First Impressions: Quinnipiac University (CT)

Quinnipiac University (CT) is a fairly young school with a very interesting history. Located in Hamden, Connecticut, a suburb of New Haven and New York, Quinnipiac University is one of the fastest-growing colleges in the US.  I had the privilege to attend a spring Open House to gather First Impressions and also collected photos for a Pinterest page.

In 1987 this school was known as Quinnipiac College, a locally-known liberal arts school with fewer than 2,000 students. Fast forward thirty years, Quinnipiac University has around 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, including law and medical schools. There are many academic strengths, including the health science programs and several accelerated degree options that let students begin work in graduate school, law school or medical school in the senior year.

With growth came greater responsibility not only for academics, but also for creating a livable campus setting. Quinnipiac University did this on two campuses, Mount Carmel and York Hill; the York Hill campus was built from the ground up including upper-class housing (with its own student center) and the TD Bank Sports Arena. The Mount Carmel campus, the location of the original liberal arts college is a continuing work in progress in a beautiful wooded area.  A third campus in nearby North Haven hosts the law and medical schools as well as the health science programs.

Quinnipiac University is also well invested in career services. Unlike most schools of its size, it has career development offices for each of its undergraduate schools. By comparison, the College of New Jersey, which has about the same number of undergraduates (between 6,500 and 7,000) has only one. The academic preparation is going to be more personal in most programs than it might be at a much larger state university. The coursework and teaching are “as good” as the schools that applicants consider most often such as UConn, Boston University or Fairfield University.

No college is perfect. Quinnipiac University included. This is a very expensive school for most undergraduates, especially in the accelerated programs. The endowment(around $400 million) is small for a school of this size, especially one that has a law school and a medical school. The community, while a fairly well-to-do suburb of New Haven and New York, is not really a college town, and it’s not easy to get into New York from there.

Quinnipiac is a great alternative for a motivated student who might otherwise attend a larger public university–provided that student could afford to be there.

Report Card: Quinnipiac University

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
  • Freshman Retention: B+
  • Curriculum: A
  • Costs: D
  • Comforts: B+
  • Community: B
  • Connections: B+

Check out my First Impressions of Quinnipiac University!

Check out the Quinnipiac University Pinterest Page!



Did Villanova University ‘Rise’ or ‘Fall’ in the US News Rankings?

If you’re a college basketball fan, its no doubt that you know that Villanova University was the 2016 National Champion in the NCAA Men’s Final Four. I have no doubt that Villanova will see more applications for admission this year—from college basketball fans, for sure—because winning certainly helps to get out the good word about a university, especially when it has more games to air its commercials.

In prior years Villanova University used to finish first in another ranking: its class in the US News Best Colleges Guide.  Villanova has been classified as a Regional University-North, the best school in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that grants few doctorates, although it has graduate programs in business, education, engineering, law and nursing, among other subjects. In most cases a regional school is one that largely draws its student body from the region where it is located. The vast majority of the alumni live and/or work in that region.

But in the 2017 US News Best Colleges Guide, Villanova was reclassified as a National Research University. Moved there, it ranked 50th, tied with Pepperdine, Penn State-University Park as well as the University of Florida. Villanova is now in the same group as not only state universities; it’s also ranked against Ivies and other private colleges that also grant advanced degrees. In prior years schools such as Boston College and Fordham were thought to be regional schools. Today both attract students from all over the US. These schools are recognized as National Research Universities. The people who put the US News guide together now think the same of Villanova.

Is this “good” or “bad” for Villanova?

It’s probably good.

Among religiously-affiliated National Research Universities, Villanova tied for fifth with Pepperdine behind Notre Dame (tied #15), Georgetown (tied #20), Wake Forest (tied #27) and Boston College (#31). That’s quite impressive considering that Villanova has a much lower endowment (just over $550 million) than all of them. Even Pepperdine, which has half as many undergraduates (3,500 vs. 7,000) as Villanova has over $200 million more in endowment resources, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Among other schools that are likely cross-shops, Villanova ranked below Lehigh University (#44) but well above Drexel (#96) and Temple (#118). Drexel has a larger endowment and grants a larger variety of degrees. Temple is cash-poorer in the endowment, but it is state-related and also far less expensive school that grants a larger variety of degrees than Villanova. Villanova also ranked ahead of George Washington University (#56) and Syracuse University (tied #60), both of which have more resources.

It’s pretty amazing that a school can be reclassified into a group whose members have far more resources, yet also be given serious respect from the peoples who decide the ranking.

