay at their home state’s flagship. This saves them $12,000 to $17,000 from Maine’s out-of-state tuition of $29,498; applicants with lower grades and test scores get $9,000 off.

“The state of Maine needs young people, and we’re not producing enough of them,” said University of Maine Provost Jeffrey Hecker?.

It’s working: Applications jumped, freshman enrollment rose 9 percent to 2,260 students this fall?. (quoted from the article)

This arrangement at the University of Maine echoes some arrangements we talked about during our virtual nationwide college tour (Episodes 27 through 53) where groups of neighboring states in various parts of the country offered good financial deals to students to cross state lines and attend public universities. And, parents, don’t forget to check out about any regional exchanges your state belongs to (e.g., Western Undergraduate Exchange, Midwest Student Exchange Program), which offer tuition discounts to residents of member states.

Of course, as we have said before, some public universities take some heat from state taxpayers for recruiting students from outside the state, especially when they believe that out-of-state students who can pay more are admitted instead of in-state students who deserve those places. But, as some states cut back on their funding of their own public universities, it is no surprise that those universities have to seek revenue elsewhere. Thus, at least in some states, out-of-state students are going to get a good deal.

2. Public Universities Recruiting Out-of-State Students

Last month, The New York Times published an article by Laura Pappano entitled “How the University of Alabama Became a National Player.” The whole article is well worth reading and tells about many more universities than we are going to talk about in this episode. But here is the Alabama story in a nutshell:

With state funding now just 12.5 percent of the university’s budget, campus leaders have mapped an offensive strategy to grow in size, prestige and, most important, revenue. The endgame is to become a national player known for more than championship football?.

The university is spending $100.6 million in merit aid, up from $8.3 million a decade ago and more than twice what it allocates to students with financial need. It also has hired an army of recruiters to put Bama on college lists of full-paying students who, a few years ago, might not have looked its way.

The University of Alabama is the fastest-growing flagship in the country. Enrollment hit 37,665 this fall, nearly a 58 percent increase over 2006. As critical as the student body jump: the kind of student the university is attracting. The average G.P.A. of entering freshmen is 3.66, up from 3.4 a decade ago, and the top quarter scored at least a 31 on the ACT, up from 27. (quoted from the article)

While it is clear that there are Alabama taxpayers who are annoyed that its well-known and much-loved flagship university is spending its money on out-of-state recruiters and merit aid to bright kids, it is also clear that these strategies seem to be working for the University. And that is why the University of Alabama now has 45 recruiters, with 36 of them in out-of-state locations.

According to Ms. Pappano’s article, Alabama is just one example of this trend. To take another example, the University of South Carolina (USC) has 20 recruiters, and now USC receives twice as many applications from out-of-state students as from state residents. Ms. Pappano sums it up this way:

It is no accident that states with among the largest drops in state allocations since 2008–Arizona (down 56 percent), South Carolina (down 37 percent) and Alabama (down 36 percent), according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities–have entrepreneurial public campuses trained on growth. Those same states also had the greatest net gain in students: More entered the state to attend their four-year public institutions than left to study elsewhere, according to fall 2014 data, the most recent available. (quoted from the article)

3. What Does It All Mean?

So, what does it all mean? First, giving great tuition breaks to out-of-state students likely means that some in-state kids will lose out on places at those public universities. Second, recruiting out-of-state kids who can afford to pay more likely means that some in-state kids will lose out on places at those public universities.   Third, giving merit scholarships to out-of-state bright kids likely means that some in-state kids will lose out on places at those public universities. All of these scenarios are understandably of concern to state taxpayers. These scenarios are also a concern to those of us who believe that public universities have a mission to make a college education accessible to a wide range of students, not just the best and the brightest and the most able to pay.

On the other hand, if you are the parent of a teenager who is looking for another college to add to the list as we get down to the wire, we can say that this could be the time to look both to public flagship universities and to other public universities that are actively recruiting out-of-state students. Check out the articles we have been discussing for more information. Depending on your teenager’s grades and test scores, there might even be a substantial financial break for you.

