Episode 48: Colleges in the Mid-Atlantic Region–Part IV

In our episodes for the past three weeks, we have focused our virtual tour of colleges on the public and private higher education institutions in the Mid-Atlantic region: Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. As we explained earlier, we are going to put off a discussion of New York (also part of the Mid-Atlantic region) for a couple of weeks; we know that it is the home state of many of our listeners, and we know that they will be especially interested in it (though, as we have said repeatedly, we wish you New Yorkers would look outside your own state).

Virtual tour of colleges in the Mid-Atlantic Region—Part IV on the NYCollegeChat podcastLast week, we looked at some of the many private colleges and universities in the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region. We examined a handful of nationally known higher education institutions as well as several that are perhaps a bit better known on the East Coast. We also talked about a handful of institutions with a special academic focus on the arts and on technology.

Today, we will move on to a dazzling selection of liberal arts colleges, faith-based institutions, and a couple of institutions focused on special populations of students.

Listen to the episode in the player, download it here, or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

Again, I want to apologize for spending so much time on the Mid-Atlantic region, even though it is full of well-known colleges and universities. Perhaps it is because I grew up in Pennsylvania and have been around these colleges and universities literally my whole life. Even so, I learned things about them when I wrote these episodes. As we often say, information about colleges changes all the time. It is hard to keep up, even when it is your job to do it.

And, as we say every time, no college has asked us or paid us anything to include it. These are our own choices.

1. Liberal Arts Colleges

Let’s start by looking at three nationally known, top-tier liberal arts colleges, which all happen to be in suburban Philadelphia, where I grew up: Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and Swarthmore College (all in suburbs of the same names). All three have great academic reputations, long histories, and lovely campuses, and all three draw students from across the globe and are extremely selective. Together, they make up the Tri-College Consortium, which allows for cross-registration of courses at the three colleges (plus some courses at the University of Pennsylvania downtown) and which offers Bryn Mawr and Haverford students a residential exchange program at the other’s college.

All three colleges were founded by Quakers (not surprising, given their location near Philadelphia): Haverford in 1833, Swarthmore in 1864, and Bryn Mawr later in 1885. While Haverford was founded as a men’s college (and remained so until 1980) and Bryn Mawr was founded as a women’s college (and still admits only women to its undergraduate programs), Swarthmore was founded as a school for Quaker children and for the education of teachers, specifically for equal numbers of men and women. Swarthmore was originally owned by 6,000 stockholders (who paid $25 each), after a special act was passed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to allow women to own property.

Today, Haverford enrolls about 1,200 undergraduate men and women (about 35 percent are students of color). Bryn Mawr enrolls about 1,300 undergraduate women (about 25 percent are international students) and another approximately 400 graduate men and women; Bryn Mawr was the first women’s college to offer graduate study leading to the Ph.D. Swarthmore enrolls about 1,500 undergraduate men and women. So, these are all very small colleges, which are proud of the close attention they give their students and are proud of their student-to-faculty ratios of 8 or 9:1. As well known as I believe these three colleges are, about 35 to 45 percent of their students are from the Mid-Atlantic states.

Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore are truly liberal arts colleges (though Swarthmore also offers a degree in engineering). Haverford writes about its “intentionally diverse curricular requirements” across three academic divisions on its website. Haverford’s Honor Code, which dates from 1897, is a way of life at the College, and it also lays out the College’s policy of exams without proctors. Students at Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore choose from about 40 liberal arts majors. At Swarthmore, one-third of the students are enrolled in the Honors Program, with small seminar classes, extensive student–teacher dialogue, independent projects, and an examination by outside scholars after two years. Two-thirds of Swarthmore students complete College-funded research projects or independent creative projects.

Given the size of the colleges, it is perhaps surprising that Haverford fields 23 varsity teams, Swarthmore 22, and Bryn Mawr 12 (only women’s teams, of course). Interestingly and perhaps impressively, Haverford’s faculty is about 25 percent people of color, and about 60 percent of its faculty members live on campus.

As I said earlier, these colleges are well known for their high academic standards, with average SAT subtest scores for incoming freshmen (fall, 2014) running in the high 600s for Bryn Mawr, low 700s for Haverford, and just a bit higher than that for Swarthmore. Starting with the 2014–2015 year, Bryn Mawr became a “test-optional” college, meaning that students are no longer required to submit SAT or ACT scores with their applications (you can read about the research Bryn Mawr did on this topic on its website). Bryn Mawr is one of the academically prestigious Seven Sisters colleges, an association of seven women’s colleges in the Northeast; we have already discussed four of them in New England and will talk about the final two when we turn to New York in the coming weeks.

Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford are all quite pricey, with tuition and fees running from about $45,000 to $49,000 per year. However, your child would first have to have outstanding high school grades (about 95 percent of Haverford freshmen were in the top tenth of their high school classes) and college admission test scores (in the case of Swarthmore and Haverford) before you worry about paying tuition.

There are many more liberal arts colleges in this region, any of which could be discussed—Lafayette College, Dickinson College, Gettysburg College, and Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania or Hood College in Maryland. But, instead, let’s turn to a group of college we have talked about throughout our series.

2. Colleges That Change Lives

As we have said before, Colleges That Change Lives is a nonprofit organization that was founded after the publication of the book Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope, a retired New York Times education editor. There are now 44 colleges and universities profiled in the book and on the organization’s website. Those that are included are not necessarily famous institutions. Most are smaller colleges and universities that have proved to be successful at developing students both personally and academically so that they can succeed in life after their undergraduate college years.

Six of the 44 institutions profiled are located in the Mid-Atlantic region. You should read about them in the book or on the website to learn more about them. They are Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania; Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania; Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania; Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland; McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland; and St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.

Let’s look at St. John’s—which sounds faith based, but isn’t—very briefly because we already spent some time on it when we profiled Colleges That Change Lives in the Southwest states (in Episode 38). Why did we do that, you ask?   In case you don’t remember, it is because it is one college with two campuses: St. John’s Annapolis in Maryland and St. John’s Santa Fe in New Mexico. St. John’s was founded in Annapolis in 1696 as King William’s School and was chartered in 1784 as St. John’s College. The Santa Fe campus was established almost two centuries later in 1964. While it is not unusual, of course, for a college to have two campuses, it is unusual for a college to have two campuses almost across the entire country from each other and to have two campuses that allow students to transfer back and forth between the two. Many students spend a year at the campus they did not start at.

But the real unique idea at St. John’s is its liberal arts curriculum, based on collaborative inquiry in small class discussions, with the professor acting as a tutor and mentor—all based on the original texts of great authors in almost every subject field. The Seminar, as St. John’s calls it, is the foundation for the curriculum, and it is described this way:

Students participate in far-reaching and free but disciplined conversations about major works of literature, philosophy, political theory, theology, history, economics, and psychology from Homer and the Greek historians, playwrights, and philosophers in the freshman year, through the Renaissance in the sophomore year and the Enlightenment in the junior year, to the contemporary world in the senior year. (quoted from the website)

Students are also required to take four years of mathematics, three years of laboratory science, two years of music (including singing in the Freshman Chorus together), and four years of a second language (two years of Ancient Greek and two years of modern French). This is an impressive liberal arts curriculum.

Each campus enrolls just about 450 to 475 undergraduate students (there are also a couple of graduate programs), drawn from all 50 states and about 20 foreign countries. The student-to-faculty ratio is an enviably low 8:1—about like the three liberal arts colleges we have already discussed in this episode.

Located in Maryland’s lovely and historic state capital on the Chesapeake Bay, the campus provides students with easy access to water and offers varsity sports teams in fencing, crew, croquet, and sailing—a bit of an unusual mix.

Students interested in St. John’s are expected to have taken a rigorous course of study in high school and must complete a “short set of reflective essays” (quoted from the website) as part of the application procedure. SAT and ACT scores are optional, though students are encouraged to provide them (the 55 percent of freshmen in the fall of 2014 who provided scores posted average SAT critical reading and mathematics scores in the mid- to high 600s).

Undergraduate tuition and fees are, not surprisingly, quite high at about $49,000 per year. But you can see why. I believe that St. John’s is probably worth it, which is not true of some colleges charging that much.

According to the website, St. John’s “is in the top 2 percent of all colleges in the nation for alumni earning PhDs in the humanities, and in the top 4 percent for earning them in science or engineering” (quoted from the website), which seems remarkable for a tiny liberal arts college, albeit with two campuses. I would like to say again what I said in Episode 38: You can see why this college changes lives.

Let’s look at one more of this group—Goucher College on 287 wooded acres in the suburb of Towson, Maryland, just north of downtown Baltimore. Founded in 1885 by the Rev. John Franklin Goucher as the Woman’s College of Baltimore (it was later renamed for its founder), the College became coeducational in 1986. Serving almost 1,500 undergraduates and about 650 graduate students today, Goucher was the first U.S. college to require its undergraduates to study abroad (and they do so in more than 30 countries in three-week intensives, semester programs, or full-year programs). Students study in 33 liberal arts majors and enjoy a good student-to-faculty ratio of about 9:1.

All Goucher students take at least one course in environmental sustainability; 20 local farms provide food for the College, where about half the food served is vegetarian or vegan. About 80 percent of Goucher students complete an internship in more than 200 organizations worldwide.

