Virtually every college student as well as college-bound high school junior or senior wants to feel good about their college choice. They’re especially likely to feel better about their school if their college is among the ‘Public Ivies’.

I have written posts about the Public Ivies, and have my own opinion as to which schools deserve such honors. There are people who believe that flagship state universities such as the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia belong in the Public Ivies. If you happen to live in Michigan or Virginia, you’re in luck if you get admitted to the great state school. Non-residents are not so lucky, unless they can pay or qualify for scholarships or need-based aid. The University of Michigan will charge non residents approximately $49,400 in tuition and fees for the current academic year, the University of Virginia charges $48,900. These are not the only highly ranked state schools that charge non-residents in excess of $40,000 for tuition and fees, but they charge the most among any flagship state university in the country.

Public Ivies should not be schools that charge non residents almost as much as a private Ivy League university. It should be a much better value for the money, while delivering excellent results. Public Ivies should be successful at retaining and graduating a freshman class. 

These seven schools do all of that—and have lower direct charges: tuition and fees, room and board—than Michigan or Virginia charge for tuition and fees alone. They also graduate more than 70 percent of a freshman class on time—Georgia Tech is a five-year adventure where the extra year pays off through co-op and/or an advanced degree—which a good private college should be able to do.

  • Binghamton University (NY)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (80 percent five-year graduation rate)
  • St. Mary’s College of Maryland
  • The College of New Jersey
  • University of Delaware
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Binghamton, Georgia Tech, Chapel Hill and Illinois were either Public Ivies or runners-up the first time anyone used the term ‘Public Ivy’ in public. Those four schools are relatively selective, and high test scores will be expected for admission. The College of New Jersey (picture above) offers admission to about half of its applicants, though admissions to the biological sciences and engineering are quite competitive. Delaware has historically offered admission to over half of those who apply. St. Mary’s, considered to be “Maryland’s Public Honors College,” recently accepted over 80 percent of the applicants to its current freshman class. 

These schools are a good value off the sticker price for a non-resident, but their alumni outreach is different. Binghamton delivers the best “bang for the buck.” It has the lowest non-resident charges, and it would be the best pick of the bunch if you wanted to work in the New York City metro area after graduation. But the alumni base is stretched thin after you get out of New York State. Illinois has the largest number of alumni and the most geographically diverse alumni base after you check out each school in LinkedIn. Georgia Tech and Chapel Hill also have strong national alumni bases. Delaware and The College of New Jersey are well networked schools from New York City down to the Baltimore-Washington Corridor. There are more than 6,000 St. Mary’s alumni based in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor, but the base is spread really thin beyond that. 

Could other schools break into this group? 

Here are six “runners-up” that graduate at least two-thirds of their freshmen on time, and charge less for tuition and fees, room and board than Michigan or Virginia charge for tuition and fees alone.

  • Miami University of Ohio
  • Penn State-University Park
  • University of Florida
  • University of Maryland-College Park
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • University of New Hampshire

Among these schools, Florida and Maryland are the only ones that do not accept at least half of the students who apply for admission. Florida’s student body is overwhelmingly in-state. But the other schools attract at least 30 percent of their students from outside their states. Neither Miami nor New Hampshire are exceptionally selective—both offered admission to over two-thirds of their applicants—and they offer non-resident scholarships. 

A Public Ivy does not need to be expensive or selective. But it must do right by as many of its students as possible, not just those who are chosen for the honors program. 

Need help comparing and considering colleges for your list? Contact me at or call me at 609-406-0062.

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