4. Good Luck!

We will be taking a short holiday break next week, and we will be back with you on January 5. At that point, those of you who have a senior with applications due in the first few days of January should be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Of course, some of you will still have deadlines to face in February and March and even later. And if you have a junior at home, your life is about to change.

But, parents of seniors, let us say again what we have said before: There is not just one perfect college for each kid. There are many colleges that would make each kid happy and many colleges that would give each kid a great education. Your kid will find one or more than one. Until then, we are keeping our fingers crossed for you. Happy 2017!

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 29: Colleges in the Southeast Region—Part I

We are continuing our series on looking at colleges outside your comfort zone by starting a virtual tour of public colleges and universities in the Southeast region. Detailed show notes with links to all the colleges mentioned in today’s episode are at http://usacollegechat.org/29

In our last two episodes, we started our virtual tour of colleges across the U.S. to try to stretch your thinking about colleges that might be attractive to your child. As you recall, we started with five states in the Great Lakes region. As we said then, we are looking at four-year colleges only, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region—at least not right away.

Again, we want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to spotlight in this episode. No college has asked us to choose it, and no college has paid us anything to choose it. These are entirely our own choices.

To be sure, some of the colleges we are spotlighting will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity. But, because each student’s profile of grades and test scores and extracurricular activities and outside-of-school experiences is his or her own unique package, it will be up to you to look at your child’s high school record to see which colleges might be most appropriate.

Two general notes: First, when we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution—in those cases where an institution has more than one campus. Second, because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable as reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment, but one that is good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child—roughly, small, medium, or really huge.

1. The Southeast Region

As we said, 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 four to 12 states. Today, we are going to start to look at the states that make up the Bureau’s Southeast region, which has 12 states. Because we thought that would be a lot of states to investigate as a group, we have divided the Bureau’s Southeast region into the Southern Southeast region and the Northern Southeast region. We will start with the six states in what we call the Southern Southeast region: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

For those of you who are listening in our home state of New York or up into the New England states or across the country in the Pacific Northwest, I am going to guess that most of you do not consider almost any colleges in these states for your child, with a rare exception. We would like to see whether we might change your mind about that.

2. Flagship Public State Universities

Let’s start with the flagship public state universities in these six states. Each state has one, though some are better known nationally than others. They are all good schools, and I would argue that at least a couple of them are great schools. While these universities have smaller branch campuses 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 outside the state.

Some of these flagship campuses attract students from far away states more often than others. For some, an application from a student in New York is not so commonplace; in those cases, a New York student with decent, but not spectacular, high school grades and college admission test scores might have a real chance of being accepted. As we have said before, colleges like to have geographic diversity in the student body.

And remember what we said in Episode 27 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, 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. So, these flagship campuses draw a large portion of the best high school students in the state, which understandably drives up the average high school GPA of entering freshmen.

So, what are these flagship campuses in the Southern Southeast region? They are the University of Mississippi in Oxford (commonly known as Ole Miss), University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, University of Florida in Gainesville, University of Georgia in Athens, University of South Carolina in Columbia, and in Baton Rouge. These universities are located in different kinds of settings—from picturesque small college towns to small cities to state capitals—but they have a lot in common, like enviable warm weather.

These flagship campuses have a lot of students. The typical number of undergraduates at these campuses is around 25,000, but with closer to 33,000 at Florida and only about half that many at Ole Miss. The total undergraduate, graduate, and professional student enrollment tops out at Florida with almost 50,000 students. All of these campuses are going to feel big to incoming freshmen. Partly because of the small-town charm of Oxford, Ole Miss might feel the least intimidating.

The history of racial integration of the student bodies of some of these schools is part of our national memory and the personal memories of those of us who were alive in the early 1960s. We remember the 1962 enrollment of James Meredith, the first African-American student at Ole Miss. But something that I did not know was that the University of South Carolina had first admitted African-American students in 1873, thus becoming the only Southern public university to admit African-American students during the nation’s period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Then the University closed for financial reasons in 1877. When conservative leaders re-opened it a few years later, it opened as an all-white institution.

