General Question

college's avatar

What are some good public schools for Computer Science in Massachussetts?

Asked by college (6points) October 22nd, 2007
14 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

I have a 3.69 gpa in high school. I am from NY and looking fora cheap but good college. I tried but they werent helpful

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cwilbur's avatar

There’s this little school you may have heard mention of, called MIT.

gailcalled's avatar

MIT is not public and definitely NOT cheap. Try the SUNY flagships (Buffalo, Binghamton, Albany, and Stonybrook – for sciences) or their colleges. Your only other choice is the U. MA system. Amherst campus is pretty and you can take courses at Hampshire, Smith, Mt. Holyoke and Amherst. There are shuttle buses that tootle around.

Check out the Yale Daily News” Insiders Guide to Colleges. You may have to buy it unless your college advisor is enlightened and keeps a copy in his/her office.

Where in NY are you from?

cwilbur's avatar

My mistake – MIT is a land-grant university, which I thought meant it was public, but it’s not.

I wouldn’t go near UMass-Amherst for computer science, mainly because, well, I did.

gailcalled's avatar

@cwilbur: did you take advantage of the 5-college exchange program? Could one go to UMass-Amherst on the cheap, for example, and take some good CS programs at the other 4 schools. I know that the Astronomy program is jointly run by the whole gang, but wonder whether the system works as well in reality as it sounds.

Are all class schedules identical?

@college: if you live in NY; then you will pay a premium to attend a state university other then NY’s.

cwilbur's avatar

Class schedules aren’t identical (or at least weren’t when I was there), and travelling to the other schools can be extremely trying. There’s a bus system, but that doesn’t help when all road traffic is bottlenecked over the Route 9 bridge. You’re likely to eat up at least an hour getting to or from a class at another of the 5 colleges. Also, at least in some departments, you need to get approval before a class at another college can count towards a requirement in the degree program at your home school, adding another level of bureaucracy and paperwork to the process; if you’re trying to take a class at Amherst primarily because the equivalent class at UMass sucks, it’s unlikely to be approved.

I did my undergraduate degree elsewhere, and tried to take graduate courses at UMass in the computer science department while working on a masters degree in music. I was not impressed with the department, I was really unimpressed with the TAs, and if the caliber of the few computer science undergraduates I had regular contact with is any indication, you’re better off just about anywhere else. If you want an admission coupon to a Java code monkey job, UMass might be appropriate; if you want to study computer science, look elsewhere.

(But if you want an admission coupon to a Java code monkey job, you’re still likely to be better off getting a degree in something different and minoring in computer science, then getting Sun-certified in Java on your own. This will put you head and shoulders above the mass of recent college grads; you’ll have shown an aptitude for domain-specific knowledge by majoring in something else—and if it’s a soft science or one of the humanities, you’ll have “management material” written all over you—and you’ll be Java certified besides.)

In the interests of disclosure, my experience there was a good 7 or 8 years ago, and they might have improved drastically; but with the usual political games over the university system and the attempt to gut Amherst and move it to Dorchester, I don’t think that’s likely. Also, the traffic patterns haven’t improved at all.

gailcalled's avatar

Ah, yes. Rte 9 and the bridge. I remember it well. We used to do large family dinners at the Inn in Amherst; the Providence-Boston gang headed westward, and we, near the Berkshires, drove w on the MA pike, then I-91N (easy) to N Hampton and then east (big snarl at dinner time).

Great answer, by the way. The 5 colleges tout their exchange program; it sounds really all hype. As you say, why would Amherst open up their mini-Ivy classes to the hordes?

Dorchester – ugh.

mirza's avatar

I know you are looking for a college in MA, but if you want to considering other states—-
try Rutgers – it has one of the best computer science programs – considered part of the Public Ivy – its cheap ($19,500 for out of state) compared to most schools

gailcalled's avatar

@Mirza; great idea. However, since @college lives in NY (I don’t know whether he means the city or state, and IAC, he seems to have disappeared), the Stony Brook campus of SUNY has a very good CS program.

Established in 1969, the Computer Science Department at Stony Brook University is ranked consistently among the top quarter of Computer Science research departments in North America. In a recent Gourman report Stony Brook’s undergraduate Computer Science program was rated 15th nationwide and 2nd in New York State.”

Est. yearly costs for instate ungdergraduates. $17,320.

cwilbur's avatar

Oh, the 5 college exchange program really is a good thing, but it’s for an occasional class at another college, not the bulk of the curriculum. If you go to UMass, you’ll be taking all of your core courses at UMass and satisfying a UMass advisor. If there’s an interesting course at Amherst or Smith or Mount Holyoke, you can take it, but we’re talking electives and small courses for upperclassthings and graduate students, not the core curriculum.

In other words: applying to UMass with the idea that you’re really going to take all your courses at Amherst really won’t work in the long run. Applying to UMass with the idea that you might take an interesting course or two at Smith your junior or senior year is much more in touch with reality.

UMass and the other four colleges have a lot of things to recommend them. Unfortunately, the computer science department at UMass is not one of them.

Also, belatedly, I’d advise the original querent to not eliminate private schools simply because of cost: when I was looking, I applied to private and public schools, and I found out that when the dust settled and financial aid offers were made, the cost of the private school I attended was much higher, but the financial aid offer was much higher too, and so the difference in cost between a top-notch private school and an adequate state school was about $2000 per year, with the private school coming out ahead.

gailcalled's avatar

@college: are you still among us?

@cwilbur; you must have had to work and take on loans, unless you found a good private college w. wonderful grants. All of the excellent private colleges and universities in the northeast (Ivies+ MIT, little Ivies, Seven sisters, etc) are predominanty need-based and insist on the three-pronged packages, with few exceptions ( scholarship for a red-headed trombonist who wants to study classical Greek, for example).

If @college were willing to travel, schools like Rice, Tulane, Emory, the mid-western consortium, and those of similar ilk, offer great grants in order to steal good students who think they want to go to H,Y or P.

cwilbur's avatar

I worked some, and took on the most loans I could, which wound up being in the neighborhood of $10K over four years—about 10% of the total on-paper cost of the education. But I would have had to have taken on the same amount of loans and done the same amount of work at a public school—the on-paper cost of the public school, after financial aid, was approximately $2000 more in the first year than the on-paper cost of the private school, and the contribution from loans and workstudy was equivalent.

I’m not sure this would hold in the original querent’s circumstances, but it was true for me and I knew enough other people for whom it was true that it’s worth at least checking out. It seems foolish to me to rule out private schools based on cost, when the private schools and the public schools use very similar formulas for awarding financial aid and the actual numbers may well be quite close.

Also, one thing you can do with many public schools that you can’t do with the good private colleges is live off campus and work while attending part-time. This doesn’t really alter the cost of tuition, it just spreads it out over 6 or 8 years instead of 4; but room and board can be significantly cheaper, especially if you have roommates. You also miss out on a lot of the college experience that happens out of class, and that’s where a lot of the real learning happens.

rickyseven's avatar

Here’s a link to a good place to start. Hope it helps.

gailcalled's avatar

@rickyseven: that must be what we call “the missing link.” :-)

Flockotiels's avatar

Go take a look at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams which has a computing degree program. They’re in North Adams very near prestigious Williams College and students of MCLA do have some classes at Williams.

MCLA is a public college and very afordable for Mass residents plus they have a special tuition benefit for New York residents (under the New York tuition advantage, room, board, tuition and fees are about $14,000 for 2007)

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