Is Villanova then “as good” as Penn State and better than the universities that rank below?

It depends on what a college-bound student wants from a college.

There’s a much larger choice of majors at Penn State, including many that are not likely to ever be offered at Villanova. There’s also a public honors college that is among the best in its class. Penn State is in Central Pennsylvania, 90 minutes from Harrisburg, the nearest city. The Villanova campus is just a short train ride—there are two stations there—from Center City Philadelphia. Penn State has other campuses as well as an online university to take classes while taking an internship or at home for the summer. Villanova has one campus. Penn State is a “football school” that also has dominant women’s volleyball and fencing programs. Villanova is a “basketball school” that has also produced track and field Olympians. You can walk the Villanova campus end to end in less than a half hour. You won’t get a third of the way around Penn State in the same amount of time.

I have visited Villanova many times myself not only to tour but also to attend a regional college fair as well as sports events. If you were to ask me if it was a “good school,” I would say yes. The campus is very nice. The business, education and engineering programs are more personal and hands on than those you will find at a state school. Villanova students I have met are quite bright and motivated. The school has added housing, which solved a major problem of the past. The major downsides are the cost and limited resources for financial aid. There’s also a nickname “Villa no fun.” I’ll leave prospective students and parents the opportunity to discuss that with the students who are already there.

Villanova retains 95 percent of a freshman class, excellent for a National Research University, and reports a four-year graduation rate of 87 percent. This says a lot for the admissions office as well as Villanova students. To give perspective, Villanova has about the same number of undergraduates as Harvard, around 7,000 total, yet it has a slightly better graduation rate (87 percent to 86 percent). Villanova also has a better graduation rate (87 to 86 percent) than Duke, a far more selective school that’s had more success in men’s basketball.

This new ranking is a national coming out party for Villanova. Not only are the students and alumni more proud coming off a basketball championship; the admissions, career development and alumni offices get to boast that their university is more than “a Philadelphia college.” That may be the real win for the school.


Is the College of William & Mary a ‘Public Ivy’ or ‘Duke At a Discount?’

Last week I “picked on” the University of Virginia and its non-resident charges. This week I would like to take a look at the College of William & Mary, a school that I visited several years ago before founding this site. William & Mary is a great school. It was on my list 40 years ago. A visit to Williamsburg is always fun for this history buff. Not to mention that it is the second-oldest college in the United States, after Harvard. Back in “my day” growing up in Central New Jersey, the College of William & Mary was on the lists of many bright high school students. It was, and still is, a much smaller school than Rutgers, our state university. It was, and still is, a nice “middle ground” in size between a small liberal arts college and a very big state university.

The College of William & Mary used to be a very good buy for non-residents as well as Virginians. Today, its on the high side. This year Virginians will be asked to pay over $21,000 in tuition and fees before financial aid is considered; non-residents will be asked to pay just over $42,000. The college has made a promise that resident students will pay the same tuition and fees each year for four years. In order to make that happen each freshman class gets hit with a large price increase over the class that entered the year before. The non-residents pay more each year, too.

The College of William & Mary considers itself to be one of America’s “original eight Public Ivies.” It has every right to make that claim; a former Yale admissions professional, Richard Moll, gave it to the school in a book that was published three decades ago. In terms of undergraduate student body size—William & Mary has 6,300 undergraduates—it is closer to an Ivy than any highly-selective state school. It has about the same number as Brown and fewer than either Columbia or Harvard as well as Cornell and Penn. Duke, Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt are also similar in size to William & Mary.

It would be fair to say that the College of William & Mary is a Public Ivy—for Virginians who can get in. While it has a graduate programs in business and education as well as a law school, it is primarily an undergraduate college. That cannot be said of Columbia, Harvard, Penn and Yale where the majority of students are in the graduate and professional schools. William and Mary is primarily a liberal arts school,. It reports that nearly 90 percent of undergraduates earn a degree from its College of Arts and Sciences although the school also has undergraduate programs in business and education.

It would be foolish to presume that every Virginian who applied to William & Mary and an Ivy or a school such as Duke would get a better deal to choose the private school. Even if the average need-based scholarship (also called “gift aid”) equalled full tuition and fees, the majority of awards are not likely to bring the private school’s charges down to the resident charges of the public school. My guess is that William & Mary would be the lower-cost option between 80 and 90 percent of the time. That could also be true for those who are considering William & Mary vs. Richmond or Washington and Lee.

Non-residents who must consider costs, however, might want to look elsewhere. The College of William & Mary not only charges a high price for non-resident tuition and fees; it is also a school that does not usually meet a family’s full financial need.