And while we are talking about “firsts,” I also recently learned that the University of Georgia was established by the General Assembly of Georgia in 1785, making it the first state-supported public higher education institution in these United States. That’s quite a legacy.

These flagship universities have from 12 to 17 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges—from liberal arts and sciences to every kind of career-related field you can imagine. Here are some of the more unusual ones: LSU has a School of the Coast and Environment; South Carolina has a College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management; Georgia has the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources; and Ole Miss has the Patterson School of Accountancy. Overall, these universities offer from about 70 to 140 undergraduate majors—which should be plenty to choose from.

Like other big universities, each one has hundreds of student clubs and organizations and about 15 to 20 men’s and women’s varsity sports teams (plus club sports and intramurals). They are all part of the Southeastern Conference, and they treat their sports and sports rivalries seriously (can you say Crimson Tide?). Attending sports events are a part of college life at these universities—as are fraternities and sororities for many students.

Each of these six flagship universities is well enough known to attract students from many states and foreign countries, but the most of the undergraduate students attending these campuses are home grown. For some of the universities, that could mean that a solid application from outside of the state would be viewed favorably, and your child could likely get a great education at a cost lower than a private school in your home state—that is, before any financial aid package is figured in. More important, as we said in an earlier episode, these six flagship universities are better academically and more widely recognized than many private colleges in the U.S., and there is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public university.

All of these flagship universities have proud alumni and alumnae, many still living in the state and sharing a network of friends who are also alums—and returning to the campus on weekends to see the big football game. In fact, since 1851, 25 governors of Georgia graduated from the University of Georgia. So, I guess it is turning out a quality product.

When we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City a couple of weeks ago, we had a good conversation with Anastasia Sailer, the University of South Carolina’s Regional Admissions Representative for New York, who did a quick audio pitch for NYCollegeChat. Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode.

3. Other Public State Universities

In these six Southern Southeast states, there are also other public universities—not branches of the flagship campus, but other universities in their own right, some of which are as well known as the flagship campus.

Like the state of Michigan, which we talked about in Episode 27, with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, both Mississippi and Florida have very substantial second well-known public institutions: Mississippi State University in Starkville and Florida State University in the state capital of Tallahassee. Each has about the same number of undergraduate students as its state’s flagship university: Mississippi State with about 16,000 undergraduates and Florida State with about twice that many. Each offers a broad array of colleges and undergraduate majors: Mississippi State with eight colleges and about 65 undergraduate majors and Florida State with 16 colleges and about 85 undergraduate majors. Each is a good choice for lots and lots of students.

Interestingly, the state of Florida also has a newer public university (established in 1963) that has grown to be larger than both of Florida’s historic public universities. That newer one is the University of Central Florida (UCF), with its main campus located in Orlando plus a double handful of regional campuses in the central part of the state. According to UCF’s website, UCF is the second largest university in the U.S., with a total of about 61,000 students, about 52,000 of them undergraduates. UCF has 12 undergraduate and graduate colleges and offers about 90 undergraduate majors. The most unusual of those colleges is the College of Optics and Photonics, which is the science and technology of light—that is, lasers, LEDs, LCDs, optical fibers, and imaging systems for applications in industry and medicine.

South Carolina and Alabama both have nationally recognized public universities (perhaps especially during football season) that I bet many people think are private, given their nonpublic-sounding names: Clemson University in South Carolina and Auburn University in Alabama.

Clemson was founded on the estate of Congressman and two-time U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, who passed it on to his daughter and son-in-law Thomas Clemson, our country’s first Secretary of Agriculture. Clemson Agricultural College, originally an all-male military school, opened in 1893. Today, Clemson is a coeducational university with a broad array of eight schools and colleges, including, of course, the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. The University serves about 16,000 undergraduates and 4,000 graduate students—mostly, from South Carolina, but with several hundred each from states as far away as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Let’s look at Auburn, which started as an all-male private liberal arts college back in 1859 and now is home to a full slate of 13 undergraduate, graduate, and professional colleges and schools and a total of about 26,000 students (about 21,000 of them undergraduates). With 15 varsity sports, Auburn is another proud member of the Southeastern Conference. While most students come from Alabama and, next most often, from nearby Georgia and Florida, Auburn draws from states across the U.S. Fewer than 100 come from New York, however, so Auburn might be interested in a good applicant from our home state.

