Jkenny asks about the apparent popularity of in-state colleges among her graduating class: Is it purely financial?
Well, pretty much. The difference between attending an in-state and out-of-state school is even greater than the 300-400% increased tuition. You also have to consider the cost of travel – and if not living on campus, the cost of moving (or buying) furniture. Local colleges & universities also offer the possibility of living at home. I know, I know – that isn’t what high school students are looking forward to, but in a practical sense the money saved there could mean the difference between being able to afford tuition or not.
So when choosing a school, the question of why should be applied first to the more expensive choice. What makes it better? Is the school particularly well-known for the major you want to study? Just because a school has a good general reputation doesn’t mean that the department you want to be in is particularly strong. If one doesn’t even know his/her intended major, it is almost impossible to pick a best school and even makes some sense to just pick the cheapest school until you figure out what you want to study and where to transfer to.
Of course, much of college and the quality of education is what one makes of it. If the student reads extra books outside of class, spends time discussing concepts with the professors during office hours, and joins campus professional groups, they’ll get a lot more out of it than someone who spends more just to get by on the minimum amount of effort.