Choose between UIUC-CS+X, Purdue-DS, UW Madison CS, Univ Of Maryland CS

Here are options we have :

UIUC - $38K
Purdue - $38K
UW Madison - $54K
UMD - $52K

Curriculam wise UMD looks better and it is CS program. However it is ranked lower than other colleges.

UIUC/Purdue programs are well recognized, provides great internship/placement opportunities but we will need to trade off for Data Science/CS+X(rather than CS).

UW Madison is in between and most expensive with no aid.

Any suggestions on which program to pursue? Our initial thought was to chose the college offering CS program but now we are having second thoughts whether to choose college with better ranking/placement opportunities.

Here’s a thought - where would the student feel best? If money is an issue, the first two are great choices. Personally, I prefer Purdue - it’s much nicer. UIUC is ugly - but forgetting that, where do you feel the “spark”. That’s where you should go.

If money no issue then visit the other two as well.

You’re going to “win” no matter where you go.

Are all options affordable without loans?

If your child wants CS, I’d pick a school where he was admitted to CS.

I’m a huge Purdue fan but transferring into CS from outside the major is near impossible. Not familiar enough with how the CS+x program at UIUC works.

UMD has a great CS program.

UIUC is by far your best value: lower cost than the others, nationally famous, extremely strong in both math and CS, direct entry to major. It has everything together when the others only offer a partial package (higher cost OR non direct entry).
Btw the cs+math program at UIUC is extremely selective, so congratulations!

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I think OP should prioritize the major since internal transfers are highly restrictive at all these flagships. CS+X programs are usually about application of CS in the “X” area. I just looked up CS+X program at UIUC. The “X” is limited to a few areas (which doesn’t include math, BTW). If OP is interested in one of those choices, UIUC would obviously be a good choice. DS (data science) is actually a specialty that’s overlooked by many CS aspirants. CS has many subfields. Some more mathematical and others less so. DS is uniformly more mathematical because data scientists need many CS tools that fall on the more mathematical side of the spectrum. Job prospects of DS majors are just as good as CS majors, but DS majors are more likley than the (less mathematical) CS majors to go on to the graduate schools to study further. If OP leans more mathematical and is comfortable with math, Purdue DS is a very good choice.

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Thx for all responses. We are looking for the right fit given that all options are affordable.

@MYOS1634 - Math+CS is a great program but we chose CS+X offered by LAS.

@tsbna44 - totally agree with you on “spark”. I am leaving the decision to my kid, supporting him in the decision process.

@momofsenior1 - If Purdue offered CS it would have been obvious choice.

The good news is that you have no bad options or wrong decisions here!

Congrats to your son. I’m sure he’ll do great no matter which program he picks.

If the student wants to study CS, choose a school where the student can study CS. Of course CS+X can be desirable if the student wants to combine CS and whatever X is, and data science can be desirable if the student has interest in computing and statistics.

Post graduation placement into desired jobs can be strongly major related for some kinds of jobs.

Data science these days universally uses the tools of machine learning, the core component of modern AI. So if the student is interested in that aspect of CS, then DS is a perfectly good alternative. It’s not a perfect substitute, of course, because it has different emphasis. For example, students in DS need to study data storage and retrieval (and transmission in some colleges) of large amount of data.


If CS+X at UIUC is not acceptable, nor is Data Science at Purdue (both are direct admits, right?) then UMD CS is the best value.

I thought for some reason of the CS/Math degree, sorry. Still, CS+X is highly sought after, but you’d need to have a focus of interest. Linguistics would likely lead to different jobs than CropScience,GIS, or Economics, and one must be interested both fields. The core CS courses are the same for CS+X and for “Engineering” CS so at the very least you’d have a valuable major.
Data Science at Purdue is a bit similar in “CS+X” structure except it’s CS+Math+Statistics.

UMD CS would be more flexible, allowing for any orientation, any application of CS that strikes your child’s interest or becomes an area of strength.
So the question ends up: Can you afford the 14k difference out of pocket (no parental loans) and if so, is that ultimate flexibility worth 14K to you and your child?

Right, at UIUC it’s not CS+ Math, it’s Math & CS Mathematics & Computer Science Major | Mathematics at Illinois. The other one like that is Stats and CS.

Thx all for feedback. Mostly agree with you that UMD CS is preferred option based on his interest on CS.

However in checking career services pages of all these colleges, clearly UIUC has edge followed by Purdue in terms of internship opportunities and campus recruitment. Almost all top IT companies are hiring from these colleges. Others have good options but fewer.

This got us to thinking if UIUC/Purdue is better option even though it is not true CS program. As per my research UIUC CS and CS+X programs have access to same career services. My guess is it is same in Purdue as well.

If it was between UMD and Wisconsin, I would pick Wisconsin with the extra 2k.

I think that DS and CS are different enough that they are not replacements for each other.

Let’s step back a bit. What attracted your son to CS? What does he hope to do with the degree?

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Yes, but will a CS+X student be as competitive applying for jobs looking for CS majors? A CS+X student may be more competitive if the employer is in the +X space, but for other computing jobs, the regular CS majors with more CS courses will probably have an advantage. (Which +X is the student in?)