In these hard economic times, it’s best to cast a wide net when applying for colleges. But most college students continue to stay close to home.
Staying close to home for college can sometimes be a mistake. For some students, the best colleges — financially and economically — will be a time zone or two away.
Why aren’t state schools always the most economical? For starters, state schools often don’t have the money to provide the best financial aid packages. Even more important, only 28% of students attending state schools graduate in four years. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly on my college blog, you need to check any private or state school’s four-year graduation rate before figuring out the total costs.
In Alaska, 96% of residents attend state schools. On the other extreme, in Massachusetts, which has a strong private school tradition, only 43% of residents attend their state schools.
In California, where the University of California and Cal State systems are undergoing a financial crisis, there are signs that more students are looking outside their state.
Below you’ll find statistics published by The Chronicle of Higher Education that pinpoint the percentage of college students in individual states who enroll in their own state institutions.
Region Students Attending Own State Schools
- Massachusetts 43%
- Pennsylvania 55%
- New York 55%
- New Hampshire 59%
- Vermont 59%
- Connecticut 64%
- Maine 72%
- New Jersey 80%
- Maryland 82%
- Missouri 58%
- Iowa 63%
- Minnesota 65%
- Illinois 67%
- Ohio 73%
- Indiana 74%
- Wisconsin 80%
- Michigan 81%
- Kansas 88%
- Nebraska 76%
- South Dakota 78%
- North Dakota 87%
- Montana 91%
- Wyoming 95%
- Tennessee 71%
- Florida 74%
- Virginia 78%
- Kentucky 82%
- North Carolina 82%
- South Carolina 83%
- Louisiana 86%
- West Virginia 86%
- Alabama 89%
- Mississippi 90%
- Arizona 58%
- Oklahoma 86%
- Texas 87%
- New Mexico 92%
- Utah 73%
- Colorado 75%
- Hawaii 75%
- Idaho 76%
- Oregon 81%
- California 84%
- Washington 85%
- Nevada 91%
- Alaska 96%
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, an Amazon bestseller and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.
Beware of Wildly Different Graduation Rates
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Thank you for pointing out the four-year graduation rates. My two sons do attend California state schools and the problem is getting worse. The schools are cutting classes so students can’t get into the classes they need to graduate.
I didn’t see Alabama (my husband’s home state) on your list. I would imagine that a fairly high percentage of students attend either the University of Alabama or Auburn.
Thanks for the interesting blog, Lynn.
You are so right that a big reason why kids are graduating on time is because they can’t get their classes! Universities don’t mention that ugly reality in their marketing materials.
I will add Alabama’s figure to the post. In Alabama, 89% of students attend state schools.
“In Alaska, 96% of residents attend state schools.” Of course, when you consider that Seattle is about 2,100 air miles distant (nearest Lower 48 terminus) such a figure is not surprising.
As the parent of a college-bound high schooler, I’m attuned to what she and her peers have to say about the University of Alaska system (which has three major campuses: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau), which summarized is “no way, I’m going Outside to school!” (There is only one private university–Alaska Pacific–in our great state.)
Often, however, financial reality sets in (with the parents, at least), and the kids come to realize that the UA system actually offers a pretty good education. Another plus: one-half to full tuition, four year scholarships to a UA school are now available to students with 2.5 to 4.0 GPAs and meeting certain SAT/ACT standards.
Your 96% figure is not surprising; I’m actually surprised it’s not higher.
Thanks for your email and letting us know about higher ed in Alaska! I definitely learned something. As you observed, leaving the state won’t always result in a cheaper education. The Alaskan tuition breaks seem quite generous! That said, I think too many families assume that a bachelor’s degree at a state school will always be less expensive than a private university.
One thing that many parents don’t consider is the four-year grad rates. I looked up the four-year grad rates at the three University of Alaska campuses and they ranged from 3.3% (Juneau) to 8.9% (Fairbanks.) You can find four, five and six-year grad rates at CollegeResults.org.
Thanks for commenting on my college blog.