Are 2nd-tier out-of-state schools worth it?

I am a pretty clueless parent of a Colorado senior who is completing his list of colleges to apply for. He is good enough to get into the state university (ranked #90 overall and #39 among public schoolsby USNews) but not good enough for first tier (Ivies, Stanford, UCB etc.). He’s not made up his mind on what to study

He has been looking at some state universities such as U Washington and UT Austin (#56 overall and #18 public per USNews). While these are quite a bit cheaper than some private schools, they are ~$30K/yr more expensive than our state school, and that does not even include possible scholarships he’s more likely to receive in-state.

Not considering benefit of specific programs (as he does not have a strong interest in any subject yet, probably just engineering in general), is it worth it to choose these over the state school of our own, which seems pretty decent as well? Should the rankings be taken very seriously? (The kids seem to.) I mean I suppose a top-10 school should be decidedly better than #90, but #56 vs #90 could be a different story.

I suppose similar questions also apply to 2nd-tier private schools which are even more expensive.



What are his stats and what can you afford?

And that is a bit odd to think of U Wash and UT Austin as second tier. They are tops in certain majors like CS and very hard to get into.

And he is a senior. Wow. You need to sort this ASAP. Kids have already started applying with Early Action deadlines starting November 1st. Does he have his recommendation letters ready to go? Has he been working on the common app? Essays?

You need to figure out your EFC and run the NPCs for potential colleges. Privates do give merit money but deadlines are soon approaching for many schools.

Both Washington and Texas are highly reputable and highly selective for engineering majors.

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Not at all. For business majors, maybe. However for the most of part, it really boils down to how you academically enrich yourself.

I missed engineering. As long as it is ABET it doesn’t matter the ranking…Unless he has tippy top stats he won’t get into UT Austin or U Washington. If you provide his stats we could give suggestions.

“Good enough” should mean that his stats are somewhere around the 75th percentile re most schools’ Common Data Set as a starting point, but depending on the school (privates in particular), each of HS courses taken, essays, recommendations and ECs can count just as much as his stats.

^yes. And engineering can be an impacted major with accepted students stats much higher than average. The early action deadline for UC Boulder is November 15. Much higher acceptance rate for early action.

And FYI UT Austin is #9 ( not that ranking are super important) for engineering but to give you an idea how hard that will be to get into

I would only consider WUE schools ( and out of state schools where he would get enough merit or financial aid to make the price equal to CU. If you include his stats, CC parents will tell you which schools those are.

Your getting all the “alma mater” defensive responses. There are no OOS public universities that are worth paying OOS tuition for. Period. The most important thing when you graduate from a large public university will be your GPA. There are public unis that are recruited by specific companies but since you son doesn’t know what he is studying it would be best to stay in Colorado where you have several good in state public schools to choose from. CU/CSU/Mines will cover almost all majors and have an excellent reputation for whatever major your son decides on.

I think it depends on your budget and your specific kid and their reasons for wanting to go OOS. Obviously, lots of kids go to schools that are not their in-state public universities. My D16 went OOS, but really wanted a change of environment and was not a strong applicant for our top 3 universities in-state. After a small scholarship, the tuition is only about $5K more than our state flagship.

Give him an amount that your are willing and able to pay, and see if he can find a school he likes that is likely to fit within that budget (either through WUE, automatic or likely merit, etc.) The bigger the “name” of the school, the less likely they are to have merit aid for OOS students.

I also think it depends on the student and his/her reasons for wanting to go out of state, opportunites, major, affordability etc. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

My older one stayed instate and it was the right decision. My younger one is OOS and it was absolutely the best decision we ever made. Different kids, different strengths, different needs etc.

Schools like Washington and Texas aren’t so good that they’re worth paying a lot more for them over Colorado. The only reason to go to an OOS school for undergrad is if your son wants to get out of the state.

@SeanCo, I have a couple of things that I think are good to consider. I’m going to assume your son has some strong stats, if not strong enough for the Ivies. And it sounds like you are comfortable paying full in-state tuition but don’t want to go dramatically higher. Those are my assumptions anyway.

I would suggest you google “colleges that meet full financial need.” Private schools have very high sticker prices but they also often give significant financial aid. Public schools, on the other hand, don’t often give financial aid to OOS students. So often a private school will cost less than an OOS public, even if the “sticker price” is much higher.

The caveat to that is that a school may calculate that you can pay more than you think is wise or it may include too many loans (though they try to avoid this). Also, there is another thread on CC that points out that these schools may be need aware in admissions and, for example, may give a preference to a student who they calculate can pay $40k per year vs. one who can pay $10k per year, though this varies by school and student. Sometimes they will guarantee meeting almost all, but not all, of need. You can run the Net Price Calculator (NPC) from the school’s admissions website to get an estimate of what the school will cost your family.

