CA schools with good FA packages 3.96, 4.27 weighted GPA, 1400 SAT. 2 household income ~$150k

Seems like you should have told him what the price limit was before he made the application list and applied to unaffordable schools (basically wasted applications). CPSLO is about $43k for non-residents, while UCSD is $62k and UCSC is $64k.

The Flagship is the biggest public university. Some states it is easy to figure out as there is just one big public university - Colorado, Utah, Washington, Oregon (although Colo State, Washington State, Utah State and Oregon State are all pretty big competition for the Flagship). Some states are so big they really have two, like Cal and UCLA, Arizona and ASU. Some states don’t have one standout but several public universities that may have different strengths, like the SUNY system.

A private school (Gonzaga, Whitman, PSU) would never be referred to as the flagship.

It really doesn’t matter what other people call the flagship. Pick the school that is best for him. Personally, I’d go for WWU since you don’t want UW, and it is in such a lovely place. Why California? You said you don’t want him in a big university, yet all he applied to are pretty big California schools. Big and expensive. Even the travel to UCSB is pretty expensive. Why California?

If he wants to leave WA, you could look at schools in Wyoming, Montana, for example. What about CO School of Mines? Maybe he could get merit there? I don’t know.

CA colleges are costly, merit is scarce except for very high stats kids, and as noted, the schools he likes there are large.

For the poster above, SCU does not meet full need. They have upped their need based aid awards, but don’t meet full need. The school is costly.

USD is a possibility, but they also don’t meet full need, and the school is expensive.

It’s going to be hard to find aeronautical engineering anywhere but the big schools. My son is coming from a very small private HS and looking at HUGE universities, so I was worried about that too, but after talking to students at the schools many of which came from the same background, we’re finding that after the first year or so that students tend to associate just with their department and have a tighter knit group and smaller classes. How about the honors programs within the college? They can sometimes give you the best of both worlds. Living learning communities are big around here too where you dorm with students of similar interests or academic pursuits which can make a big school seem smaller.

Some big schools do an awesome job of supporting students despite their size.

Make sure he lines up his instate options, I assumed UW eng to be very competitive vs a safety? He just doesn’t have the stats for really big merit, and leaving UW to take merit at lesser options would be foolish. What is your actual budget?

The state flagship is usually one of the most selective or prestigious state schools, but is not necessarily the largest. For example, in Florida, UCF and FIU are larger than UF.

U of San Diego has engineering and good merit money. As does University of the Pacific. As a bonus, both are FAFSA only schools, so non-custodial parent won’t matter as much. Outside of California, but still west, U of Denver has good merit money, but also requires the CSS.

This^^^^^^
Why? If he gets in, what will you tell him about attending, if you don’t have the money to pay $65K a year, plus flights and expenses.
Did your family do any research on the schools where he applied?
-Is he prepared to do the quarter system? The majority of the UC schools are on the quarter system so he has 10 weeks to prove himself. Our kids’ high school developed a quarter system to match the UC‘s, so the kids were prepared, somewhat, to study in a quarter system.

UCSD is known as University of California for the Socially Dead. They are trying really hard to disassociate themselves from this title, but it’s known locally as just not having a happy campus.
We are local, and my kids avoided applying to this school, but we made them apply; they got in, but were ecstatic when they got into the other state schools. Their friends, who attended this campus, went in, did their classes, and got out as fast as they could. They didn’t like thei environment. This, to me, is just sad.

Housing isn’t guaranteed at UCSD. (I don’t know about Santa Barbara.) They try hard not to have freshman live off campus, but in a recent year, they just didn’t have enough housing.
Housing in the area is $2000 a month. It is in the La Jolla area so add that amount tentatively to your budget. Santa Barbara is in a very expensive community as well.
I attended USD and it was on a scholarship, but I considered myself, at the time, to be very low, low income. I know that they currently meet need, based on their formula for need, so, it will be expensive. They currently run a just under $70,000 a year.
Add all of those flights on Southwest and Alaska and you’re talking about a lot of money to come to school in California.

One of our daughters applied to the University of Washington because she was impressed with how they run their med school programs. She did get in, but we couldn’t afford it with 3 kids in school at the same time. When she later applied to med/pharmacy school she also got in, but she wanted to stay in state. Our pediatrician’s daughter attended Willamette and loved it and is working in the Bay area of California.
You have some great schools in Washington that your son could afford to attend.

He is our first to attend college, so we are learning as we go. He has applied to the UW and he will apply to WWU honors as safe schools. He loves San Diego and he loves SLO, but I have been clear that if we can’t afford it, it won’t happen. He also has a smart IB girlfriend (together since age 14), and this has influence. I wasn’t clear on what to expect with financial packages based on 2 households and what I thought might be decent stats. I am also am trying to guide him but not drive the process.

He worked with his mom in filling out the UC schools application. I was going to sit down and weed out some choices. This all great information to work with. Thank you.

How accurate are the Net Price Calulators?

@“aunt bea” when did USD start meeting full need? I can tell you, in 2006 when my kid was accepted, they absolutely did not meet full need…not even close.

Net Price Calculators vary in their accuracy. If the institution only looks at the FAFSA, then chances are that the numbers will be reasonably accurate. If the institution requires the CSS Profile and/or additional financial information from parents who are divorced and/or the parents own property other than their home and/or own a business, then the accuracy will depend on how detailed the calculator is.

