sizing up the BIG STATE SCHOOLS Under budget pressure, the publics fight to maintain quality.
By LESLEY ALDERMAN Reporter associate: Leslie Marable

(MONEY Magazine) – America's public colleges and universities still offer some of the best bargains in higher education, despite being caught in a painful squeeze. Demand has never been greater -- the nearly 600 state-supported four-year schools educate 5.8 million, or 68%, of the 8.6 million students pursuing bachelor's degrees today, up from 5.2 million a decade ago. And society depends more than ever on public schools to provide upward mobility for young people. Yet the states, reeling from the recession, are growing stingier. Appropriations for this academic year will total $40 billion, a drop of $72 million from 1991-92, the first-ever overall cut. As a result, public colleges hiked their prices last year by 14% -- double the increase at private schools -- and many are expected to impose another double-digit boost this year. At the same time, budget problems have forced widespread cuts in course offerings and faculty. Because of those cutbacks, students are finding it harder to get into the courses they want, and many classes are more crowded. Over the long term, some experts, like Katharine Lyall, president of the University of Wisconsin system, fear that financial pressures may eventually force strapped state schools to switch from full- service curriculums, embracing everything from astrophysics to zoology, to the bare-bones basics -- the college equivalent of the three Rs. Says Lyall: ''There is no doubt that students will have less choice, less convenience and a more generic brand of education.'' Despite the growing austerity, don't scratch public schools from your list of prospective colleges. They are still only about a fifth as expensive as private schools, a key factor for many families. For example, Eunice Lee, 21, pictured at left, chose Ohio State over Princeton and Duke because of its low cost. And over the next few years at least, ''even with cutbacks and layoffs, the publics will continue to have strong faculty and resources and a tremendous variety of course offerings and activities,'' says C. Peter Magrath, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land- Grant Colleges. Indeed, seven of MONEY's top 10 college values are public schools. But you will have to check out a state-supported school carefully; for example, you will want to be sure the subjects that interest your child will continue to be taught. Starting on the next page, you'll find profiles of the 10 state systems with the largest undergraduate enrollments, listed in descending order of size. We also provide vital statistics (using estimates supplied by state officials where necessary).

California Number of campuses: University of California, 9; Cal State University, 20

Undergraduate enrollment: UC: 125,417, 4% from out of state; CSU: 287,815, 2.4% from out of state

State spending per student: UC: $6,000 (estimate); CSU: $5,937 (both figures include graduate students and undergraduates)

Undergraduate tuition and fees: UC: $3,036 for residents, $10,735 for nonresidents; CSU: $1,308 for residents, $7,380 for nonresidents (estimates)

Increase over last year: UC: 22% for residents and nonresidents; CSU: 40% for residents, none for nonresidents (estimates)

Budget change from last year: UC: down 10%; CSU: down 8% (estimates)

Prominent campuses: University of California at Berkeley (21,717 undergraduates), University of California at Los Angeles (24,426)

Worth a special look: Humboldt State (6,814 undergraduates), University of California at Santa Cruz (9,327)

California is mired in a statewide economic slump that could pinch public schools for the remainder of the decade. ''This crisis will be here for some time,'' says Warren Fox, executive director of California's Post-Secondary Education Commission. ''Higher education funding is not going to keep pace with growing demand for places in the system.'' Already, there have been severe cutbacks at both the UC system, which accepts Californians who graduate in the top eighth of their high school classes, and Cal State, which admits residents who graduate in the top third of their classes. (California, like most other states, does not have specific statewide guidelines for out-of-state applicants. In general, however, to be admitted, they must exceed the standards applied to state residents.) Last year, UC encouraged 672 of its 11,000 faculty members to retire early. And Cal State cut 3,000 faculty positions from its roster of 19,000 and 5,000 of its 55,000 course sections. Staff reductions will probably continue at a similar pace this year. Because of this retrenchment, many students now need six or seven years to take all of the courses required for their degrees. ''There are not enough course sections to cover demand,'' says James Semelroth, a staff member of the California Faculty Association, who jokes that ''students still get into the system, but they can't get out.'' < Humboldt State and UC-Santa Cruz remain two attractive mid-size alternatives to the state's larger campuses. ''Historically these two schools have had a greater commitment to quality undergraduate education than the bigger universities have had,'' says Martin Nemko, a consultant on higher education in Oakland.

