Where Most Students End Up Attending College

When it comes to checking out colleges, I’m a big believer that more students should be casting a wider net by looking at schools that aren’t in their own state.
Most teenagers don’t do this. The vast majority of students never look beyond the public universities in their own state and 52% don’t wander more than 100 miles from home. Only 15.5% of freshmen, according to an annual  UCLA survey of freshmen, attend schools more than 500 miles away.
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 individual states who enroll in their own state institutions. Nationwide, 73% of students attend their own state schools.

Where Most Students Attend College

Region…………………….Percentage of Students Attending Their Own State Schools


  • Massachusetts 44%
  • Rhode Island 51%
  • Pennsylvania 55%
  • New York  55%
  • New Hampshire   59%
  • Vermont  60%
  • Connecticut  64%
  • Maine  71%
  • Delaware  73%
  • New Jersey  81%


  • Missouri  58%
  • Iowa 49%
  • Minnesota  61%
  • Illinois  65%
  • Ohio  73%
  • Indiana   74%
  • Wisconsin 79%
  • Michigan 81%


  • Tennessee 70%
  • Florida, 74%
  • Virginia  74%
  • Georgia 79%
  • Kentucky 80%
  • South Carolina 81%
  • Alabama 83%
  • North Carolina  83%
  • Louisiana  86%
  • Arkansas 89%
  • Mississippi  90%


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


  • Nebraska 75%
  • South Dakota 78%
  • North Dakota 86%
  • Montana 90%
  • Wyoming 96%


  • Utah 72%
  • Colorado 75%
  • Idaho  75%
  • Hawaii 77%
  • Oregon 81%
  • California  84%
  • Washington 85%
  • Nevada 91%
  • Alaska 94%

Why You Should Consider Schools in Other Time Zones

In a previous post for my CBS MoneyWatch blog, here is what I said about the potential advantages of looking beyond your own state:
Applying to a time zone or two away, can gives students a leg up on larger financial aid or merit awards. Why? Because colleges crave geographic diversity. If a college admission office in Ohio or Michigan is trying to decide who gets a scholarship between two equally talented candidates, do you think the child from 50 miles away will get it or the teenager from San Francisco?
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 looking beyond California state schools to find back-up choices.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes college blogs for CBSMoneyWatch and US News & World Report.
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  1. Looks like Kansas is missing from your list? Was the data not available? (I swore I looked three times – in both the Plains and the Midwest)

  2. Not all 18 year olds are ready to be that far from home on their own*. I wasn’t. I went out of State and flunked out the first year despite being 2nd in my high school class (had always been an A student). If I had stayed closer to home, those once or twice a month visits home might have made a difference. As it was I returned home, got a job, went back to school locally, graduated Magna Cum Laude (in spite of my bad transfer grades). Found a great job and retired early — all within 50 miles of home.
    *Mind you I had visited foreign countries and traveled a good bit in the US, even lived in Iran for 3 years — with my family. Culture shock/unfamiliar landscape wasn’t the issue, support was.
    A broader experience is a nice idea, but making sure the student is successful is much more important. My own experience with friends at the schools I had gone to (both in and out of state), was that the further away from home they were, the more they struggled. For students who can handle it, go for it, but most probably can’t.

  3. Great information, Lynn! Is it possibly to reply back with the title and year of the article from The Chronicle?
    Thanks so much!

  4. As a recent college grad that went to school 90 minutes from where I grew up I find myself often wishing I had gone a lot farther from home for college. For me, the geographic diversity and the opportunity to make friends from a different part of the country would have been interesting. I think it’s also harder to pull yourself out of your comfort zone and move to a new state when you attend college in the same state you grew up in. And in the current economy, the ability to be transient after graduating college is a huge advantage when looking for employment.

    1. Cody thanks for your observations. What you say makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of kids feel they won’t get a job back home if they their geographic comfort zone, but I don’t think that’s true. My Exhibit A is my daughter Caitlin, who went to school in Pennsylvania and got a job back in San Diego after college.
      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

        1. Barry — I’d suggest that what you spend on air fare you will save by getting your child’s auto insurance waived while he/she is gone. That was my own experience.
          Lynn O’Shaughnessy