And also how accurate the input numbers are. Many divorced parents are distrustful of each other and give each other only vague numbers, resulting in derived inaccuracy for whoever puts them into the NPC. If both of you do not mind sharing accurate financial numbers with the kid and each other*, then you will be able to use good numbers in NPCs of colleges that want both.

*Note that although CSS Profile has the custodial and non-custodial parents fill in information separately for the actual financial aid application, NPCs do not have this provision. It is also possible for someone who knows the actual FA offer and one parent’s finances to reverse-engineer ranges of what the other parent’s finances are using the college’s NPC.

@thumper1: Need at USD is for low income students they want.

Why CA? UW is not the small environment you are seeking but nothing with Engineering is going to be. UW is fantastic. If smaller/more personal is a priority please check out Whitman, Lewis & Clark, Univ. Puget Sound. Not sure how good the sciences are there but he is probably in merit range. Someone else mentioned Occidental. Good science, no engineering-- it’s pricey and he’s probably not in merit range.

I agree Colorado Mines is worth a look for Engineering and possibly merit. Small for en engineering school. Undergrad focused. Public schools and applications for merit are passing by quickly. So act fast.

Two other “mine” schools in NM and SD are also small engineering focused schools, but have lower out-of-state list prices than the one in CO.

Another engineering school he may want to look at is Colorado Mesa. It is a WUE school but for engineering it is only for the first two years. For jr and sr years, the engineers are considered U of Colorado students, and diploma is from CU.

OP has said eng is not a lock, so the mine schools are not a great idea for a kid likely to drop engineering or get weeded out. CSM would not have been generous enough to 1400 SAT in the past to get past the OOS rate, but now I can’t even see the scholarship table, so it is going to be nuanced.

As others have said, you have some mutually-exclusive priorities here. The only small schools that have aerospace programs are the specialty schools like Embry-Riddle that won’t have his non-engineering fields of interest.

If he wants engineering to be on the menu, I would suggest discussing a MechE or general engineering path - it is still possible to end up in the aero industry with these degrees, but he’d have a lot more options.

The only semi-affordable UC will be Merced, because it’s a WUE school. They have both MechE and a Cognitive Science major that might appeal. It’s the smallest UC campus with 8000 undergraduates. Could be an option. But can I make an argument that it would be better than WWU? Maybe. WWU is bigger and doesn’t have MechE or CogSci. And if he would like to experience a diverse, majority-nonwhite campus, Merced offers that opportunity (unlike WWU or SLO which is the whitest public U in California). What’s your estimated EFC? You won’t get need-based aid at any CA public; the question is whether WUE or the CSU sticker price are in the same range as your EFC or if you need more aid than that.

I don’t feel like SLO is the best environment for someone who needs to explore before figuring out his path. You can change majors but it’s not fluid, as you noted.

Are you open to more distant schools? CWRU comes to mind - it’s pretty small and supportive (5000 undergrads) and has an “open door policy” - no limitations on choosing/changing majors once there. MechE and Aerospace share a department, and there’s also CogSci and great neuroscience and medical-related research, based both on the academic side and at the highly-regarded med school. Also the option of Engineering Physics with a mech/aero concentration. Humanities, social sciences, and the arts are strong too… and it’s a full-need-met school. Could be worth running the NPC. It would be a little reachy but not entirely out of range - if it looked good both financially and fit-wise, applying EDII could bring it more into reach. (January 15th deadline)

URochester is another with similar attributes to Case - relatively flexible curriculum and strong in both engineering and arts/sciences. Other small full-need-met schools with engineering options that could be in range, in the eastern US, include Lafayette, Lehigh, Union, and Trinity. And WPI could be a great fit - it’s not full-need-met but there’s merit so it might work out. Not that you’ve even said he’d be open to crossing the country but there just aren’t as many smaller schools with engineering and good financial aid, on the west coast.

FWIW, U of North Dakota (which is a WUE school and very affordable) has a very highly regarded aviation program in addition to a variety of engineering majors. Not sure if actual aviation is an interest but if it is, this is one of the places to be.

Have you looked at U of Utah? He’d likely qualify for the Honors College which could “make a big school smaller”… and it could be pretty affordable between merit and either WUE or establishing residency, which they allow students to do after the first year. Strong STEM including MechE with a choice of 12 different emphases including aerospace. Great setting (both a major city and amazing outdoor recreation) and easy direct flights between SEA and SLC. UofU vs. SLO seems to be a comparison that comes up often, because they have similar strengths STEM-wise.

How much are you and your ex willing and able to pay ? What commitment can you two make per year for college? That amount is crucial in determining what is possible.

Run the NPC for the FAFSA only schools and see what they are saying they will give in aid. Be aware that at such schools, any payments for college by the noncustodial parent, actually any payments on behalf or to the student from the NCP will be counted as income on FAFSA a when that year’s income needs to be reported, so the money from that parent either has to be gifted to the OP or lent to the student with appropriate loan documentation.

The PROFILE schools will require both parents’ financials. YMMV as to what sort of financial aid is forthcoming.

@“aunt bea”

Santa Clara University uses the Profile in addition to the FAFSA. Last I knew, they require the non-custodial parent form. The combined income of both parents is $150,000. Unless they look only at the custodial parent, I doubt this will be considered “low income”.