In his 38 years as a college counselor, including the last 26 at New Trier, Jim Conroy has witnessed a lot of trends come and go.
But the latest bit of news flowing through his office as department chair of post-high school counseling is a first for the colorfully-spoken Conroy. He never believed he’d see the day when his students would find it cheaper to go to an out-of-state flagship public university than to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Applications from New Trier seniors to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis are surging – almost triple the rate of 2008 – because in some cases students might save up to $5,000 a year to cross state lines, said Conroy.
The trend began in 2011, when 73 applied to Minnesota, with seven attending. But for the Class of 2012, a total of 104 have applied to the Golden Gophers school. That compares with the 31 applications of 2008, with two attending.
“They cut their tuition because the 17-year-olds are declining in the state of Minnesota,” said Conroy. “Non-resident tuition is $16,669 this year. Room and board is $7,500.”
That’s a bargain compared to the $50,000 Conroy quoted as out-of-state costs to attend the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Minnesota trend noticed all over U.S.
Conroy said that the base University of Illinois tuition is $11,104 with required fees at almost $4,000. However, costs are higher for engineering or science majors, and thus come out more than Minnesota. The trend is prevalent among college counselors with whom Conroy has spoken recently.
He expects Minnesota to rank in the Top 10 of New Trier college choices when the final Class of 2012 results are tabulated.
“This issue is our kids can go to Glenview, catch the [Amtrak] train and be dropped off blocks away from the University of Minnesota, just like they can take the train to Champaign,” Conroy said.
Minnesota isn’t the only out-of-state public institution that has garnered the loyalty of New Trier alums. Conroy said until last year, Indiana University was the top choice with the Kelly School of Business. “That’s second-ranked to the Wharton School of Business [at the University of Pennsylvania] in a lot of people’s minds,” he said. “For years Indiana and Illinois were very close.”
Then the Illini surged. Conroy said a record 83 New Trier alums are freshman at Illinois, up from the typical numbers in the 40s or 50s. “I do think it’s because of the economy,” he said.
For public-school destinations for the Class of 2011, Michigan ranked second with 35, then Indiana (34), Colorado (22), Iowa and Miami of Ohio (19 each), Illinois-Chicago (18), Wisconsin-Madison (16), and Missouri-Columbia and Vermont (11 each).
Another eye-opening trend affected private-school choices for the Class of 2011.
Boom times for Trevian alums at U. of C
“Last year was a boom year at the University of Chicago with 21 freshmen there,” Conroy said. “It’s beyond unbelievable [because of admissions competition there].”
Following were DePaul (17), Vanderbilt (16) – “you can drive to Nashville in one day,” said Conroy – Northwestern (14), Loyola-Chicago and the University of Denver (11 each), and New York University, Marquette, Tulane, and University of Miami (nine each). DePaul, Northwestern and Vanderbilt traditionally have been the top-ranked private schools.
Students are also quizzing Conroy and his counseling staff about job prospects coming out of potential college choices – and not just any old kind of employment.
In the old days, 5 to 10 percent asked about jobs,” Conroy said. “Now it’s 40 percent asking.
“A lot of kids who come in here and say, ‘Mr. Conroy, I don’t want to be in a rat race. I want to be happy.’ They sit there and say 'I don’t want to get up every morning and hate the job I’m going to.' Life is not hating your job, even though they’re making a good money.
“Enough of our kids have graduated as business majors or econ, and they’ve gone to New York in investment banking. See how long they last -- a year and a half, two years, and they’re totally burned out. They’re working seven days a week, and they say this is not fun.”
Some young women are diverting into a growing health field.
“What we’re seeing with a lot of our female students is they’re pharmacy majors,” Conroy said. “Pharmacy represents what nursing and teaching used to be for women. Pharmacy is a career, you can be certified. I can have a family. I can come in, come out, I can have a family. With a degree in finance, a lot of companies say, you’re either in with us or not. You’re not coming back.”
And what does Conroy say to students who go into liberal arts or other majors with mediocre job prospects?
“You say to them, ‘Be open,'” he said. “’Do not come back to us and say nobody told me that a ceramics major is not going to have a lot of options.’ This is ‘buyer beware.’”