Hooray for Public Universities—Don’t Overlook the School in Your Own Backyard


From lower tuition to greater degree program choices, state university systems are the smart choice for millions of college-bound students each year.Look Close to Home

In searching for a college, you’d be smart to consider the public university system in your state. Each state in the country supports at least one state university system, also known as a public university; some larger states, such as Texas and California, have more than one system.

A state university system normally has a single legal entity and administration. But many systems have several campuses, each with their own identity as a university.

Some state university systems use a common name for all their public universities. For instance, in Wisconsin, the individual state universities are all “University of Wisconsin” schools but named UW-Madison, UW-Oshkosh, and so forth. In other states, it may be difficult to identify state schools by name; in Florida, the state universities include Florida A&M University and the University of Central Florida.

Bigger=Better? Check Out the Campus Size

At many state schools, you’ll discover that “bigger is better” in many ways, starting with a typically high enrollment. For instance, The Ohio State University, the largest public university in the nation, has more than 60,000 students enrolled—a larger population than many towns!

At state universities you’ll also often find more degree program choices, more athletic programs (often including NCAA sports), more events (concerts, lecture series, and more), and more activities (think marching band and debate teams).

Bigger Campus, Smaller Tuition

But happily, “bigger” doesn’t apply to tuition. Because state universities are subsidized by the tax payers in the state, you will generally find lower tuition at your own state schools. (Schools generally charge higher tuition to out-of-state students.) Many graduates of state schools love the fact that they can start their careers with little or no debt.

But Can You Get In?

Public universities tend to be less selective than private schools. “You’ll find state schools generally more accessible,” reports Andy Hernandez, associate director of admissions at California State University, Fresno. “Except for certain impacted (highly sought-after) programs, most public schools have certain minimum requirements that many students can meet.”

The Pros Sound Great—What about the Cons?

Be aware of some of the drawbacks often found at state schools, such as larger class sizes, many classes taught by graduate students, a more impersonal feeling, and not as strong of a reputation as some other schools.

But even with these considerations, state schools are the wise choice of millions of students each year. Visit the Web sites of the public universities in your state, run the numbers to see what a degree will cost, and, most importantly, make a campus visit to see if a state school is right for you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This article was written by Jane Schreier Jones

Jane Schreier Jones is a freelance writer whose work includes hundreds of articles in the field of education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/journalism from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

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