The most competitive, wealthiest schools (Harvard and its crowd) are on the lists of schools that meet full financial need. But there are also excellent schools that are more accessible in terms of admissions. Denison is a terrific one and gives lots of merit aid. It has a beautiful campus near Columbus, OH. We liked Dickinson (PA) a lot–also beautiful campus. You mentioned engineering, maybe Franklin and Marshall, which has an engineering partnership. Lehigh is a top engineering science school. Olin is an outstanding engineering upstart. Maybe the University of Richmond, which is in a fun, vibrant city (RVA), with a beautiful campus and nice weather (I hear mixed things about financial aid there, and can’t speak from experience). There are probably others.

Rankings provide only the most general of guidance. How can one compare Reed (a funky little intellectual liberal arts college) and Michigan with 20x the undergrads and Big Ten football), let alone more unique schools? (Newsweek does break out universities and LACs into different categories.) Mine (like everyone’s) would probably not have been accepted to Yale or Penn, but I can tell you they would not have wanted to attend anyway. Terrific schools, obviously, but their environments just would not have fit my kids. Or, maybe one school is #25 and another #55, but #55 has a much better program for what your kid wants to study. Now if my kid was accepted at #25 on some major ranking and #325, and liked both the same, I’d advise they should go to #25. But otherwise, not too much help.

Last bit of long-winded advice: have yours show as much interest in target schools as is possible. Some schools weight this more than others as a factor in admission–they want to feel like a student will enthusiastically attend if accepted (and it increases their yield, which is a factor in rankings). They can sign up for info on the admissions website. You might even get lucky and learn that they are doing an info session in your area, and you can meet a rep. Maybe even interviews. Visit a couple if you can, to see what your kid likes (smaller? larger? urban? small town?). It also shows interest. Some you won’t be able to visit, which is fine.

Also, have your son apply EA if he can–deadlines are fast approaching. It can be helpful in admissions and is non-binding (ED is binding, students must attend if accepted). It’s nice to get a few early acceptances and to get some idea of what kind of aid they might receive. Good luck!

UC-Boulder has a very good Engineering program, with several majors being in the top 10 to 15 in the nation (like Aerospace and Environmental Engineering).

If he hasn’t yet decided on a major, it looks like UC-Boulder is flexible on selecting an engineering major (or even transferring out of engineering). At any of these schools, consider how hard it is to switch majors (if your son is undecided and what’s some time before choosing a major)

If your search criteria is mostly based on academics (engineering) and cost, UC-Boulder will be hard to beat. Still you should apply to a few other options.

If your son is serious about engineering but undecided about a specific major, he really needs to investigate how each school he is interested in handles engineering admissions in general and also admission into specific engineering majors at the time of admission and later in the educational process. This information could make a huge difference both in his admission chances for specific schools (including at UWash and UTexas) and in his ability to pursue his preferred major once he is admitted.
As far as cost and value, I can’t speak to every consideration, but I have certainly seen kids at non-big name schools have plenty of success and opportunity in engineering. I know a kid who graduated from ASU CS with offers from Microsoft and Apple.
My D is at an OOS private (Illinois Institute of Technology) that is ranked around 100-120 by US News. She has not lacked for opportunity there at all. She’ll graduate with a bachelors and a masters, no debt, several internships, nad she’s loved Chicago.
Our budget for her (actually all three kids) was that she could go where she wanted but had to bring the cost down to the same as our local in-state public. She had offers from two AZ schools, UWyoming (WUE), and IIT that were all very close in out-of-pocket cost to us after merit aid, in spite of wildly different sticker prices.
ABET accreditation is very important and ensures that engineering majors get a good foundation no matter where they go to study.

Ummm, UT Austin and UW are not second tier. They are both highly competitive flagship admissions.

Square one should always be your in state system. For engineering admits, you need at least two schools because the engineering school is often competitive.

As a Coloradan, your next set of schools might come from the WUE states:

These schools are second-tier in terms of prestige and popularity (for example, Washington State rather than UW), but the price tags will be friendly to Colorado residents. UWyo is quite popular with Colorado residents, and often comes up cheaper than the in-state alternative. (Mines gives less merit, for example.) As long as the engineering program is ABET accredited, he will get a good education. And there are different environments and campus choices to find something he likes.

There are a lot of students that would love the opportunity to pay in state at Colorado schools. Your son is lucky to have those options and WUE expands affordable options even more.

ASU is one of the top ten (no ivies among them) universities Silicon Valley hires the most graduates from.

You are very fortunate.

I’d be careful about these generic type of hiring statistics, they don’t delve far enough into the details. They do mention that all of the top 10 are large universities which means more graduates which in turn means they will have more hires in absolute numbers, but the real key is the type of job they get. There is a lot of “grunt work” in CS that is not very rewarding nor very interesting and I doubt most Stanford or UCB grads are taking those types of jobs. When you see the University of Phoenix as #22 on the list, you know they aren’t doing top level stuff.