College Decisions: Reflections on a visit to Laramie


As my sixteen-year-old daughter begins her junior year of high school in Highlands Ranch, she’s already thinking about life beyond graduation, which is why we found ourselves sitting in the admissions office on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie recently.

The three of us (my daughter, husband and I) made an early morning 3-hour trek from Roxborough Park and landed in the UW admissions office a few minutes early for our 9:45am appointment. We were ushered into the office of an admissions officer (a UW grad) who laid out an impressive array of programs for students. My daughter was smitten. And why not? With more than 13,000 students representing 50 states and 94 countries, an average class size of 30, a student to faculty ratio of 14:1, weekend retreats, study abroad programs, and some 190+ areas of study, what’s not to like?

The admissions officer had us turn to the page in the brochure showing the cost to attend. I held my breath. Tuition for the 2012-13 year for a full-time undergraduate student for Wyoming residents is UW was $3,180. (Non-resident tuition, $12,390.) Children of alumni — fortunately, my husband is a former Poke — are eligible for a discounted tuition rate at 150% of resident tuition. Had our daughter entered UW as a freshman last fall, it would cost us $4,770 in tuition.

It was our turn to be smitten.

Word on the street was that Wyoming was becoming, at least financially, a viable alternative to in-state schools. I looked at the cost of some of Colorado’s universities for comparison. My findings*:

 Colorado School Mines: $13,590

Univ. of Colorado, Boulder: $8,056

Colorado State University: $6,875

Univ. Northern Colorado: $5,464

* Undergraduate tuition rates for 2012-13 for Colorado residents based on a full-time academic year.

Wyoming was looking even better.

And no wonder: Colorado is ranked 49th in state and local support for higher education.* Only one state, New Hampshire, spends less on higher ed than Colorado. Wyoming, not surprisingly, comes in at No. 1. (Check out this interactive map to see how other states compare.)

Following an hour-long discussion with the admissions officer, it was time for the campus tour. Two engaging UW student counselors organized our group of about 30 parents and prospective students for the tour. My daughter recognized two students from her high school. Go Grizzlies!

As we made our way out into the sun and down the sidewalk, our tour guide asked how many of us were from Wyoming. A couple hands went up. She then asked where people were from. “Denver,” someone said. A few nodded. “Greeley,” came another response. “Westcliffe” was another. Our student guide then asked for a show of hands. “How many are from Colorado?” Nearly every hand went up. Two were from Kansas, one from Utah, and a clear majority from the Centennial State.

I find it interesting that so many Colorado students are looking at UW for their post-secondary education. Might tell us something about how we fund higher education in Colorado.

On our drive home, we reflected on the day’s events.  The University of Wyoming has a lot to offer at a competitive price. It’ll be a difficult decision indeed.


Sue Catterall

Metro Field Organizer, Great Education Colorado

* Source: National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis ‘State and Local Support for Higher Education Operating Expenses Per $1,000 of Personal Income – 2011’



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