I live in New Jersey, a state that most college-bound students prefer to leave for college. But when New Jersey students choose to leave the Garden State, they usually don’t venture far.
New York and Philadelphia, across rivers to the north and south, are popular destinations. I get that. New Jersey does not have a city like New York or Philadelphia. The University of Delaware is the top choice of the residents who leave. But you can go from Newark, Delaware to New Jersey in less than 40 minutes. The furthest north they’re likely to travel: Boston. The furthest south: James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, two hours southwest of Washington DC. Westward is a huge exception: Garden Staters will leapfrog past Pittsburgh all the way to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Does the journey really pay for those who choose to leave? Sometimes it does.
Anyone from New Jersey who chooses one of the 25 most popular out-of-state destinations will probably fare fine if they have to connect with alumni who can help them close to home, or in a destination city for life after college.
Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington DC are great college towns. They are among the best and most popular cities for young people to live and work after college. Why not go to college in a place where you are likely to stay after you graduate?
Other schools have a large alumni base in these cities. Quinnipiac (#23), Cornell (#18), Syracuse (#8) and Penn State (#2) certainly qualify. The University of Michigan has very large alumni communities in New York (the #2 metro area after Detroit, according to LinkedIn.com) as well as San Francisco, Washington DC and Boston. The University of Rhode Island (#12) is more regional. But it also has large alumni communities in Boston, New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia, and Providence is not far away. The James Madison University (VA and #14) communities in those cities are even larger.
But sometimes I get concerned. The University of Maine (UMaine), for example, has a Flagship Match Rate for New Jersey residents. Students who meet a set of academic standards that would likely place them in the lower quarter of the admitted pool at Rutgers-New Brunswick will pay no more in tuition and fees than they would pay to their flagship state university. UMaine also charges, on average, about $2,100 less for room and board than Rutgers. The university’s merit scholarships information does not mention if non-residents from New Jersey are also considered for merit awards. If so, UMaine’s charges would be less than they would pay to stay in-state. The major difference, if any, for a New Jersey resident to go to UMaine versus Rutgers is likely to be transportation to and from home.
Does it pay to take the deal? It depends.
Orono, Maine is over eight hours from Central New Jersey, where I live. When I checked their alumni base in LinkedIn.com, I found that over half of the alumni are from Boston or Maine, and Boston is nearly four hours away by car. There were fewer than 2,000 alumni based in or around New York City and less than 1,000 in or around Philadelphia. The University of Rhode Island, to compare, has over 10,000 alumni in or around New York and nearly 11,000 in or around Boston.
If you were a New Jersey resident who was looking to a university to help make connections in a major northeastern city for internships or a full-time job immediately after graduation, there are better choices than UMaine.
But if you were looking at a school to offer an honors opportunity and smaller classes, want an attractive and less intimidating campus setting and plan to go on for further education, UMaine might be a good choice as well as a good value for the money. But don’t expect to come home too often during the school year.
UMaine is far from the only school that would like to have more students from New Jersey. But it illustrates a point: you have to think about why you want to leave the state for college, even when an out-of-state school makes it worthwhile. It’s one thing to be headed towards a destination where you would like to stay after graduation. It’s another to just say that you want to get out of town.