I've thought a lot about educational strategy, not from the perspective of cost, mostly from the perspective of the most effective route to a goal if chosen, with a relative recently starting college, and own kids getting to the point of thinking about it. Like it or not, the school you get your bachelor's from matters to employers. It's a sword that cuts both ways. Too good a school can make you appear overqualified for some jobs. (Been there.) If you already have a specialization picked out, you want to find the best school available that you can get into for that specialty, which won't necessarily be the "best" school overall. If the kid is definitely lined up for graduate school, or professional school, undergrad isn't so critical. It's the grad school that matters most at that point. For a kid like most that hasn't got a clue what they want to be when they grow up, school with the best reputation that they can get into and can afford will make the most options available when they graduate. That doesn't mean they are smarter, or got a better education going to an 'elite' school, but the average hiring manager hasn't got the skill to directly assess a candidate's abilities, and just has things like the college attended to go by.