If you are a little snooty about colleges, and have an undisclosed preference for private institutions, you might be surprised to learn the following:

University of Maryland, College Park is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 18th best among national public colleges and universities.  UC Berkeley is number one.  UVA is number two.  William & Mary is number six.  Okay, so we share the rank of 18th with a few others:  Ohio State, Purdue, and University of Georgia.  But 18th out of the 107 ranked?  Honestly, I was impressed!

University of Maryland, College Park was founded in 1856.  It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 26,493.  In-state tuition and fees are $8,416 (2010-11); and out-of-state tuition and fees are $24,831 (2010-11).  DID YOU READ THAT?  $8,416!  (Okay, okay…  add books for about $1,000, room & board for about $9,800, and other expenses, around $3,000, and the total cost for the in-state experience is still around $22,216 – quite literally, cheap at twice the price, compared to some of its private counterparts.)  With over 500 clubs and organizations, and 35 fraternities and sororities, there is usually something to do, including going to watch the NCAA D-1 Terps play basketball.  It is a short metro ride from the nation’s capital, and the school has numerous research partnerships with the federal government (read “job”, “transcript”, or “grad school criteria”).

Although a relatively high percentage of applicants are admitted (45%), the stats of those admitted are pretty good.  Average SAT scores of admitted applicants are pretty strong:  the 25th/75th percentiles are 580/680 for Critical Reading, and 610/710 for Math.  That means that 25% of admitted applicants have Critical Reading scores over 680, and 25% of admitted applicants have Math scores over 710.  Again, not bad!  The same 25th/75th split for UCLA?  Critical Reading:  560/680, Math:  590/720.  How do you like that?

In terms of bang for the buck, your kid can leave college with a degree in any of literally scores of disciplines, with the shirt still on his (or your) back.