In 2015, according to its 2015-16 Common Data Set, the college determined that just over 40 percent of the freshmen who applied for need-based financial aid were not determined to have need. Of those who were determined to have need, the college met, on average, 79 percent of need. This included Virginians and non-residents.  It is fair to say however, that the majority of those determined to have no need are more likely to be Virginians; they are already paying a lower price. However, the private schools that are most likely to be shopped against William & Mary are among those that try to meet a family’s full need, residency being a non issue. Duke, as a comparison, determined that 81 percent of their 2015 freshmen who applied for need-based aid were qualified for aid. Duke met 100 percent of need. If costs are an issue for a non-Virginian, s/he might have a chance of paying less to go to Duke, if s/he got in.

William & Mary is a less selective school than Duke. It offered admission to just over a third of those who applied to join last year’s freshman class. Duke accepted fewer than 15 percent of those who want to come. When I look at admissions and financial aid numbers for these two schools, I have to wonder if the non-Virginian who comes to William & Mary is likely to be someone who has the means to pay their way, but did not get into a more selective school such as an Ivy or Duke. For these students the College of William & Mary did not need to be “Duke at a Discount.” But they certainly believed that the school was a Public Ivy. For the nonresidents who qualified for admission but also had need, the college was more likely to have let them down. William & Mary could not be their Public Ivy.

The College of William & Mary can certainly call itself a Public Ivy. It is public and more similar to some private Ivies and their kin than a school such as the University of Virginia or the University of Michigan. However, I still have a tough time calling a school a Public Ivy when it charges nonresidents about as much as they would pay to attend a private one while not being as generous with need-based financial aid.


Profile: Grove City College (PA)

Grove City College (PA) was the last of four schools that I visited during a trip to the Pittsburgh area in early May. I chose to visit this school out of curiosity. It is one of at least three small private colleges that refuse to accept Federal funds, Hillsdale College (MI) and Principia College (IA) being the others. I gathered a lot of information, enough to write a profile. I also found many pictures of one of the more beautiful campuses that I have visited that were posted on a Pinterest page.

Grove City College is Christian, though not affiliated with a denomination of the Catholic Church, as schools such as Holy Cross, Duquesne and Notre Dame are so aligned. Unlike many schools that claim a Christian affiliation, Grove City does not require its incoming students to sign a Declaration of Faith. While they must attend campus-wide programs throughout their education, they are given a selection to choose from, not all tied to Christianity. The college has admitted students of other faiths during its history. However, students who have a Christian identity will be happiest here. The marketing of the college has been targeted most strongly towards them.

Grove City College is divided into the Hopeman School of Science which hosts the engineering, science and mathematics programs and the Calderwood School of Arts and Letters which houses all of the liberal arts majors as well as business and education. The enrollment is almost evenly split between the two schools. Grove City College is also known through the media for being a school founded on conservative political views and free-market economic principles. These are more prominent in the curriculum than they might be at other liberal arts colleges. They reflect beliefs that have been deeply held by faculty and trustees for decades.

Grove City College’s business practices are conservative, too, to the extent that, by refusing Federal financial aid or research grants, the college has made a statement that its leadership sets the direction and policies for the school, not the US government. As a result the college has taken the lead to maintain a low sticker price for a small private school as well as to provide scholarships, loans and jobs to students who have demonstrated need. It has also tried to be fiscally sound in managing its endowment and expenses as it upgrades academic programs, facilities and services.

Grove City College students are required to live on campus in single-sex dormitories all four years of college. This is part of a 3-part standard that students must agree to uphold during their time as students (in place of the declaration of faith) and helps to foster such a strong sense of community. But students also have the option to rush college-based fraternities that must prove their worth to the campus community. This is not a common practice at other religiously-affiliated colleges; most have neither fraternities nor sororities.

The career services are among the best that you will find at a small (around 2,500 students) college. Career services are a combination of finding a calling, leadership development, workshops and networking on and off campus. The college will attract nearly 200 employers each semester to job fairs, impressive for a school that graduates only 600 seniors each year. The connections that students can make, especially in Western Pennsylvania and the Midwest, are as impressive as those that could be made at schools that have stronger brand recognition.

Grove City College does an excellent job of recruiting and retaining the students it attracts. The facilities and academic support are impressive for a school of this size. The quality of life on campus, meaning residence halls and dining, is very high. The education is a life-enhancing experience for students who have either a strong commitment or at least a budding curiosity about their Christian faith.

