Best Kept College Secrets

Colleges for Real People

Can I get a private college education at a public college?

Many students are interested in all that a public university has to offer – affordability, extensive facilities, access to graduate programs, Division One sports, internships, diversity of students – but worry that the experience will be overwhelming.  Perhaps they have attended a small school and have become accustomed to the ease with which connections can be made; perhaps they’ve attended a large school and have been frustrated by the red tape a school district may present.  In either case, the large university, the public college, may be a far better option than it appears at first glance.

In the first place, there are a number of relatively small public universities, some of which have been designated as “State Liberal Arts College”.  In fact, twenty seven institutions belong to the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, and several of those colleges are profiled in America’s Best Kept College Secrets.  The colleges range from the University of Maine at Farmington in the north, to Saint Mary’s College in Maryland (profiled), Mary Washington University in Virginia( profiled), the University of North Carolina at Asheville (profiled), the University of Montevallo in Alabama (profiled), New College of Florida, the University of Illinois at Springfield, Sonoma State University in California (profiled), Southern Oregon University (will be profiled), and Evergreen State College in Washington (profiled).

Take a quick look at the profiled colleges to see what extraordinary opportunities are available at a public school price.

Saint Mary’s is not a religiously affiliated school, but the public honors college for the state of Maryland, located in the charming Saint Mary’s City, site of Maryland’s first capital.  The campus is gorgeous and the core curriculum outstanding.  A single figure helps to tell Saint Mary’s story.  70% of students receive some form of financial aid and 79% of students will spend at least one semester abroad during their career at Saint Mary’s.

Mary Washington University n Fredericksburg boasts a picture post card college campus and a reputation as an outstanding undergraduate institution, ranked in the top twenty in the country by Forbes Magazine.  In addition to the exceptional academic opportunities offered at Mary Washington, the college has a thriving Division III athletic program, including one of the most ferocious of women’s rugby teams.

This web site has had much to say about the University of Montevallo, and the unsolicited affirmations from its happy graduates on this website reflects the strength of feeling its students have for Montevallo. Located on a campus filled with buildings under the Historic Registry, this small university offers outstanding academic programs and a rich variety of extra-curricular activities.  Take a look at its entry on this site for particulars – the university is exploring remarkable initiatives in environmental sustainability.

New College in Florida began as a private college and has long been considered one of the most innovative and academically challenging of colleges in the country.  Students contract their course of study with professors and receive narrative evaluations rather than grades.  While this may seem too “experimental” for some students. roughly 87% of students applying to PhD. graduate programs were accepted by the universities to which they applied.

Two of the three public arts colleges in the west are profiled in the book and on this site (Sonoma State and Evergreen State).  Both are exceptionally interesting colleges – incredibly dissimilar in almost every aspect – thus testifying to the wide range of options these public institutions have to offer.  Southern Oregon is located in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  SOU was originally a college that prepared teachers for work in the field of education but has broadened to include a wide-ranging liberal arts curriculum with notable majors in Shakespeare Studies and Theater.  SOU will appear in the Third Edition of America’s Best Kept College Secrets, and in anticiaption of that publication, I’ll put Southern Oregon on the website today.


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