Case vs Olin vs UTD for CS

The kid: Studious, National Merit finalist, musician - classical and folk, wants to study computer science (but parents wonder if he will like this field of work for the long haul), not much experience away from home.

School #1: Case Western

  • Cost: About $38,000. We can swing that with savings, cash flow and student federal loan.
  • Pros: flexible program - can take classes in any department, strong in tech, social opportunities, mid-distance away from home
  • Cons: Maxes out savings, mid-distance away from home, seems like the middle of the road option

School #2: Olin College of Engineering

  • Cost: About $49,000. Will be a stretch for us.
  • Pros: Can take classes and socialize at Babson and Wellesley, easy to individualize engineering program to each student’s interests, nurturing environment, project based - looks like fun!, 4 hours from home, cutting edge program - an MIT study ranked Olin as one of the best engineering programs globally
  • Cons: Cost, not an in depth CS program (but parents wonder if that might be a pro?) - would result in an engineering degree with a CS focus, small (400 students). Did we mention cost?

School #3: University of Texas at Dallas

  • Cost: About $3,000 after National Merit scholarship
  • Pros: In depth CS - he has been admitted to CS2 honors program, near Dallas tech hub, well funded school with nice facilities and dorms, that scholarship!
  • Cons: A number of rigid general ed requirements, far from home, quiet social scene, guidance counselor keeps telling us it’s a bad choice (her words: “a regional public university where most students are from Texas, it’s serving a local clientele, and the academic level of the students won’t be the same as some of the more selective schools you are looking at”) - is she right? Or does she not realize the strength of the CS program?

Which would be best? Any perspectives welcome!

IMO, she doesn’t realize the strength of CS2. I’m going to hazard a guess that she has zero tech background.

UTD doesn’t have much of a reputation outside of TX because it is so new but Texans in STEM would know it is the 3rd best public for STEM in TX. In other words, it’s the UCSD of TX (and I believe it will eventually be seen as close to UCSD’s level). TX is a growing state with a lot of opportunities in tech/CS.

I definitely would not pay that much more for CWRU. And while I like Olin’s size, it’s CS curriculum is quite limited and unless you’re loaded and money just doesn’t mean that much to you (8 figures net worth), which doesn’t seem to be the case, I don’t think you can justify the much bigger expenditure either.

BTW, the UTD honors college offers a lot of perks (which your counselor probably is unaware of as well).

To me, this is an easy decision.

We were in a similar situation with my son and UTD. We ended up paying more the east coast private school because it was my son’s first choice and we could afford it. Part of it was to experience a different part of the country. However, we know quite a few happy UTD students and agree that UTD is up and coming. I still follow UTD on Facebook and have been watching all the improvements to the campus. The dorms are really nice and the campus is becoming more like a traditional college campus. Congratulations to your kiddo on having such great options.

Thank you so much for your perspective! As parents, we don’t have any background in CS, so it’s hard to know if we can trust what the guidance counselor has been telling us. I think you are right that she does not have background in CS, either. It seems like the retention rate, out of state population, test scores are all different if you focus just on the CS department.

Especially honors and CS2.

Thanks so much for your comment! Do you feel like your son is getting something more/different from the east coast private school experience that he would not have gotten at UTD?

My son is at Northeastern in engineering and computer science. The different is that he is in Boston after living in Texas his whole life. Northeastern has students from all over the country and all over the world. He is currently applying for a coop for the fall which is a big deal at Northeastern. So, yes, different. But, these young people will have many years in front of them to live in different parts of the country and meet people from all over the world. Honestly, I don’t think you can make a wrong choice. If it were me, I would be a bit wary of Olin because it is so focused on engineering where Case Western has many more options to explore if students want to move to a different area of study.

During decision process, I asked my son what his first choice was, finances aside. He said Northeastern and we decided to make it work. However, my son was perfectly willing to go to UTD as his least expensive option. We have two kids and are reasonably prepared for the future financially so we went with the first choice. If either of us lost our jobs, though, things would get tricky fast.

Good luck to y’all.

If you’re serious about CS, I would take Olin out of the mix here. It’s workable, but there’s no need to limit your CS depth at the start with two other quality options here that are all cheaper. CS != Engineering.