Texas Number of campuses: 37

Undergraduate enrollment: 316,873, 6.4% from out of state

State spending per student: $4,836 (undergraduate and graduate)

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $1,274 for residents, $5,414 for nonresidents (charges vary by campus; both figures are averages)

Increase over last year: 20% for residents, 27% for nonresidents

Budget change from last year: None

Prominent campuses: University of Texas at Austin (34,982 undergraduates), Texas A&M (33,024)

Worth a special look: Plan II at the University of Texas at Austin (an honors program with 650 undergraduates)

During the past six years, total enrollment in the University of Texas system has grown by 46,636 to 407,688, but appropriations have not kept pace; state spending per student has dropped 20% during that period. And while Texas has managed to avoid drastic cuts in faculty and curriculums, it has had to reduce faculty salaries, trim library acquisitions and eliminate course sections. The Texas system's tuition, however, is still among the lowest of any in the country: Only two states (Idaho and North Carolina) charged less last year. The budget pressures will make it tougher for students to find a place at the state's two largest campuses, University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M, which have hiked admissions standards to prevent enrollments from climbing further. Young Texans must now graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes if they want to be guaranteed a spot at Austin, for example, up from the top 25% in 1987. Several of Austin's supercompetitive programs, including those in architecture, business and engineering, impose even higher standards. At Austin, students looking for the most demanding courses can seek admission to the honors program, Plan II, at the same time that they apply to the university. Most of those accepted into Plan II are A students with average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of 1,340. They must also have strong recommendations from high school teachers and submit a separate essay (this - year's topic: ''Describe a situation where your beliefs were challenged''). Plan II classes are small -- 16 to 18 students in the average seminar and only 50 in the typical lecture -- and are taught by some of the campus' most accomplished profs.

New York

Number of campuses: State University of New York: 22; City University of New York: 10

Undergraduate enrollment: SUNY: 127,633, 4.7% from out of state; CUNY: 81,623, 6.1% from out of state

State spending per student: SUNY: $5,956 (undergraduate); CUNY: $5,411 (undergraduate and graduate)

Undergraduate tuition and fees: SUNY: $2,905 for residents, $6,805 for nonresidents (averages); CUNY: $2,504 for resident freshmen, $2,254 for residents enrolled prior to fall 1992, $4,104 for nonresidents (averages)

Increase over last year: SUNY: 23% for residents, 14% for nonresidents; CUNY: 32% for freshman residents, 19% for upperclassmen, none for nonresidents

Budget change from last year: SUNY: down 6.4%; CUNY: down 10.7%

Prominent campuses: SUNY: Albany (13,553 undergraduates), Binghamton (8,928), Buffalo (17,263) and Stony Brook (11,549); CUNY: City College (11,448)

Worth a special look: SUNY: Geneseo (5,166 undergraduates), Purchase (4,225); CUNY: Lehman College (8,517)

During the past three years, tuitions have doubled at both the State University of New York and the City University. CUNY came up with a novel way to soften this year's hike: Incoming freshmen will be hit with a 32% increase but get their last semesters as seniors free; all other students will pay 19% more in tuition. By contrast, at SUNY, the 23% tuition increase hit all students equally. Mainly as a result of the tuition surge, SUNY, which placed three schools on MONEY's 1990 list of America's top 10 college values, placed only one school on last year's list and none at all on this year's. Even at the higher prices, however, SUNY's modest-size research universities -- Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook -- rank among America's best, with topnotch faculty and bright students. And while SUNY is pruning less popular departments across the state, Buffalo opened a new 76,000 square-foot student union building in the spring. Students looking for a small-college experience might consider SUNY Purchase, known for its stellar performing and visual arts curriculums, or Geneseo, which boasts a highly regarded liberal arts program. At CUNY's Lehman College, students pursue degrees in, most notably, the health professions, performing arts and teacher training, on a surprisingly bucolic 37-acre campus in the Bronx.


Number of campuses: 13

Undergraduate enrollment: 219,639, 9.6% from out of state

State spending per undergraduate: $3,011

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $2,410 to $3,987 for residents, $3,742 to $8,621 for nonresidents (estimates)

Increase over last year: 8% (estimate)

Budget change from last year: Down 3% (estimate)

Prominent campus: Ohio State (46,694 undergraduates)

Worth a special look: Western College Program at Miami University (240 undergraduates)

Ohio lopped 4% from its higher education budget last year and will trim another 3% this year. One sign of the times: 164 acres of grass on the Ohio State campus will not be mowed this year. Academic areas, however, are being trimmed. For example, Ohio State, where Eunice Lee, pictured on page 18, is a senior, plans to eliminate 750 of its 12,000-person faculty and staff. ''The quantity and quality of what's available to students is deteriorating,'' says Linda Ogden, a spokesman for the Ohio Board of Regents. In July, a state task force report proposed several steps for dealing with ''fiscal constraints,'' including increased use of technology in classrooms and less course duplication. To boost productivity, it suggests, ''contracts for both faculty and administrators should be performance-based.'' Despite the budget crunch, Ohio still boasts two standout, mid-size campuses. Educators count one of them, Miami University (14,314 undergraduates) in Oxford, among the public Ivies -- the nation's best state schools. The average class size is 22, and most senior professors teach undergraduates. Miami students can enroll in Western College, whose 240 young men and women enjoy even smaller classes taught by specially assigned faculty and who live in the same cluster of buildings. Ohio's other notable mid-size school, Ohio University (15,013 undergraduates) in Athens, offers B.A. programs in 304 subjects -- more than even mammoth Ohio State -- on a leafy campus dotted with Georgian-style brick buildings.