And here is an interesting statement on the admissions page of the website:

At Goucher, we understand that the traditional admissions process—while great for many students—does not showcase everyone’s true talents and abilities. We believe access to higher education should be about potential, not just previous achievement. We still accept the Common Application. But we created the Goucher Video App to provide another opportunity for students to show us what makes them unique, why they would flourish at Goucher, and how they will fit into our community of learners. (quoted from the website)

So, that’s actually a student-produced video application! While Goucher is a test-optional college and does not require applicants to submit college admission test scores as part of the admission process, the College does require students who are admitted and enroll to “furnish test scores for research and advising purposes” (quoted from the website). Incoming freshmen posted average SAT subtest scores in the high 500s and a 3.2 high school GPA.

Because these Colleges That Change Lives institutions are relatively small and thus are not particularly well known outside of their geographic region, it is my feeling that out-of-state students with a good high school record and good college admission test scores might have a good chance of being accepted.

3. Faith-Based Institutions

The Mid-Atlantic region has many institutions that were originally founded by religious groups; we just heard about several in Pennsylvania founded by the Quakers, though these institutions consider themselves nondenominational now. But there are others as well, including five of the 28 Catholic Jesuit universities in the U.S. The best-known and the most selective of these five is Georgetown University, located in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1789, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the U.S. It became coeducational in 1969. Today, Georgetown’s eight undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges serve about 7,000 undergraduates and about 10,000 graduate and professional students. Undergraduates study in the schools of foreign service, business, or nursing and health studies or in Georgetown College, the liberal arts college that first established the institution. Before pursuing one of more than 40 majors, students in the College must complete core requirements in a wide range of humanities and science fields, including two courses in theology, starting with either The Problem of God or Introduction to Biblical Literature as freshmen.

As we have said about Jesuit universities in earlier episodes, they are well respected for their intellectual rigor and their social justice mission:

Students are challenged to engage in the world and become men and women in the service of others, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community. These values are at the core of Georgetown’s identity, binding members of the community across diverse backgrounds, faiths, cultures and traditions. (quoted from the website)

Jesuit institutions are concerned with educating the whole person—including each student’s spiritual growth—but notice Georgetown’s reference to “diverse backgrounds, faiths, cultures, and traditions.” Students who are not Catholic are typically very comfortable at Jesuit institutions. Georgetown offers 50 religious services each week for Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Protestants. Volunteer service opportunities, 23 varsity sports teams, and over 200 student organizations round out university life for Georgetown students.

Georgetown makes this enlightening statement about admissions, which I believe holds true in general for lots of colleges in the U.S.:

Since the mid-1970’s, the applicant pool for Georgetown’s first-year class has changed dramatically. In 1975, 50% of the applicants were offered admission; in 2015 only 17% of the applicants were admitted. Over this period of time, there has been an increase in not only the number of students applying but also, and more importantly, in the abilities and achievements of the students in the applicant pool. The combination of these factors has resulted in an increase in the competition for admission. (quoted from the website)

About one-third of freshmen starting this fall are fluent in more than one language, and about 25 percent have lived outside the U.S. at some time. Only about 30 percent live in the Mid-Atlantic region. Freshmen enrolling at Georgetown College, on the average, were in the top 5 percent of their high school classes and posted SAT subtest scores in the mid-700s. By the way, Georgetown does one of the best presentations of freshmen student characteristics in its Profile for Schools and Candidates of all of the colleges we have looked at so far.

Undergraduate tuition and fees run about $49,000 per year, which is no longer surprising, unfortunately.

If you are interested in a Jesuit education in the Mid-Atlantic region (though we will talk about New York faith-based universities in the coming weeks), you can also check out Loyola University Maryland, St. Joseph’s University, St. Peter’s University, or the University of Scranton—all of which are better known regionally than nationally. But let’s look at another Catholic university—this time, an Augustinian university—which is also better known in the region than outside it. That is Villanova University, located in Villanova, Pennsylvania, which is on the lovely suburban Main Line outside Philadelphia and which is literally just down the road five minutes from Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College.

Founded in 1842, Villanova offers “a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others” (quoted from the website). Today, it enrolls more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students—about 6,500 of them undergraduates. Undergraduates study in about 50 bachelor’s degree majors in the colleges/schools of the liberal arts and sciences, business, engineering, and nursing (by the way, Villanova also has a law school).

Undergraduates in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences take a set of core curriculum courses that includes an impressive two-semester humanities seminar based on Augustinian inquiry and readings from great books, two theology courses, two diversity courses, an ethics course, a philosophy course, and a mix of the traditional mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, foreign languages, arts, history, and literature and writing. This broad liberal arts program, with a religion-related center, is not unlike what we have seen at other Catholic universities.