Between the other two, you’re looking at similar CS quality and postgrad opportunities. UTD’s CS is very much solid even if the school is serving more regional students. Both are true at once here, and to me it sounds like a fit factor that she doesn’t want to be at a school like that but also likely understands the cost difference is so big.

So really I’d get it down to Case and UTD, and basically the question is “is fit + a bit more course flexibility worth 140K to you/her?”. I would say UTD is the deal here, but I do truly understand the importance of fit, and I don’t think it would be a mistake to choose Case here. The only one I’d advise against here is Olin.

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Thank you for your reply! Good to hear that Case and UTD are similar in program quality. Your point about Olin being the weaker choice if CS is the goal is well taken. UTD’s scholarship is hard to beat.

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My son was deciding between UTD cs^2, CWRU, Purdue, UMD, … and went with CS^2. He is very happy with his choice. I believe during our visit, 1540 was mentioned as the average SAT score of a cs^2 student.

I am not sure about UTD as a while, but the honors college has many OOS.

Does your child have lots AP credits? UTD doesn’t limit the number of AP credits and a huge majority of core requirements can be satisfied by AP credits. They could even CLEP out of some of the classes.

Another thing to consider is a possible MS degree. At UTD you can combine BS/MS. With a bit of careful planning and a bunch of APs, your child could get MS in 4 years, all paid for by his NMS scholarship. I may be wrong but I believe Olin doesn’t offer MS degrees.

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Thank you for the cs2 info! Will you son do internships or co-ops?
My son doesn’t have many AP credits - his HS doesn’t have any classes. I wonder if he could CLEP out of some. He’ll have to look into that.

My son will do internship this summer.

Here is a list of possible CLEP credits. They can be applied to quite a few core requirements.
https://oue.utdallas.edu/undergraduate-advising/clep-credit

UTD is also very good when it comes to DE credits

UTD is very strong for CS and the honors college is really good. He’ll have most of his classes through either honors program and all the privileges that come with that. CS2 is more theoretical than “typical CS”, too.
That being said, UTD isn’t that good or broad outside of CS - it’s decent for STEM and business but it’s still building its offerings.
So if he’s reasonably sure of CS (as much as one can be at 17) UTD is a no-brainer. CS2 would indicate exceptional strength in the field so it’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s getting into – does he want the theoretical aspect and intensity?
Only issue: if he were to switch out of CS/CS2, while he’d still have the benefits of CollegiumV and a talented Honors cohort, his choices would be more limited in terms of majors, depth, etc.
So, if flexibility were important, I’d pick Case: despite the higher cost, majors are numerous and excellent, he can pick and choose and change his mind without having to go through a competitive process. University circle is great, the university has lots of different “profiles” of students, access to lots of research labs, somewhat geeky but balanced vibe.
I don’t think there’s a “wrong” choice or an obvious choice between these two.
Olin doesn’t really match what he wants and it’s way too expensive so I’d cross it out.

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Your point that UTD is limited in terms of strong majors outside of CS is a new one to me - thanks for your perspective! He’s doing some deep thinking about what he thinks he wants for a major and a career. You’re right that it is hard for a 17 year old to know the answer to this!

Well, there are two reasons: CS is really strong (as is Engineering, but CS in particular), cf. Texas Instruments and the history of UTD, so it’s hard for other majors to measure up; some majors are good (Cybersecurity, GIS, Speech&Hearing science, Information Systems, Emerging Arts&Tech…) but some are still developing (some colleges aren’t very full or offer few majors).
Originally, it was a graduate school, then it added classes for commuters, then it started enrolling freshmen about 30 years ago. If you visit (virtually?) it’s obvious it didn’t start as a traditional college, you can see it’s urban/integrated into the city, and has lots of very recent buildings for student life, although in the past 10-15 years its focus on CS and general development have made it into more of a real campus. It still has very little focus on competitive athletics, which is unusual for a public university in Texas.
https://www.utdallas.edu/visitors/tour-utd/virtualtour/

Yes, in traditional athletics.
UTD has one of the top college chess teams in the country and I believe they’re strong in e-sports too.

UTD’s strongest majors would be in tech (or at least STEM) or at least tech-related fields (like electronic arts/design). You wouldn’t want to go to UTD to major in English, for instance, but it doesn’t seem like your son would switch to that anyway.