One more word about public schools in South Carolina: The College of Charleston, located in what some people believe is the prettiest city in the South, serves a somewhat smaller student body of about 10,000 undergraduates and just 1,000 graduate students, including some New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. Undergraduates have a choice of 59 majors in seven schools, focused mostly on the liberal arts and sciences (plus business and education). And a note about the College’s history: Founded in 1770, the College of Charleston is the oldest higher education institution south of Virginia and the 13th oldest in the U.S. Its founders included three signers of the Declaration of Independence and three framers of the Constitution. It was both a private college and a city-supported college before it became part of the state’s public system in 1970.

There is one last public institution to spotlight today, and that is Georgia Institute of Technology (commonly known as Georgia Tech), located in Atlanta. A top-ranked public university by anyone’s standards, Georgia Tech provides a “focused, technologically based education” (taken from the website) for about 14,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students. It offers degrees in six colleges (Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Sciences, Business, and Liberal Arts), with “more than 100 centers focused on interdisciplinary research that consistently contribute vital research and innovation to American government, industry, and business” (taken from the website). Your child is going to need excellent high school grades and college admission test scores to get into Georgia Tech. To help balance out its academically rigorous reputation, Georgia Tech also has 39 fraternities and 16 sororities on campus and 17 men’s and women’s athletic teams. John Heisman, remembered for the Heisman Trophy that bears his name, became Georgia Tech’s first full-time football coach in 1903 (interestingly, he had previously coached at both Auburn and Clemson).

As we said earlier, all of these public universities (and there are even more in these states than those we mentioned here) would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but less than most private colleges. So, consider looking at public universities beyond just the flagship university, for the special programs or the appealing locations or the sense of history and tradition that they offer.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…
The disparity between high school grades and college admission test scores for students at some flagship public state universities
Weather conditions that you might want to alert your child to in these states
Writing a college application essay especially for a college outside your geographic region

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We are continuing our series on looking at colleges outside your comfort zone by starting a virtual tour of public colleges and universities in the Southeast region.

Episode 29:  Colleges in the Southeast Region—Part I on the NYCollegeChat podcast

In our last two episodes, we started our virtual tour of colleges across the U.S. to try to stretch your thinking about colleges that might be attractive to your child. As you recall, we started with five states in the Great Lakes region. As we said then, we are looking at four-year colleges only, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region—at least not right away.

Again, we want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to spotlight in this episode. No college has asked us to choose it, and no college has paid us anything to choose it. These are entirely our own choices.

To be sure, some of the colleges we are spotlighting will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity. But, because each student’s profile of grades and test scores and extracurricular activities and outside-of-school experiences is his or her own unique package, it will be up to you to look at your child’s high school record to see which colleges might be most appropriate.

Two general notes: First, when we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution—in those cases where an institution has more than one campus. Second, because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable as reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment, but one that is good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child—roughly, small, medium, or really huge.

1. The Southeast Region

As we said, 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 four to 12 states. Today, we are going to start to look at the states that make up the Bureau’s Southeast region, which has 12 states. Because we thought that would be a lot of states to investigate as a group, we have divided the Bureau’s Southeast region into the Southern Southeast region and the Northern Southeast region. We will start with the six states in what we call the Southern Southeast region: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

For those of you who are listening in our home state of New York or up into the New England states or across the country in the Pacific Northwest, I am going to guess that most of you do not consider almost any colleges in these states for your child, with a rare exception. We would like to see whether we might change your mind about that.

2. Flagship Public State Universities

Let’s start with the flagship public state universities in these six states. Each state has one, though some are better known nationally than others. They are all good schools, and I would argue that at least a couple of them are great schools. While these universities have smaller branch campuses 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 outside the state.

