college value out of state college planning

Photo by  John-Mark Kuznietsov
US News & World Report reported earlier this week that more students are choosing an in-state college, with the driving factor being tuition cost. A mom quoted in the article said, “We are avidly looking at in-state colleges specifically because they are more affordable.”

Are they? Often times, yes. But not always. When planning for college if you do your homework, you’ll find competitively priced out-of-state options for students ready for a change of scenery. Some students simply want to forge their own path out of state. Or they want to choose a college near where they will ultimately work and live, with access to networking, internship or apprenticeship opportunities during college years that will yield returns when they graduate.

There’s nothing at all wrong with choosing an in-state school. (I did it twice.) But when searching for colleges, first do your homework, explore options, consider all factors and make sure you choose the best-fit school for you.

I’m always in favor of getting the most for your college dollar.

When conducting your college search, I help find hidden gems and high-value colleges that will reward you financially for your achievements. No one would accuse me of throwing caution to the wind when it comes to money, least of all my wife and sons who chide my thriftiness.

Above all, I want to help each student to research, find and earn merit aid at their best-fit college, their “University of You”, including a well-informed decision making process about this six-figure investment. I advocate strategic, intentional, well-researched decisions versus default choices.

Not even looking at out-of-state schools based only on un-researched assumptions about price, merit aid available or other factors, goes against that grain.

Bottom line, don’t write off a school that lights your fire without doing your homework first.

I’m into busting college myths. The myth echoed in the article is, “In-state is always far less expensive.” In this post, you’ll find a few myth-busting examples of universities whose out-of-state tuition competes on price, and none of them are in Wisconsin. It’s not an exhaustive list. There are many hidden gems among more than 2000 schools across the country. Even if you don’t have a 30 on your ACT or a 3.8+ GPA, out-of-state tuition can be very affordable for you at these solid colleges and others.

college planning University of Mississippi

Photo by Madi Osias

University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
Average ACT: 25; Average GPA: 3.54

“Ole Miss” delivers more Big 10-esque Rah-Rah than you can shake a stick at. If Georgia is the UW-Madison of the South (and it is), Ole Miss is the UW-Madison of Mississippi. The motto at The Grove (area near football stadium) is “We’ve never lost a tailgate.”

Ole Miss’ published merit aid matrix starts at 3.0 GPA (3.5 is more typical). Sticker price for out-of-state tuition is $22K. (Never stop at sticker price). A 3.0 GPA plus a 30 ACT earns you $12K/year in merit aid. Even with a few points shy of 30, you can get close. I initially tuned into this university when I was doing a college search for a student looking for school spirit and solid academics, plus a change of scenery.

college planning Miami UniversityMiami University, Oxford, OH
Average ACT: 28; Average GPA: 3.76

From Oxford, MS to Oxford, OH. Miami University (aka, Miami of Ohio) is a shade easier to get into than UW-Madison but on par academically. Usually when you drop off from the flagship university in a state, there’s a perceivable drop-off in competitiveness (and often cache). That’s not the case with Miami of Ohio versus its big brother in Columbus. It’s a medium-sized public university which holds its own as a well-known, well-respected university on a national level. Like UW, Miami has a solid business school. And they have very few graduate students. For those in scientific fields of study, this means research opportunities for undergrads.

I tuned in to Miami when working on a college list for a student who’s really interested in sports marketing, and it’s really highly ranked in that program. And when I did the “can we afford this” sniff test, Miami passed with flying colors for that out-of-stater.

college planning Oklahoma State UniversityOklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Average ACT 25; Average GPA 3.52

OSU has been listed by the Princeton Review as one of 50 “Best Value Colleges – Public”. And Oklahoma State was ranked number 23 on the Forbes list of “Best Value Colleges.” And Oklahoma State University is one of the highest-rated vet schools in the US. The town of Stillwater is a little more than an hour west of Tulsa or an hour northeast of Oklahoma City. With nearly 24,000 students, it is the flagship university of the Oklahoma State System. A 25 ACT plus a 3.0+ unweighted GPA earns you merit aid that’s a sub-Gopher price tag when compared with Wisconsin resident tuition at the University of Minnesota. Earn a 30 on your ACT and you’re within a grand of UW-Madison in-state tuition at this OSU.

college planning University of WyomingUniversity of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
Average ACT 25; Average GPA 3.48

In a recent Myth-Busting Monday video, I highlighted the value of the University of Wyoming. Check it out for info on this high-value college. Laramie is 2.5 hours from Denver. This is a great location for outdoor lovers. It’s a solid college choice in a scenic setting that beats the pants off Colorado for affordability for out-of-staters.

college planning sunyState College of New York (SUNY) System:
EX: SUNY Binghamton Average ACT 29; Average GPA 3.7

Want to head east for college without the Ivy League price tag or single-digit admission rates? The SUNY Schools are well-represented on Forbes list of America’s Top Colleges. It’s one of the best public higher education systems in the world, second only to the University of California system. Unlike Wisconsin, New York doesn’t have one big flagship like UW-Madison. If you took out Madison and redistributed its student population across the other Wisconsin state colleges, that’s SUNY/New York. Admittedly, UW-Madison is going to rank higher than any SUNY school. If I was picking a player, I’d pick UW-Madison. If I had to take one TEAM, I’d take the SUNY team. They have a whole network of a hybrid between a UW-Madison and a UW-LaCrosse or UW-Eau Claire. LaCrosse and Eau Claire get ranked highly in regional system state rankings. If you plan to settle outside the Midwest after college and are looking for higher brand name recognition SUNY delivers. The SUNY System is a really top notch system, especially in terms of sciences. Some of them have D1 sports. Some don’t.

Maybe none of these schools sound appealing to you, but you’re still itching to see what lies beyond your state’s borders for college options. No problem. I can help. Schedule a Free Consult and let’s talk about college search options.