No college is perfect, including this one. Those who have neither the commitment nor the curiosity might not be comfortable being part of a small minority. The same might be true of students who would prefer to attend a college that is closer to a larger city that offers diversions from campus life. Grove City College has a tight knit community where students are likely to feel safe. However, the location is quite isolated.

Report Card for Grove City College

  • Four-Year/Six Year Graduation Rates: A
  • Freshman Retention : A
  • Costs: B+/A for students more likely to be “full pay” at a state university
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: B+
  • Comforts: A
  • Connections: A

Check out my profile of Grove City College!

Check out my Grove City College Pinterest page!


America’s ‘Public Ivy’ Schools That Play By the ‘Virginia Rule’

It’s time to bring back a regular post about Public Ivy schools. Last time I wrote such a post I evaluated large state universities, some historically called Public Ivy schools, by a “Virginia Rule.”

Each school that I believed to be a Public Ivy had to charge less for all direct charges—tuition and fees, room and board—than the University of Virginia, the quintessential Public Ivy, charges for tuition and fees alone.

This year the University of Virginia will charge non-resident students just over $45,000 for tuition and fees, more than many flagship state universities charge for everything that a family would see on a term bill for an incoming freshman: tuition and fees, room and board. The university has estimated that its Total Cost of Attendance for a non-resident student is between $60,100 and $61,200, depending on the program where s/he is enrolled. This is about twice the charges for a Virginian to come.

It’s not that I don’t like the University of Virginia. It was one of the schools that piqued my interest when I was in high school. I also took a long look at the university when I applied to graduate programs in urban planning. If I was a Virginian, it would be at the top of my list, the application marked Early Action.

There are three understandable reasons why the University of Virginia charges non-residents so much.

It has a far smaller undergraduate student body than other “brand name” state universities such as the University of California-Berkeley or the University of Michigan.

The University of Virginia about 17,000 undergraduates 10,000 fewer than either Berkeley or Michigan and about 1,000 more than Cornell, the largest Ivy League school. In this sense the University of Virginia is closer to an Ivy than the larger schools.

It can get the money from non-residents who want to come. 

The University of Virginia gets around 30 percent of its undergraduate population from outside the state.  It has recruited non residents longer than most state universities. The University of Virginia’s founding dates back to 1819. It’s easy for someone from New York or Atlanta to drive to the campus in a half day’s drive.

Among the students who entered the University of Virginia in 2015, less than half of those who applied for need-based financial aid were determined to have financial need, according to the school’s 2015-16 Common Data Set. The university also states that it will meet 100 percent of demonstrated need, by their calculations. But it is clear that it wants students who have need to pay more than they probably want to.

There are other fine schools in Virginia.

Virginia has the best selection of public options for higher education in the United States. Aside from the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech, James Madison University, the University of Mary Washington and Christopher Newport University do a fine job of graduating a freshman class on time. The sizes of these schools vary from around 4,000 undergraduates (Mary Washington) to nearly 30,000 (Virginia Tech). Unlike California, for example, or Michigan where the options are all very large schools, Virginians have the options of small and large public colleges. There are also two excellent, well-endowed selective private schools in the state: the University of Richmond and Washington and Lee University that compete very strongly with the public schools.

Now let’s set hard and fast rules for a Virginia Rule school.

  • It must be a National Research University like the University of Virginia. The Ivy League schools are also National Research Universities;
  • If the school is to attract the same students that would consider the University of Virginia as well as Ivy League schools it should also have an honors college;
  • Like the University of Virginia, the school should be making a sincere effort to attract non-residents;
  • The school should retain 89 percent or better of a freshman class and graduate at least 75 percent of the class within six years; and,
  • It should charge an incoming out-of-state student less for all direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board) than the University of Virginia does for tuition and fees alone.

These rules left me with a short “short list” of Virginia Rule schools. They included:

  • Binghamton University (NY)
  • Clemson University (SC)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Miami University of Ohio
  • Purdue University (IN)
  • Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NJ)
  • Stony Brook University (NY)
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Virginia Tech

With the exception of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, none of these schools is more selective than the University of Virginia. The others have honors colleges that often attract similar students. Admittedly this is a very short list, and my cost cut-off forced me to leave off some excellent state universities.

If someone was to tell me that a state university should give a large cost priority to residents of the home state, I would not argue. College-bound students in Virginia are certainly getting good value for their money from their flagship university as well as other public colleges in their state. But I have a problem when a state university that has been historically identified as a Public Ivy charges non-residents as much as a private Ivy. It sends a bad signal to those non-residents who want to come but cannot afford to unless they have help from the school.