Some of these flagship campuses attract students from far away states more often than others. For some, an application from a student in New York is not so commonplace; in those cases, a New York student with decent, but not spectacular, high school grades and college admission test scores might have a real chance of being accepted. As we have said before, colleges like to have geographic diversity in the student body.

And remember what we said in Episode 27 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, 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. So, these flagship campuses draw a large portion of the best high school students in the state, which understandably drives up the average high school GPA of entering freshmen.

So, what are these flagship campuses in the Southern Southeast region? They are the University of Mississippi in Oxford (commonly known as Ole Miss), University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, University of Florida in Gainesville, University of Georgia in Athens, University of South Carolina in Columbia, and  in Baton Rouge. These universities are located in different kinds of settings—from picturesque small college towns to small cities to state capitals—but they have a lot in common, like enviable warm weather.

These flagship campuses have a lot of students. The typical number of undergraduates at these campuses is around 25,000, but with closer to 33,000 at Florida and only about half that many at Ole Miss. The total undergraduate, graduate, and professional student enrollment tops out at Florida with almost 50,000 students. All of these campuses are going to feel big to incoming freshmen. Partly because of the small-town charm of Oxford, Ole Miss might feel the least intimidating.

The history of racial integration of the student bodies of some of these schools is part of our national memory and the personal memories of those of us who were alive in the early 1960s. We remember the 1962 enrollment of James Meredith, the first African-American student at Ole Miss. But something that I did not know was that the University of South Carolina had first admitted African-American students in 1873, thus becoming the only Southern public university to admit African-American students during the nation’s period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Then the University closed for financial reasons in 1877. When conservative leaders re-opened it a few years later, it opened as an all-white institution.

And while we are talking about “firsts,” I also recently learned that the University of Georgia was established by the General Assembly of Georgia in 1785, making it the first state-supported public higher education institution in these United States. That’s quite a legacy.

These flagship universities have from 12 to 17 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges—from liberal arts and sciences to every kind of career-related field you can imagine. Here are some of the more unusual ones: LSU has a School of the Coast and Environment; South Carolina has a College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management; Georgia has the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources; and Ole Miss has the Patterson School of Accountancy. Overall, these universities offer from about 70 to 140 undergraduate majors—which should be plenty to choose from.

Like other big universities, each one has hundreds of student clubs and organizations and about 15 to 20 men’s and women’s varsity sports teams (plus club sports and intramurals). They are all part of the Southeastern Conference, and they treat their sports and sports rivalries seriously (can you say Crimson Tide?). Attending sports events are a part of college life at these universities—as are fraternities and sororities for many students.

Each of these six flagship universities is well enough known to attract students from many states and foreign countries, but the most of the undergraduate students attending these campuses are home grown. For some of the universities, that could mean that a solid application from outside of the state would be viewed favorably, and your child could likely get a great education at a cost lower than a private school in your home state—that is, before any financial aid package is figured in. More important, as we said in an earlier episode, these six flagship universities are better academically and more widely recognized than many private colleges in the U.S., and there is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public university.

All of these flagship universities have proud alumni and alumnae, many still living in the state and sharing a network of friends who are also alums—and returning to the campus on weekends to see the big football game. In fact, since 1851, 25 governors of Georgia graduated from the University of Georgia. So, I guess it is turning out a quality product.

When we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City a couple of weeks ago, we had a good conversation with Anastasia Sailer, the University of South Carolina’s Regional Admissions Representative for New York, who did a quick audio pitch for NYCollegeChat. Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode.

3. Other Public State Universities

In these six Southern Southeast states, there are also other public universities—not branches of the flagship campus, but other universities in their own right, some of which are as well known as the flagship campus.