I think that one statement from the description of the humanities seminar—which, by the way, is a requirement of all Villanova freshmen, regardless of their school/college—should put non-Catholic students interested in Villanova at ease:

Like Augustine, we seek to come to terms with the biblical, Greek, and Roman traditions; also like him, we engage with the best of what has been written and thought, whether it belongs to our tradition or not and whether we agree with it or not, in order to respond creatively to the needs of the present. (quoted from the website)

Like most universities of this size, Villanova offers over 265 student organizations and activities and 24 varsity sports teams. And I can tell you that many of Villanova’s Olympic athletes have come from its world-class men’s track and field team (hats off to you, Erv Hall and Larry James, from the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, my personal favorites).

Freshmen who enrolled this fall posted an average SAT composite critical reading and mathematics score of about 1365, with an average high school GPA of about a 4.0 (on a weighted scale). Undergraduate tuition and fees will set you back about $46,000.

4. Other Institutions with a Special Focus

Students with Special Needs. In an early episode of NYCollegeChat, we spotlighted some colleges and universities that are dedicated to serving special needs students. One was in Washington, D.C., and one was in Rochester, New York (although we are turning to New York in a couple of weeks, we are going to do this very special institution here).

Gallaudet University in our nation’s capital was established as a college by an Act of Congress in 1864 to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing students. It was then and still is the world’s only such institution. The President of the United States signed the first diplomas of graduates in 1869 (that was Ulysses S. Grant), and that is a tradition that continues to this day. Interestingly, up to 5 percent of the seats in each incoming undergraduate class are open to hearing students. Those seats are likely sought after by students who have a career interest in working with deaf children and adults in many different ways. Gallaudet’s more than 1,700 students are pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees in what Gallaudet itself describes on its website as a “bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution”—with “bilingual” defined as American Sign Language and English. As an added bonus, Gallaudet’s tuition is remarkably reasonable at about $14,000 a year because it is actually a public college (in this unusual case, funded by the federal government).

In upstate New York at the Rochester Institute of Technology, students can find the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, one of nine colleges of RIT. Established by an Act of Congress in 1965, NTID is the world’s first and largest technology-focused college for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. NTID offers career-oriented associate’s degrees in technical fields and associate’s degrees that lead directly into bachelor’s degree study at RIT’s other colleges. NTID also offers the support services that deaf and hard-of-hearing students would need to study in the other RIT colleges. Because it is a public college, even though it is within a private university, the tuition is quite reasonable.

If you have a child with hearing difficulties or a child interested in working in that field, please go to the websites of these institutions for more information.

HBCUs. We talked about HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) in our look at public institutions in the Mid-Atlantic region a couple of weeks ago in Episode 46. We said that there were eight public HBCUs 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. In this episode, we are going to look at one of our best-known and most highly respected HBCUs—that is, Howard University in Washington, D.C.

This is how Howard describes itself on its website:

Since 1867, Howard has awarded more than 100,000 degrees in the professions, arts, sciences and humanities. Howard ranks among the highest producers of the nation’s Black professionals in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, nursing, architecture, religion, law, music, social work and education.

The University has long held a commitment to the study of disadvantaged persons in American society and throughout the world. The goal is the elimination of inequities related to race, color, social, economic and political circumstances. As the only truly comprehensive predominantly Black university, Howard is one of the major engineers of change in our society. Through its traditional and cutting-edge academic programs, the University seeks to improve the circumstances of all people in the search for peace and justice on earth. (quoted from the website)

Chartered by an Act of Congress and named for General Oliver O. Howard, a Civil War hero and the University’s founder, Howard now serves about 10,500 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students—about half from the Mid-Atlantic region—in 13 colleges/schools. Howard’s almost 7,000 undergraduates study in 64 majors in the arts and sciences; business; communications; education; nursing and allied health sciences; and engineering, architecture, and computer science.

Howard fields 17 varsity sports teams and offers its students over 200 student organizations—plus, of course, the many cultural resources of Washington, D.C., which we have talked about in recent episodes.

Incoming freshmen last year came with an average high school GPA of about a 3.4 (on an unweighted scale) and average SAT subtest scores in critical reading and mathematics of about 550. Tuition and fees are just over $24,000—which is actually a bargain price, given the tuition figures we have been seeing in this part of the country for private institutions. In some cases, it is just half as expensive as other private institutions.

So, all that we have left on our virtual college tour is our last stop in our home state of New York. Stay with us.

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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

Listen to the episode in the player, download it here, or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

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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