Attending College Close to Home

When it comes to checking out colleges, I’m a big believer in casting a wide net. Look at big, small, public and private institutions. And check out schools that aren’t in your time zone.

Most families don’t do this. The vast majority of students never look beyond the public universities in their own state and most don’t wander more than 150 miles from home. There are only a few states, which are primarily clustered in the Northeast, where this isn’t true.

I thought I’d share with you just how many kids stay close to home.  Below you’ll find statistics published by The Chronicle of Higher Education that pinpoint the  percentage of college students in certain states who enroll in their own state institutions.

Region                            Students Attending Own State Schools


  • Massachusetts      44%
  • Rhode Island        51%
  • Pennsylvania        55%
  • New York               55%
  • New Hampshire   59%
  • Vermont                 60%
  • Connecticut           64%
  • Maine                     71%
  • New Jersey            81%


  • Missouri                58%
  • Iowa                       63%
  • Minnesota            65%
  • Illinois                  67%
  • Ohio                      73%
  • Wisconsin            80%
  • Michigan              81%


  • Tennessee 70%
  • Florida, 74%
  • Virginia  74%
  • Georgia 79%
  • South Carolina 81%
  • Alabama 83%
  • North Carolina  83%
  • Louisiana  86%
  • Mississippi  90%


  • Arizona  58%
  • Oklahoma 86%
  • Texas  87%
  • New Mexico  92%


  • Colorado             75%
  • Oregon                81%
  • California            84%
  • Washington        85%
  • Nevada                91%

As a practical matter, exploring more alternatives can be a lifesaver if the public universities in your state are cutting back enrollment due to shrinking budgets. My  nephew, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, now worries that the California state universities that he thought he could get into next fall may  end up rejecting him because of the state’s financial turmoil. He and his parents are now scrambling to find back-up choices.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution.

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  1. It’s definitely something that I wish I had done – left the state for college. In retrospect, there are many colleges that offer a middle ground between a “city school” and a “rural school.” If I had known about the existence of quaint college towns when applying, my choices would have been more varied. I wonder if those statistics reveal the level of comfort students feel regarding leaving home or lack of information regarding what the options are.