Non-selective colleges in red or purple states?

If your non-religious, liberal child went to college in a red or purple state, how did it turn out? Was it good to live outside a blue bubble? Or did they have a harder time making and maintaining meaningful connections? 

Looking ahead for my high school senior whose options are likely lower-tiered schools with 75-99% acceptance rate.  It’s a broad question, but truly curious, was it worthwhile? 


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Hi there, mine grew up in Oakland and Berkeley and went to the University of Utah, graduated 2022. He made some great friends and he has settled in Salt Lake City post-graduation. Salt Lake is actually kind of a blue spot in the otherwise very red state, and a pretty cool city considering the heavy presence of religion there. I think that happens a lot in college towns (I attended the U of Missouri and the town it's in is also a blue island in the state). I think it was probably good for him to learn to live around folks who didn't grow up the same, and he has some people that he calls friends who are conservative. Only one time had a bad experience with a super right-wing roommate after moving off campus, but it worked itself out (roommate moved). I recommend the U for a lot of reasons - tons of research funds, great campus, good teachers. Some of its programs are actually very highly ranked nationwide. They're building more student housing which I know has been a concern, and parking around campus is not fun. Overall, a good experience despite the interruption of the pandemic in his first year.

Gosh, why don't you send him to one of the CSUs?   There are a lot of them that would meet your criteria and they're both diverse and cheap!   If you want him to live outside the blue bubble he can go to San Bernardino or one of the Central Valley schools.    UC Merced is a new campus in the Valley and right now has a high acceptance rate.

My CA born and bred son went to a huge flagship big 10 school in a purple state in the Midwest. It may be worth noting that the school and the town it’s in are both left leaning. It was a great experience. He would be the first to tell you that leaving CA for college is a good idea, especially if the more competitive UCs are off the table. In fact, he didn’t consider attending any schools in CA, although he did apply to some Cal States as financial safeties. 

He met so many kids from all over the country and all different socioeconomic levels. This was a big one for him since he had gone to private high school here on scholarship, and always felt “different” to some degree. It was a breath of fresh air to feel “normal”, according to him. Politically, it was similar to CA, but maybe a nudge more to the center, or perhaps a little more ideologically diverse. Hard to tell - the progressive voice was the loudest for sure.

He enjoyed the Midwest culture of the school and the academic and pre-professional opportunities. He had no trouble getting all the classes he needed to graduate on time. The school gave him enough $ to bring the price down to about the cost of a UC. Socially it was a little hard for him because it has a big party scene and he’s not into that, but it was ok. It was more of a personality thing than a geographic or cultural thing (he has friends, but generally keeps to himself). He was always happy to come home for breaks, especially because our weather is usually better. The great thing about leaving, is that you can always come back. 

Now that he’s graduated, he’s hoping to be able to stay around here, but is willing to move to the Midwest or East Coast for the right job. We are both so happy he got out of the CA “bubble” for awhile. It was definitely the right choice for him. Go for it!

This describes my younger brother exactly; though he's spent time living in Portland and Seattle, he really thrived at a non-selective state school in the Appalachians. He made great friends, met his spouse, was prepared for a successful career, and now lives in a place where his vote counts more than mine. A college town is a college town; your kid will probably encounter more "real world" diversity of opinion, but will also almost certainly find their people.

My daughter is currently attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Colorado is blue now, but was purple not that long ago, and CSU is a land grant college with strong agriculture, animal science, veterinary, forestry, and wildlife programs, so it's not the kind of blue enclave the Bay Area is. She's doing well now going into her 3rd year, but the 1st year was a little rough (she went from 2% White Oakland High to 70% White CSU; I think that was a shock). Her roommate and a lot of dorm-mates came in with friends from high school and it took her a while to find her peeps. I think she is appreciating experiencing a different culture and climate. When she was making her final decision, we found CSU stacked up well on faculty-student ratios, class size, graduation rates, and starting salaries after graduation compared to the California schools we were looking at. With the Western Undergraduate Exchange she gets a discount on out-of-state tuition that put it on par with the UC system school she got into. One plus for us was that her aunt and uncle live near Denver (1.5 hour drive time) and her cousin is also attending CSU, which provided a bit of a buffer compared to going to a different state with no safety net.

I went to college at Purdue University/- they seem right down the middle.  I found the sciences dept, pharmacy engineering, aeronautical, and nursing schools were so focused on academia , people didn’t have time for politics.  

Purdue is committed to solving problems, like climate change and other world problems.  

I found midwestern schools to be more moderate- tolerant of all types of views.  People typically dint discuss politics in Midwest if you sense there is a clash.  

UW Madison btw… is pretty liberal overall.  Great town.  

a fryrbd I know grew up in Berkeley and is left of center went to UCSD- not exactly a match politically but he met some great people and proudly graduated.  

As a CA transplant, I find CA to be over focused on politics.  The views  cultish - and if someone disagrees they are shunned.  

Luckily I’m left of center, so easy for me to day!