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State University Systems

In the United States, more than three-fourths of all college students attend state universities. Each of the fifty American states has its own university system. The states subsidize their university systems, allowing tuition and fees to be lower than those at private universities, especially for in-state students. Some states maintain separate systems of state colleges, including the various technical colleges and two-year community colleges (which offer “associate’s degrees and professional certifications). State universities commonly offer the four-year bachelor’s degree in addition to their graduate and professional programs.

State university systems are often huge, and you might find certain classes so big, that some students have to watch the lectures on television monitors in the hallways. The largest state university system is the State University of New York, with over 400,000 students spread over more than 60 campuses all over the state. California, in fact, has several concurrent systems which far exceed New York’s, led by the University of California and California State University. Factor in California’s community college system and the “Golden State” educates over two million college students.

Educational standards at state universities run the gamut, although a few rank consistently among the nation’s most prestigious, whether on the basis of undergraduate schools or often of professional schools such as those for medicine, architecture and law. As to admission standards, state universities were for many years easier to get into than private colleges. As tuitions at private colleges have skyrocketed, however, admission to state universities has become more selective. The state universities themselves have undergone a “cost crunch” in recent years and have often been required to raise tuition and fees.

Many state universities maintain extensive athletic programs. Competitive college sports have a major national following, fill stadiums consistently, and function as major moneymakers for the university systems involved.

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