Growing Out of Iowa

As the senior class prepares for a future after high school, some students look outside of Iowa for college.


Stella Zeng

Students must weigh the pros and cons of out-of-state colleges.

Stella Zeng, Staff Writer

As most college applications come to a close, choices still hang in the air for seniors as they wait for colleges to reply. While the bulk of students  are interested in universities like Iowa State or University of Northern Iowa, some instead look at colleges outside of Iowa for their next step in education.

“My main reason for wanting to go out of state is because it’s like a new beginning,” Chase O’Connell ’20, who has applied to both in-state and out-of-state colleges, said. “There’s a lot you can change in your life by being in a different situation, and I think that it’d be more fun to be in a place that has opportunities that match what I want to do.”

Maryah Pate ’20 is planning on attending New York University. “I want to do different things, I don’t want to be around the same surroundings,” Pate said. “I feel like you just grow out of certain things, and I’ve grown out of Iowa. [Iowa] is very traditional. It’s very much ‘this is what we’ve done, so we should probably keep it that way.’ And where I’m going, New York is literally a changing city.”

But as enticing as out-of-state colleges may seem, only 2,995 students in Iowa attended a university out of state in fall 2016, as opposed to the 20,012 students who stayed in Iowa, according to the United States Department of Education.  42 students from the class of 2019 attended an out-of-state university. Many students are wary of the cost, “The most biggest concern is obviously money,” Pate said. “Going out of state can be expensive.”

Some students who apply out of Iowa also apply to an Iowa college as backup, “[Cost] is a factor in deciding between in-state and out-of-state,” O’Connell said. “I’d say that’s the only reason why I’m still considering in-state schools because it’s so much cheaper.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the academic year of 2017-2018, the average in-state cost in Iowa for a first-time undergraduate living on campus at a four-year public university was $18,426. The average cost of all public universities in the U.S., however, was $33,494, and $50,338 for private non-profits. Students looking at college out of the state may be faced with costs similar to those.

Another concern students consider is the distance from home, “If you go to college in state, or even a bordering state, you can come home, you can see your family on a pretty regular basis,” Laura Paul ’20, who is deciding between Iowa State and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said. “Whereas considering how far that I would be traveling to go to MIT, I would probably be coming home at most for like summer and maybe Christmas break. Which is definitely a little bit of a scary thought.”

It seems the balance of costs and benefits depends on the individual. “For most kids it’ll come down to the financial cost of going out of state,” school counselor Erica Woods-Schmitz said. “Most of the time kids will opt to choose an in-state school simply for convenience, cost, and the fact that we have excellent state schools.” 

However, a payment now may result in a benefit for future job or internship opportunities, “Even if an out-of-state college is more expensive, it might help me make more money later on,” O’Connell said.

Other students feel their specific career interests are better met at other universities, “Well, MIT is the number one mechanical engineering university in the United States, and so just its prestige alone is a huge attraction for me,” Paul said. “You get, I feel, more opportunities in order to try and explore more areas that you may not otherwise be able to.”

There’s a lot of exploration that can be done [out of Iowa],” Paul said. “It’s pretty much an adventure that you get to live, which I think would be a lot of fun.”