Better ROI than well-regarded in-state public?

I’m fortunate to live in a state with a well-regarded public flagship (~T50). My interest is in whether there are any other options that might provide better “ROI”, or if that set of schools is essentially empty. Consider “ROI” here to mean “prestige per unit cost”. Cost ceiling is ~$35k/year.

Student won’t qualify any financial aid. Rough profile: 1500+ SAT, grades near the top of the class, several AP courses, ECs and honors are mostly music-related with a few state-level honors (in music). Not an under-served minority or first generation college student. Not targeting a competitive major (engineering, computer science, business). NMF status not yet known, but probable.

Any ideas?

Is the student talented enough to do a music supplement with, music resume and letters of recommendation related to music? That can help with admission and sometimes with merit, sometimes specific to music.


Should be, yes. Is it advisable to submit a musical supplement even when not auditioning for music programs and/or applying for scholarships with a specific talent prerequisite?

what’s your home state and weighted/unweighted GPA?

Texas. GPA not finalized, but for the sake of argument say 3.9 / 4.4.

The question is more or less, “Is there a better ‘deal’ than UT-Austin.”


You do not have to major in music to benefit from a music supplement to increase admissions chances. You do not have to make any commitment to perform in extracurriculars either.

There is usually no audition for BA/BS programs, only conservatory or school of music BM programs. Auditions are usually once on campus for BA/BS programs. There are always exceptions but this is true for almost all schools.

Some schools have merit scholarships for musicians not majoring in music. .

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UTA is a pretty compelling value.


Yeah, I agree. Just trying to suss out whether there are any “angles” I may have missed. Big merit awards at more selective schools seem like an extreme long shot, but maybe worth taking a flyer? Will probably advise student to look into USC (Trustee’s, Mork), UNC (Kenan Music), Emory (Woodruff Music). Maybe Tulane, maybe Rochester (Eastman) and/or Indiana (Jacobs) if student decides to pursue music. Maybe Florida State as a lower cost option and for their freshman year abroad program.

I am not that familiar music programs apply a bunch of places and see what happens. A few of the Texas publics plus Tulane, Rice, (in my state - CA) LMU, USD, LMU and Santa Clara are likely to offer solid merit scholarships, have a great rep with employers and a good student experience.

apply broadly and good luck.

“Prestige” to the extent that it may affect job / internship prospects may vary depending on region, major, and targeted career paths.

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Swapping UT for another OOS public would be poor ROI so look into universities that offer different things than UT: smaller class sizes, more strength in her academic area of interest, better support, vibe/atmosphere, more music…

For instance, look into St Olaf. Very different from UT for a student interested in a non preprofessional major: the “Conversations” (similar to UT’s honors programs but way less difficult to get into) + very few lectures but rather small, interactive classes + a readymade community of musician peers (roughly 1/4th of the students are strong musicians, most of whom are not majoring in music).
The music and merit scholarships can bring the cost down to within budget but obviously they’re competitive.


Swapping UT for another OOS public would be poor ROI

Agree in the general case. Would only do this if the other school were in the same ballpark as UT in both cost and reputation, or if cost were significantly lower by way of non-need-based scholarship.

For instance, look into St Olaf.

It’s on my list, actually! It would take their max scholarship to be in the same ballpark cost-wise, but that may be within the realm of possibility.

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NMF status would certainly make this possible. How much of a priority is cost compared to reputation?

Those are all great options for music and not conservatories. Not qualifying for any aid, I believe UT will be your best bet. At least your kiddo won’t be capped since they aren’t applying for engineering, CS or business. If the kiddo switches majors you probably don’t want Rochester or IU given the overall reputation idea. Tulane is great but probably doesn’t hit your ROI unless you get the Paul Tulane scholarship. USC offers a significant scholarship for NMFs and you’d already know if your kiddo is a NMSF.

It’s worth applying to those schools and seeing what merit aid comes along. However, you need lots of leadership in addition to academic excellence. Wants Greek or not the “dorkiness” of Rice? It’s generally considered a better music school than UT.

What about Plan II at UT? Nothing will beat that in terms of ROI.

If you are unlikely to qualify for financial aid, then UT Austin is definitely your best bet. Even if student were admitted to a tippy-top school, it’s not worth the extra 200K total out of pocket cost to you.

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There’s no such thing as “prestige per unit cost.” It’s a completely subjective measurement. ROI is a subjective measurement based on subjective US News rankings, that use subjective criteria. It’s like comparing apples and peanuts and calling one “better.”

Please do yourself a favor and just find an affordable college that fits. UT-Austin is good, but it’s ridiculously competitive, especially for employable majors. There’s not any benefit to a prestigious school if you have to graduate with a pile of debt for a bachelors degree. The debt would far outweigh any benefits. If parents are rich and can afford it, it’s still not worth it, but at least you don’t have college debt.

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So…really you are asking if there is a prestige school for your student that will cost $35,000 a year….and you won’t qualify for need based aid.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say…this is going to be hard to find.

Even IF your kid submits a music supplement and gets some kind of merit aid….I just can’t see how the price will be in the $35,000 a year range.


UT costs approximately $35K in state so that’s the comparison.

  • What about a Paul Tulane scholarship which covers full tuition?
  • What about SMU’s presidential scholarship which covers all expenses, including R&B? About 20 enroll with this.
  • How many get a full tuition Trustee Scholarship to USC?
  • Johnson Scholar at W&L? 8-10% of enrollees get this. Median SAT this year of ALL enrollees was a 1460 and 56% applied early decision.

Need to be near the top of the class, 1500+ SAT, awards, significant leadership and show interest to get these.

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Not sure I (or my student) has a bright line. I guess I’m interested in identifying schools that are “sweet spots” in terms of cost/benefit.