Sigh. So here I’ve been, trying to convince our son that he should consider the flagship university of our state system — the University of Illinois (at Urbana-Champaign). Hey, if it was good enough for your dad…
Actually, U of I is a great school, ranked in the top 50 of the highly coveted US News college rankings. The business and engineering colleges are ranked amongst the best in the country. It has always been known as a great value for Illinois residents (which we are). When our daughter applied in 2004, the tuition and room/board total was less than $15,000 per year, literally one-third the cost of comparable private schools. The actual tuition was $6,000 (room and board are pretty standard no matter which college you want to attend — public or private). A terrific value, no?
Imagine our surprise when friends with a high school senior daughter mentioned the other night that although their daughter was admitted to U of I, the costs placed it as more expensive as their daughter’s first choice, SUNY (State University of New York) at Binghamton. Yes, you heard right. Out-of-state tuition for this highly ranked, excellent university in New York is actually less than in-state tuition for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign!
I had gotten an inkling of this trend a couple of years ago, when I’d heard rumors that U of I was more interested in luring out-of-staters than our home-bred college kids. Whether the intention was to build its already stellar reputation at the expense of Illinois families, or to make more money for the school, I’m not entirely sure (and it's a matter of debate). But clearly, it made no sense. In fact, the out of state tuition of several excellent (at least as good as U of I) schools is a better bargain than Illinois has become for Illinois residents. Ridiculous, huh? Take, for example, the University of Texas at Austin. A great school in a great college town (city). A music scene unparalleled anywhere else (including, I’m told New York and Los Angeles) — something to consider when your high school junior is seriously contemplating pursuing the brand new field of “Music Industry” (as ours is).
Indeed, there are bargains to be had among private schools as well. Rice University, also in Texas (Houston) has an incredible endowment and chooses to share it with all admitted students. Cost at Rice is about $10,000 less than the tuition for comparable private universities, like Northwestern, Washington University (in St. Louis), and Columbia (in New York). And they are generous with academic scholarships as well.