Paying for College

Going "Ivy" on A Budget

Got a quarter-million bucks to shell out for an Ivy League degree? Well, first you have to get in, but let's not worry about that right now. Single-digit acceptance rates aside, the prestige factor of an Ivy League degree has driven many families and students into massive long-term debt. Some never recover and some never seem to recoup that level of "investment." What's the alternative? What if you want a top-notch education but have neither the cash to pay nor the desire to strap on the millstone of debt?

Well, Edward Fiske has selected his group of so-called "Budget Ivies." As the his press release explains, "For families whose income has remained stagnant during the recession or dropped dramatically due to unemployment, tuition costs are likely to be near the top of list when considering which college their child will attend. Tuition and fees rose on average about 6 percent at U.S. colleges and universities (both public and private) between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school year, according to the College Board. Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,000 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students and $11,500 for out-of-state. Private four-year colleges charge, on average, $26,000 per year in tuition and fees." Not a pretty picture.

The curves on the above graph should shock you. What possible justification can colleges have for such a rate of increase? American families and their progeny need relief. Apparently, that's what Fiske has tried to provide with his Budget Ivies list. Let's see which schools made the cut.

First, though, who is Edward Fiske? For those of you who never heard of him, here's some background:

Edward B. Fiske, the founder and editor of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, is a former Education Editor of the New York Times who is known around the world for his writing on topics ranging from trends in American higher education to primary school reform in Southeast Asia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Fiske is a regular contributor to the International Herald-Tribune. In addition to the New York Times, his articles and book reviews have appeared in American Prospect, Atlantic Monthly, Education Week, Chronicle of Higher Education, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New Republic and other national publications. He has received numerous awards for education reporting.

Now, for Fiske's Budget Ivies and his supporting rationale:


* College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State Univ.) is a former teacher's college that has remade itself into a selective university stressing the liberal arts, business and accounting, and is a perennial in the “best buys" category.

* College of William and Mary is the original public Ivy with strong history, government and international studies departments.


* The University of Georgia's Hope Scholarship gives in-state students with a 3.0 GPA free tuition, and the school boasts strong business and journalism programs (along with the quintessential college town of Athens)

* Florida State University has built its popularity in football recently, but also features one of the best motion picture schools in the country.


* The University of Iowa is a bargain compared with other Big Ten schools and is world-famous for its creative writing program.

* Miami University in Ohio gives the impression of an elite private university with a strong business program.


* The University of Oregon may be the best deal in public higher education on the West Coast with noted liberal arts, business and communications programs, and a manageable size in a great location.

* The University of Washington is the Pacific Northwest's leading research university and is strong in pre-professional studies, but remains tough for out-of-state admission.


* University of Arizona is the best value for out-of-state students with strong engineering and honors programs, and appeal for outdoor enthusiasts.

* The University of Texas-Austin is still one of the cheapest major universities in the country with a focus on business, engineering and Latin American studies.


I posted this information on the College Confidential discussion forum. If you would like to see the effect of prestige vs. economic sense, check out some of the comments Fiske's list drew. Examples:

- bwwwaaaaaah.....oh puhleeze. Its another broad brush approach and cynical attempt to sell books. While there are some fine schools listed, and I dont knock any college.....some of those larger schools are hard to get in, but once there, the undergraduate programs are not all that strong. Graduate research is another matter all together.

blah blah blah.

- Oh please, Budget Ivy League? More like Kudzu League (UG, UF), Crabgrass League (UI, UO, C of NJ), or Cactus League.

- William & Mary is the only school on the list that deserves to be in the same sentence as 'Ivy League.' And I thought College of NJ meant Rutgers ... sadly not. This list is bogus.

- I laughed, too. Some of these schools are VERY hard to get into, especially from out of state. That is all.

- FSU?!!?!?! FSU?!?!? Yea rightttt. Half my high schools 3.0 GPA students went there. Ivy League is Ivy League. There are a few top schools around: Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc. But you CANNOT put "FSU" in the same category. The quality of students is just not the same.

- So much elitism in one thread. Is it really necessary to bash state schools? Fiske is saying that these schools provide high quality educations at low prices - hence the name "Budget Ivy League".

- Add me to the list of those who find the level of arrogance and elitism in this thread (and may other threads) to be nothing short of disgusting.

- Why do people feel the need to bash just because there's the term "Ivy League" in Fiske's title for these schools? No one is saying that these schools are in the same league as Ivies. The put-downs in this thread really show how ignorant some people are.


Regardless of which side of the prestige fence you're on, Fiske is merely trying to bring to the fore some schools that many families and high schoolers overlook simply because they are not "Tier 1" schools. Folks, open your wallets and take a good look inside. What do you see? Moths emerging or a Las Vegas wad?

To paraphrase Smokey the Bear, only you can prevent long-term debt. Think about it.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.