Are Public Colleges a Hedge Against Rampaging Tuition Costs?

Jaime Dalbke

Only a few years ago, many college applicants regarded state universities as discount-priced "safety schools" that they could fall back on if other schools rejected them.

That scenario is quickly changing. Here are some of the reasons why . . .

Tens of thousands more students are applying to state schools. According to The Boston Globe, 2008 applications for early admission to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst surged 29 percent over the previous year. The same article also reports that applications to Framingham State and Westfield State increased by more than 40 percent in that same year. And according to one source at the University of Massachusetts, applications are just as heavy this year, and many applicants are going to be disappointed.

It makes sense. When a parent loses a job or the family house lurches toward foreclosure, the first words that come to mind are, "State School." The result is that state schools are fielding many more applications than they did in past years.

Admission to state schools has become more competitive. According to data on, a Website that compiles statistics on college applications, about 53 percent of applicants to Florida State University were rejected last year. Those statistics don't put Florida State in the ultra-competitive admissions category (top-tier universities can reject as many as 90 percent of applicants). But make no mistake about it - admission to a state schools is no longer a given, even for state residents.

Tuition at state schools is predicted to rise. A recent CNN article, "Tuition at Public Colleges and University Skyrockets" reports that "Tuition at many public colleges and universities is skyrocketing, thanks to state budget deficits that have choked off funding for higher education." The article further reports that tuition will jump between 10 and 15 percent at the universities of Florida, Nevada and Washington. And the University of California expects to raise tuition by as much as 30 percent, thanks to the state's budgetary shortfalls.

So are state universities still the safe, economical choices that they once were? Yes, but the window seems to be closing on the opportunity to take advantage of this educational bargain.

A better choice? It might be a good time to investigate sources of online college course instruction.

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