UMich vs UNC Chapel Hill

Economics and Statistics/Data Science Double major. Possible transfer to business school (either Ross or Kenan-Flagler or at least a minor. This isn’t guaranteed but I’m upper tier at both of these schools so I’m sure that I have a decent chance.

I visited both schools, really liked both, and could see myself in both places.

So UNC-CH is $40K per year cheaper BUT money isn’t really an issue at all. I know that taking money into account, UNC-CH is probably a better bet, but purely apples-to-apples, what’s the better option?

Even if you can afford it, paying more than double for UMich over UNC, when they are peer institutions reputationally and similarly strong in your areas of interest, seems hard to justify on the face of it. Clearly you are drawn to Michigan or you wouldn’t still be undecided. What is 160K+ more appealing about UMich? Is it just the usual “familiarity breeds contempt” effect - wanting to do something more novel than attend your own state flagship? This is completely understandable (and I remember feeling the same way once upon a time, although a family relocation spared me a tough decision on that front) but then again, there are a lot of other great things that that six-figure difference could add to your life, or someone’s life! If you go to UNC, there are plenty of great study-abroad options, and a few domestic semester-away programs as well, to add novelty to staying in state.

At cost parity, I don’t think either of these schools is a clear winner - it would come down to individual fit factors. At this magnitude of cost difference, I’d take the in-state deal.


If the cost was the same or even half as much (20K more per year at U of M), I would choose Michigan. All around, U of M is a slightly better university than UNC … arts and sciences, engineering, physical sciences, graduate programs in law, medicine etc … and Ross is one of the best business schools in the country. But personally I don’t think the difference is enough to justify $160,000.00, so given your options I would choose UNC.

But your question was apples to apples … so in that case, definitely Michigan.

The diploma/transcript company Parchment has an online tool to compare 2 universities regarding which university would applicants choose. They use real applicant data. I entered U of M versus UNC and it came out 62% would choose U of M and 38% would choose UNC.

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Michigan’s LSA advertises that 45 of its programs are ranked in the Top 10:

And that doesn’t include CoE, Ross Business, Kinesiology, Nursing, Architecture, SMTD, etc., which are also Top 10 programs.

If I were you, then save the $40K/year and go to UNC. But if cost were equal, then I’d GO BLUE! Hands down.

Congrats on two great choices! Beside the cost savings, entry to the business schools is different, if that’s what you pursue.

Most Ross students have direct entry, did you apply for Ross this cycle? Typically about 100 students transfer into Ross from LSA and other schools after first year. Acceptance rate can vary, was 21% last year. See info here:

UNC K-F is not direct admit, most students apply at the end of their freshman year. Class size is around 350, they don’t publish the acceptance rate. Here is the relevant info Undergraduate Business for Current UNC Students | UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Your chances of admission to business school are greater at K-F because you would be applying through the typical pathway whereas at Ross transfer spots are very competitive.

Note that both admission processes are holistic, meaning even though a high GPA and taking all the required pre-req courses are important, other deciding factors are out of your control. The schools look to balance the class by gender, include URM and/or diverse candidates, take intended major into account, etc.

I do agree Michigan is stronger overall than UNC but probably not $160k stronger. In order to choose Michigan you would have to be ok with potentially not transferring to Ross, as that is relatively less likely than getting into K-F. Good luck.


Regardless if your parents can afford cleanly the extra $160,000, why would you want them to do that? From a ROI business perspective it doesn’t make any sense. Since you want to be o go into economics /business I would approach it with that lens.

UNC is a great school with great opportunities. If your the student you say you are you won’t have any problems getting internships /jobs.

You also say something important. You can see yourself at both schools. Full stop. No school is worth $40,000 /year more especially when your choice is a top school.

But since your parents have the money maybe negotiate $10,000/year (you just saved them $30 000/year) to go into an investment vehicle of some sort. Much nicer to come out $40,000 ahead then $160,000 down. Most students would just be happy not having any student loans.


This! You are interested in business/finance & don’t see the opportunity cost here?

In the real world, UMi & UNC-CH are peer schools. You like them both enough to be torn. I like @Knowsstuff’s suggestion above to ask your parents if they will gift you the difference- as a downpayment on your first place, towards an MBA if you decide to do one, to start you investment portfolio, etc.


Yep. Plus he has 2 of the most active people on the Michigan thread telling him to go to UNC. So many of my kids friends are soooo in debt. No matter how you slice it, not having any debt is so much better then having it or spending money that really doesn’t need to be spent.


That’s not a nice request. While we can pay for both schools, if my kid asked us to make up the difference I’d be really insulted. Parents aren’t banks. Unless they have the entire amount saved in a 529 and no other kids to educate, be thankful for the gift or education. Don’t try to squeeze them. Our kids have considered cost as PART of the equation. And we might feel like giving them something to graduate school down the road. But I’m not going to get into a negotiation with my kid regarding our parental funds. So distasteful to me. Maybe I read this incorrectly, I hope so. I think every kid should be really grateful for whatever help parents can give.


