Comparison of Top 11 College Search Engines: Should You Attend an Out-of-State Public University

(This is part 3 of Comparison of Top 11 College Search Engines)

Maze in the shape of a dollar signIn my original review of college search websites I had a list of seven requirements for a fictional high school student in her college search. The second factor I listed was that she didn’t care whether the school was public or private. Since she doesn’t care, you would think I would be skipping on to the next requirement.

But you see, it isn’t so much that she doesn’t care but rather that she knows that eliminating schools based on public or private status could reduce her chances for significant financial aid from private schools. I suppose you could say the some of the college search websites are looking out for you and have this issue covered. See, five of the eleven don’t even offer public or private as a filter option.

Part 1: Comparison of Top 11 College Search Engines
Part 2: Will Attending a Community College Save You Money?
Part 3: Should You Attend an Out-of-State Public University
Part 4: How Far Away Should You Go To College?
Part 5: Does College Size Matter?
Part 6: Colleges in Large Cities
Part 7: College Acceptance Rates
Part 8: Searching for Colleges by Majors
Part 9: The Results

But sometimes you like people to ask anyway.

Another consideration of the public/private option is the cost for a student to attend an out-of-state public university. Out-of-state tuition at public institutions can be as high as any private school’s. Furthermore, most public schools don’t provide scholarships or financial aid to out-of-state students. For many, the entire point of taking out-of-state students is to get them to pay full-tuition.

Now the public/private status is only an issue if the website allows the user to search by some form of cost as well. The search should use the in-state tuition for the student’s home state public schools and the out-of-state tuition for all other public institutions. Six of the eleven websites make the adjustment.

In fact, two of the websites, Cappex and Peterson’s, that don’t provide the user with the option to select public or private, ask for the state residence when searching by cost. These websites are making sure it’s being taken into consideration without forcing the user to select public or private.

Three of the websites that allow some form of search on cost, don’t make any adjustment for your state of residence. This simply isn’t an issue at two websites, Unigo and College Express, since they don’t let users confuse their search with cost concerns.

It’s important to realize that attending an out-of-state public university doesn’t automatically mean sky-high tuition. There are states that are eager to attract out-of-state students with high academic qualifications to improve their position in the college rankings and can offer generous scholarships. You can find a list of such schools at College Confidential’s Automatic Out-of-State Tuition Waivers thread. Just don’t expect them to be in California or in major metropolitan areas along the coast.

Students who think they may want to attend an out-of-state public university should also take a look at the various regional inter-state exchange organizations such as the Academic Common Market. Students from states in these organizations can attend other member’s public institutions at discounted prices under certain circumstances.

As usual, there really isn’t a definitive answer to including out-of-state public universities in your college search. Depending on your situation, there may be some that compete with your in-state options. But in general, there’s generally little reason to pay private level tuition to attend a public institution.

The following table summarizes the availability of a public or private search option for each of the websites. It also indicates if state residence is taken into consideration when filtering public university costs.

Website Option to Choose Private or Public Adjust Cost Search for State Residence
Big Future Yes Yes
Cappex No Yes
CollegeData Yes No
CollegeNavigator Yes Yes
CollegeProwler No No
College Reality Check No No
CollegeView (SuperMatch) Yes Yes
CollegeXpress Yes What cost options?
My College Options Yes Yes
Peterson’s No Yes
Unigo No What cost options?

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