Are Public Ivies Really Worth It?


The term “public ivy” was coined by Richard Moll in his 1985 book, “Public Ivys: A Guide to America’s best public undergraduate colleges and universities,” wherein he recognized that quite a number of state universities provide a level of education comparable to what students receive at traditional Ivy League schools.

FloridaSpecifically, these schools (according to Moll) have the academic excellence of an Ivy League university as well as the general “feel” for being on an Ivy campus.

Moll recognized Rutgers (New Brunswick), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ohio State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, several campuses belonging to the University of California system, and others as being part of this elite group of schools. The advantage to the student attending these schools is that they should receive a similar level of education at, let’s say, the University of Delaware (Newark) or the University of Wisconsin (Madison) as they would receive at Princeton, Cornell, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Penn, Columbia or Dartmouth. And, instead of paying what averages between $40-50,000 annually for tuition, room and board and related expenses, the public ivys would provide a similar learning experience for a fraction of that price.

But are public ivys really worth it? That question can probably be answered in a number of different ways, depending on a number of factors including:

You will be attending an in state public ivy — If you live in North Carolina and are accepted as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then your educational costs will be quite reasonable whether you live on campus or commute from home. Most states heavily subsidize tuition, especially for state residents, which means that UNC can be much cheaper to attend than Duke or some other private university. So in this particular case, the answer would be yes.

You will be attending an out-of-state public university — Students from other states who wish to attend UNC can easily find their costs doubled. While the typical UNC student who lives in North Carolina may pay about $16,000 before financial aid is considered, the average out of state attendee would pay about $33,000. Though approximately 20% cheaper than most Ivy Schools, students may not find the added cost to be worth it.

A third option — Of course, if you are a student desiring to attend a public ivy in another state, you could trim your expenditures through grants, scholarships and other forms of financial aid. In addition, students could move to the other state, establish residency and possibly see a reduction in costs in later years depending on how the state qualifies residents.

Many students have attended public ivys and have gone on to lead successful and influential lives, finding that attending a state level school was an enriching experience, every bit as rewarding as what an education at an Ivy school would have provided to them.

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Categories: Academics