Like the state of Michigan, which we talked about in Episode 27, with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, both Mississippi and Florida have very substantial second well-known public institutions: Mississippi State University in Starkville and Florida State University in the state capital of Tallahassee. Each has about the same number of undergraduate students as its state’s flagship university: Mississippi State with about 16,000 undergraduates and Florida State with about twice that many. Each offers a broad array of colleges and undergraduate majors: Mississippi State with eight colleges and about 65 undergraduate majors and Florida State with 16 colleges and about 85 undergraduate majors. Each is a good choice for lots and lots of students.

Interestingly, the state of Florida also has a newer public university (established in 1963) that has grown to be larger than both of Florida’s historic public universities. That newer one is the University of Central Florida (UCF), with its main campus located in Orlando plus a double handful of regional campuses in the central part of the state. According to UCF’s website, UCF is the second largest university in the U.S., with a total of about 61,000 students, about 52,000 of them undergraduates. UCF has 12 undergraduate and graduate colleges and offers about 90 undergraduate majors. The most unusual of those colleges is the College of Optics and Photonics, which is the science and technology of light—that is, lasers, LEDs, LCDs, optical fibers, and imaging systems for applications in industry and medicine.

South Carolina and Alabama both have nationally recognized public universities (perhaps especially during football season) that I bet many people think are private, given their nonpublic-sounding names: Clemson University in South Carolina and Auburn University in Alabama.

Clemson was founded on the estate of Congressman and two-time U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, who passed it on to his daughter and son-in-law Thomas Clemson, our country’s first Secretary of Agriculture. Clemson Agricultural College, originally an all-male military school, opened in 1893. Today, Clemson is a coeducational university with a broad array of eight schools and colleges, including, of course, the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. The University serves about 16,000 undergraduates and 4,000 graduate students—mostly, from South Carolina, but with several hundred each from states as far away as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Let’s look at Auburn, which started as an all-male private liberal arts college back in 1859 and now is home to a full slate of 13 undergraduate, graduate, and professional colleges and schools and a total of about 26,000 students (about 21,000 of them undergraduates). With 15 varsity sports, Auburn is another proud member of the Southeastern Conference. While most students come from Alabama and, next most often, from nearby Georgia and Florida, Auburn draws from states across the U.S. Fewer than 100 come from New York, however, so Auburn might be interested in a good applicant from our home state.

One more word about public schools in South Carolina: The College of Charleston, located in what some people believe is the prettiest city in the South, serves a somewhat smaller student body of about 10,000 undergraduates and just 1,000 graduate students, including some New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. Undergraduates have a choice of 59 majors in seven schools, focused mostly on the liberal arts and sciences (plus business and education). And a note about the College’s history: Founded in 1770, the College of Charleston is the oldest higher education institution south of Virginia and the 13th oldest in the U.S. Its founders included three signers of the Declaration of Independence and three framers of the Constitution. It was both a private college and a city-supported college before it became part of the state’s public system in 1970.

There is one last public institution to spotlight today, and that is Georgia Institute of Technology (commonly known as Georgia Tech), located in Atlanta. A top-ranked public university by anyone’s standards, Georgia Tech provides a “focused, technologically based education” (taken from the website) for about 14,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students. It offers degrees in six colleges (Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Sciences, Business, and Liberal Arts), with “more than 100 centers focused on interdisciplinary research that consistently contribute vital research and innovation to American government, industry, and business” (taken from the website). Your child is going to need excellent high school grades and college admission test scores to get into Georgia Tech. To help balance out its academically rigorous reputation, Georgia Tech also has 39 fraternities and 16 sororities on campus and 17 men’s and women’s athletic teams. John Heisman, remembered for the Heisman Trophy that bears his name, became Georgia Tech’s first full-time football coach in 1903 (interestingly, he had previously coached at both Auburn and Clemson).

As we said earlier, all of these public universities (and there are even more in these states than those we mentioned here) would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but less than most private colleges. So, consider looking at public universities beyond just the flagship university, for the special programs or the appealing locations or the sense of history and tradition that they offer.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • The disparity between high school grades and college admission test scores for students at some flagship public state universities
  • Weather conditions that you might want to alert your child to in these states
  • Writing a college application essay especially for a college outside your geographic region

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