Number of campuses: 15

Undergraduate enrollment: 202,018, 8.1% from out of state

| State spending per student: $4,012 (undergraduate and graduate)

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $2,474 to $4,448 for residents, $4,519 to $14,762 for nonresidents (estimates)

Increase over last year: 6% to 14%, depending on campus

Budget change from last year: Up 0.5%

Prominent campus: University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (23,201 undergraduates)

Worth a special look: The three residential colleges at Michigan State

State spending on Michigan's public universities actually rose 3.8% last year and will hold almost steady this year. And while there have been some minor cuts in academic programs, over the next few years students will probably not face the kind of drastic reductions in faculty and course offerings that have plagued other state systems. That stability comes at a price, however: Michigan's tuition is among the highest of all public schools. And Bruce Montgomery, associate director of the President's Council, State Universities of Michigan, believes that the system will have to increase its tuition faster than inflation in coming years to maintain its current quality. Michigan is the land of the giants: Five campuses have more than 20,000 students and nine have more than 10,000. At Michigan State (33,684 undergraduates) in East Lansing, students can seek shelter from the crowds at one of the school's three fine residential colleges, where students both live and take classes: James Madison, specializing in political science; Lyman Briggs, a math and science center; and the Social Science Center, for anthropology and psychology enthusiasts and others. With its world-class faculty, atmosphere of academic achievement and vast course offerings, the prestigious University of Michigan in Ann Arbor attracts top out-of-state students (about 30% of its enrollment) despite its relatively high tuition and fees of $14,068 for nonresident freshmen.


Number of campuses: 14 (plus four quasi-public universities that get 19% to 45% of their funding from the state)

Undergraduate enrollment: 88,368, 13.2% from out of state (plus 108,570 at the quasi-publics)

State spending per student: $3,946 1 (undergraduate and graduate)

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $3,018 to $3,248 for residents, $6,412 to $6,642 for nonresidents 1

Increase over last year: 3.8% for residents, 25.1% for nonresidents 1 & Budget change from last year: Down 3.5% 1

Prominent campus: Penn State, a quasi-public (32,397 undergraduates on its main campus)

Worth a special look: Shippensburg (5,652 undergraduates)

1 Figures do not include quasi-publics.

What's the name of Pennsylvania's leading public college? If you're a football fan, you probably think it's Penn State, home of the nationally ranked Nittany Lions. Strictly speaking, however, the giant institution (59,883 undergraduates at 22 locations around the state), is not actually part of the state system. Penn State, whose main campus is in the foothills of the Alleghenies, is one of four quasi-publics -- private institutions that get 19% to 45% of their funding from the state but are allowed to set their own tuitions and budgets. The other three schools: Lincoln (1,215 undergraduates), Temple (22,859) and the University of Pittsburgh (24,613). These four cost about twice as much as Pennsylvania's public schools, and their admissions standards tend to be higher. While the state has reduced its higher education budget by about 4%, Peter Garland, assistant commissioner for higher education, believes the public schools can save enough on administrative expenses to avoid faculty layoffs and program cuts. All of Pennsylvania's public schools are known for their emphasis on teaching. ''It's part of the tradition and strength of the system,'' says Garland. One campus that stands out: Shippensburg University, a small liberal arts school with a strong business department. The college's rural campus, in the Appalachian mountains, is about a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C.


Number of campuses: 14

Undergraduate enrollment: 153,818, 17% from out of state

State spending per undergraduate: $3,474

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $1,935 to $2,685 for residents, $4,703 to $8,397 for nonresidents

Increase over last year: 8% for residents, at least 8% for nonresidents (estimates)

Budget change from last year: Down 1%

Prominent campuses: Indiana University, Bloomington (26,728 undergraduates), Purdue (28,829)

Worth a special look: The Collins and the Foster Living/Learning Centers at Indiana University (700 undergraduates)

Thanks to Indiana's stable economy, as well as the legislature's cautious % spending policies, the university system has largely escaped harsh budget cuts. State funding has been reduced by less than 1% for 1992-93, the first decline after nine straight annual increases averaging 8.5%. And rather than capping enrollments, Indiana is actively recruiting within the state, especially minority students and those whose parents did not attend college. Top students usually head for Indiana University in Bloomington, with excellent departments of music, business and foreign languages, or for Purdue University in West Lafayette, known for its superb engineering and technical schools. At Bloomington, high school grads from the top 8% of their classes who have SAT scores of 1,200 or better can apply for an honors program that offers intensive courses in, for example, biology, computer science and literature. Bloomington also features two residential programs: the Collins Living/Learning Center, for the humanities, and the Foster International Living/Learning Center, for global studies. As in other residential colleges, students in these programs live in the same dorms. At Collins, however, they also have a say in hiring faculty and planning the curriculum.