I agree 100%- & I would only suggest something like that where it has already been explicitly said that cost is not an issue. IF the OPs parents have been clear that they are equally happy to spend either amount, THEN putting the difference towards building a future, such as grad school or a first home doesn’t seems more responsible & reasonable than blowing it on an essentially equivalent thing, about which the OP apparently doesn’t have a strong preference.

Shift it to sneakers: suppose I am meant to get a pair of sneakers, with a budget of X, but I choose a pair that costs 1/2x, is it ok for me to ask if I can have 2 pairs, so the total price stays X?

No, it’s never ok to take as much as possible from people who love you, IMO. College is outrageous. A kid asking a parent to give them hundreds of thousands of dollars extra to invest in whatever they like in my book would never be ok. Sneakers cost a couple of hundred bucks max, college a couple of hundred thousand. I’d be shocked if my kids asked. But if they did, it would be met with a firm no and an explanation on gratefulness. YMMV.

Apples to apples, Michigan is better. Full stop.

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That’s like having two identical cars, one for 25,000 and the other for 100,000 and asking which shade of blue is better. My answer…What? Why is the $100,000 car even an option?

It seems that, as of late, the only certainty now is uncertainty. If a layoff/business failure happens, that money source dries up fast and you’ll be stuck in a school you can’t afford without financial aid. That’s a big problem if you’re in your 3rd of 4th year. At UNC, if that happens, you could finish your degree with student loans if all else fails. Plus, as far as “rankings” and prestige, both schools are virtually identical.


My daughter was favoring UMichigan before she was accepted to UCLA (we are CA, so in state). She is full pay and we can pay sticker price without loans, so a similar situation to yours, though my daughter is a political science and English major.

So we went to Michigan to see if it would be worth paying OOS tuition for—and while we really liked it, we didn’t feel that it was. They were offering a very similar kind of educational experience for more than twice the price (plus travel).

That’s how we ended up feeling at all the OOS flagships she was accepted to. Nothing could beat UCLA for both value and price for the experience offered. So, the decision became UCLA vs SLAC. (She chose UCLA.)

I know it’s kind of a bummer to stay in state when you were hoping for something different. But UNC is a fantastic school with a well-known business school (maybe not quite as well known as Ross, but very close). You could get your MBA at Ross and still have that experience later if you decide you want it.


The RDU area is booming. How is Michigan doing now-a-days? Something to consider when thinking about life after college.


Something about Michigan that has always struck me as being strange is that it has so many out-of-state kids (especially from the East Coast megalopolis) who have no intention of spending a second of their post-college lives in Michigan. That isn’t strange in and of itself: not many Williams students settle in NW Massachusetts, after all. But the combination of UM being a state flagship and the ardor of its out-of-state alumni is just weird.

Anecdotally, far fewer kids around here (NYC area) go to UNC, but a lot of them end up staying in NC permanently.

The two schools are close enough in quality to make UNC an easy call here imo.


Now that you mention it, that is a little strange. And very true—where we live in the Bay Area, Michigan is a very popular OOS choice. People will absolutely choose it over certain UCs and for many, it’s a dream school. But agree, none of them will settle in MI.

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I’d tip to UNC vs. U-M with full price OOS costs. My wife works in statistical science and both schools are great but I hear more about the research triangle for top notch medical statistics. Like others said, the path into KF is easier than into Ross. UNC is just as competitive OOS as U-M if not a bit more so.


We are OOS and my D will be attending UNC, unless she gets off a WL at one of her top choices. We recently visited Chapel Hill for the first time and we were really impressed with the area and the school. Great place to go to college.

She was WL at UM, but is withdrawing. D18 was accepted to UM as well as many others and chose UVA. UM is very popular in our area and my kids had no real interest in attending a school that is heavily populated by students from our home area. My point is that you should go to the place where you think you will be happier and have a better experience. IMO UNC, UVA and UM are very similar schools with different populations. Unfortunately our state flagship isn’t in the same league, but if UNC was our state school, it would be a no brainer. There is really no way to justify the extra cost (unless maybe you have already been admitted to Ross…maybe). Good luck to you.


Michigan is stronger all-around academically. That is no knock on UNC, though, as Michigan is probably stronger academically than every other public school except Berkeley. Few schools match Michigan’s high level of quality in so many different majors.

But… and I know you don’t care, but it is not $40k-per-year better. UNC is a fine school.

There are very few schools – all very famous, single-digit-ranked private universities – that I might recommend choosing over UNC with that large of a price difference, and then only if the kid was 100% sure he or she wanted to go into big finance. Or if UNC didn’t offer the major you wanted, and the other school did. Then it might make sense to choose the more expensive option. Or if you were terribly allergic to North Carolina’s flora/fauna. Extreme cases.

Even if you can afford the price difference, think what you and/or your folks could do with that extra $160k.