The Quintessential College Experience, Without The Big Bills : NPR Ed How do families decide what kind of college to attend: Private? Public? Community college? Three college students explain why they went for the big state school: The University of Maryland.

The Quintessential College Experience, Without The Big Bills

The Quintessential College Experience, Without The Big Bills

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Elissa Nadworny/NPR
Alejandra Gonzalez browses in the bookstore at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
Elissa Nadworny/NPR

Going to college today is a very different experience than it once was. The cost has soared, and the great recession cut into many of the assets that were supposed to pay for it. This week All Things Considered is talking with young people — and in some cases their parents — about the value of school and about their choice of what kind of college to attend.

Four years ago, members of the high school class of 2012 were deciding where and how to go to college. Several factors weighed heavily: cost, the student experience, prestige and the prospect of a job after graduation.

Nearly 40 percent of their classmates nationwide who pursued a higher education chose a four-year state college or university, like the University of Maryland.

At the College Park campus — just outside Washington, D.C. there are more than 27,000 undergraduates. We chatted with three students finishing up their degrees.

Meet Three Students At UMD

  • Rhys Hall

    Rhys Hall
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    High School: Paint Branch High School, Burtonsville, Md.

    Choices: University of Maryland, College Park; St. John's University; Morehouse College

    Debt: $7,500 in loans so far.

    Major: Sociology

    Career Goals: Ph.D. program, then sociology professor.

    "I will not hide the fact that college was going to validate the sense of security in myself, a sense of accomplishment in myself."

  • Karie Cheung

    Karie Cheung
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    High School: Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, Md.

    Choice: University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Tulane University; Montgomery College

    Debt: None

    Major: Community Health

    Career goal: A Master's in public health, working at a public health organization or joining the Peace Corps.

    "Because both my parents didn't get the experience of college ... I just wanted to have that traditional, live-in-the-dorm freshman year, go to all the orientations."

  • Alejandra Gonzalez

    Alejandra Gonzalez
    Elissa Nadworny/NPR

    High School: Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Bethesda, Md.

    Choices: University of Maryland, College Park; Marymount University; Roger Williams University.

    Debt: $20,000 — all federal loans.

    Major: Political Science

    Career goal: Immigration lawyer

    "I interned for Congressman [Steny] Hoyer's office this summer. There were kids from Georgetown and GW there. So I felt it was really cool that I was getting the exact same opportunities everyone else was, but I'm paying so much less for it."

  • How We Did This

    This week, we're talking to students who went to high school in Montgomery County, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. It's considerably more diverse than the rest of the nation: Nearly one-third of its residents are foreign-born. It's also more highly educated: with more than double the national average for bachelor's degrees.

    Jessica Cheung contributed reporting for this series.