I heard from a mom this week, who is worried about some of the schools her daughter has begun applying to. I wanted to share what the mother wrote:
As I watch my daughter start her college applications, I’m cringing inside because she’s wanting to apply to out of state public schools such as UCLA, Georgia Tech and Purdue. Although Purdue states that it does have scholarships to out of state students, I’m worried that this will end up being a waste of time and the cost of the application fees.
I would add “public schools in other states” to the list of schools that generally don’t give merit aid.
The Allure of Distant State Universities
I don’t blame Patty for being concerned. In some cases, the cost of attending an out-of-state school an end up costing the same or more than a private college or university. Here’s why: state universities are looking for more sources of revenue and what better way to capture extra cash than from impressionable 18-year-olds who think it would be cool to go to the University of Michigan or some other high visibility state school?
While many state universities give merit money, I’d argue that the flagships universities are going to be more tightfisted because they rarely have to worry about attracting enough students. I’ve heard from students, for instance, who have received $5,000 merit awards from the University of Michigan, which isn’t going to go far. Michigan for the typical nonresident is going to cost about $50,000 a year.
Some prestigious state universities, such as UCLA, University of California, Berkeley and the University of Washington in Seattle don’t give out any merit awards. Any of the University of California campuses would cost your daughter about $53,000 a year! The tuition at the University of Washington is $10,826 versus $28,310 for nonresidents. That’s a huge premium to pay for the privilege of going to a state school that has been facing severe financial troubles, which you can read about in this Chronicle of Higher Education story.
Doing Your Due Diligence
Before students aim for state schools as nonresidents, here are a couple of things you should do:
1. Use Net Price Calculators With Caution.
I’ve written a lot about net price calculators lately and you should definitely use a calculator before applying to any school including out-of-state public universities to see what the price will be. As a nonresident, however, you need to be careful that you are getting an accurate price. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb and FinAid, said he tried a few calculators on state university sites a few months ago and observed it was “hit or miss” on whether these calculators asked for the residency of an applicant.
2. Research scholarship availability.
Head over to a school’s admission web pages and research what kind of out-of-state scholarships are available. Typically these scholarships will be awarded based on a child’s test scores and GPA. These schools don’t have the manpower to evaluate applicants holistically so awards are often strictly by the numbers.