[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

A Top Rated School For $13,000? Consider a State School

By Kyle Huth on November 1st, 2003 •

College is expensive. Everybody knows that, especially those looking for a top-notch education from one of the more prestigious private schools.

College is expensive. Everybody knows that, especially those looking for a top-notch education from one of the more prestigious private schools.

Here's a simple pricing guide for an Ivy League school: take the cost of the ridiculously expensive car of your choice, add a little for taxes and insurance, and multiply by four. If you have that much money, you might be able to afford an undergraduate degree at Harvard. Leather seats and cup holders are extra.

Don't abandon hope, though. You can save as much as $25,000 dollars per year and still receive a top-notch education. The catch is this: you must identify your school and become a resident in that state. You must follow rules and regulations to become a resident, but going through the process may be well worth the $100,000 you can save.

In the September issue of U.S. News and World Report, over half of the "Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs" whose highest degree is a doctorate were public institutions. UC Berkley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and the California Institute of Technology ranked alongside the traditional favorites MIT and Stanford. The magazine also ranked Cal-Poly-San Louis Obispo and California State Polytechnic University-Pomona among the top ten "Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs" at schools whose highest degree is a bachelor's or master's.

Successful state programs are not just limited to engineering programs. Twelve of the top twenty "Best Undergraduate Business Programs" are housed within public universities. This could mean a great opportunity for you.

As a general rule, state schools are easier to get into than legendary programs like MIT and Harvard. While annual tuition at top private schools is $35-40,000, state schools average $12-17,000 per year.

Look at these figures:

Total costs per year for the fourth-ranked undergraduate mechanical engineering program at Stanford was $39,106.

Costs for fifth-ranked University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign was $12,878.

That means you would pay a total of $105,000 less for an undergraduate education at UIUC, a state school. But you must be an in-state resident to get these rates.

The rules and regulations for establishing residency vary by state, so you must check both state and university regulations where you plan to apply. Generally, the process for becoming a resident is relatively simple, but you must start the process at least one full year before you plan to start taking classes as a full-time student. This means that to get the in-state rate for your first year, you must live and work in the state for a year before starting classes in the college of your choice. The process is a little more detailed than presented here, but certainly well worth investigating in order to save $100,000.

The Bottom Line

Save $25,000/year times 4 = $100,000

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