OP, I could not answer your question about which school provides the most resources. After all, I live thousands miles from any schools you referred to.
Regarding your other question about going to a highly competitive or a slightly less competitive school, I just want to pass on a word of wisdom (in my opinion) from a long-time and frequent CC contributor, BDM.
He once posted that you should go to a school that is reasonably challenging for you but not being overwhelmed. Lacking of other criteria, he suggested the use of SAT (or PSAT) to gauge your chance of success at a particular school. (I personally would add your past GPA as a part of the criteria as well, as some students are good at GPA but not SAT.) I forgot the exact percentile he quoted, I guess he probably said you should go to a school where you are within the top 20-25 percents of your class (in terms of your SAT and GPA.) If your high school is highly competitive, you mat give your GPA some break. My child was from a competitive public high school, so I know what it is like in such an environment: A top 40% students from his high school may have a good chance to do well at the flagship public university in my state. (but only about 15-18% of his high school graduating class were able to attend that public university due to the stupid top 10 percents rule.)
BTW, I feel for your family's financial situation due to the economic downturn (esp. in California.) Hopefully, it will not distract you too much for your college career and future career because of this. Be optimistic as the worst will be over eventually. Help yourself first otherwise you will not be able to help your family in the end.
Last edited by mcat2; 01-03-2011 at 01:31 AM.