Number of campuses: 12

Undergraduate enrollment: 151,189, 4.4% of freshmen from out of state

State spending per undergraduate: $4,862

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $1,978 to $3,460 for residents, $5,937 to $10,380 for nonresidents

Increase over last year: 16% average for residents and nonresidents

Budget change from last year: Down 1.1%

Prominent campus: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (27,791 undergraduates)

Worth a special look: Unit One-Living/Learning Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (700 undergraduates)

While last year's tuition hike was a relatively mild 4.4%, this year's may hit 16%. As a result, says Ross Hodel, a spokesman for the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the state is considering imposing an early-retirement program to reduce faculty. ''We don't foresee any major layoffs,'' he says. ''It's just a general belt tightening.'' Looking out over the next four years, Hodel says that he hopes the state can hold annual tuition increases to 5% or less. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, No. 11 on MONEY's list of top college values, attracts the state's best students (in-state applicants must be in the top 15% of their classes) and is well known for its outstanding engineering division. (The semiconductor, the soul of modern electronics, was invented here.) The school attracts very few students from out of state, however; nonresidents represent only 5% of the enrollment. At Unit One-Living/Learning Center on the Urbana-Champaign campus, all the classes are seminars with five to 35 students, each taught by a specially assigned group of teachers. There are no specific academic requirements for Unit One, but prospective participants are required to submit essays explaining why they would like to live in a residential college.


Number of campuses: 9

Undergraduate enrollment: 149,810, 10.7% from out of state

State spending per undergraduate: $3,103

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $1,649 to $1,821 for residents, $6,409 to $6,480 for nonresidents

Increase over last year: 13% for residents, 14.5% for nonresidents

Budget change from '90-'91: Up 2.2%

Prominent campus: University of Florida at Gainesville (28,784 undergraduates)

Worth a special look: New College of the University of South Florida (516 undergraduates)

Enrollment has climbed 3% annually for 11 years at Florida's public universities as the state's economy and population have boomed. Over the past two years, though, the system has lost $164 million in state appropriations -- 10% of its funding. ''Honors programs are bursting at the seams,'' says Patrick Riordan, a spokesman for the Florida Board of Regents. ''And it's become much more competitive to get into the best programs, such as business and engineering.'' Here, as in other state systems, the financial pinch has led to larger classes and the elimination of less popular programs, such as nursing at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg and Sarasota campuses. But that may turn out to be the worst of the damage. ''The cuts are over,'' says Riordan, who expects the state to increase funding this year. ''We are ready to start marching forward again.'' Florida's system is unusual in that 51% of the students who earn bachelor's degrees actually begin their studies at one of the state's community colleges (for more on two-year schools, see ''The Bargain in Your Own Backyard'' on page 52). The University of South Florida's New College, a small liberal arts school in Sarasota, has ranked among Money's top 10 college values for the past three years; this year it's No. 2. (See the profile on page 58.)


Number of campuses: 13

Undergraduate enrollment: 161,346, 18.2% from out of state

State spending per undergraduate: $3,841

Undergraduate tuition and fees: $1,916 to $2,392 for residents, $5,170 to $7,743 for nonresidents

Increase over last year: 6.7% (average for all campuses)

Budget change from '90-'91: Up 4.8%

Prominent campus: University of Wisconsin at Madison (28,885 undergraduates)

Worth a special look: University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire (9,977 undergraduates)

More than most states, Wisconsin took steps early on to soften the higher education budget crunch. In 1986, education officials started shrinking enrollment by 5% to keep quality high at all 13 campuses; the student/faculty ratio across the system declined from 20 to 1 to 17 to 1. And over the next three years, officials plan to shift $26.5 million from low-priority items, such as administrative expenses, to more pressing needs, such as increased faculty salaries (professorial pay in Wisconsin is far below the national average). Thanks to such adroit moves, faculty size and curriculums should be reasonably stable over the next several years. Furthermore, John Torthy, budget director at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, believes that the system's tuition increases for that period will be moderate. The Madison campus ranks among the country's top research universities. Its $254 million endowment (unusually large for a public school) provides a buffer against state budget cuts, as does the $437 million a year it attracts in gifts, research contracts and grants. Because research is a top priority at Madison, some undergraduates complain that they have to fight for recognition by teachers. But Wisconsin offers an appealing alternative: Eau Claire, where the classes are small (average size: 28 students) and undergraduates frequently work closely with professors on research projects. Eau Claire's strongest programs include accounting, music and nursing. Set on the Chippewa River, about a two-hour drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul, the campus is regarded as Wisconsin's most beautiful.