In high school when I was looking at colleges with engineering programs, I found it interesting that there were not many options to choose from. The options in Wisconsin included: UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), Marquette University, and UW-Platteville. I wanted a good education, but I was also thinking – what are the most affordable engineering schools to go to?

There were good engineering schools in nearby states – Northwestern, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, Michigan… The Iowa schools were out because I did not want to move to Iowa.

In addition, how did I know I even wanted to study engineering? It is difficult to decide what you want to be when you grow up when you are only 18. Most kids haven’t even held a job by age 18…

In this post, I break down how I decided to go to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering.

How I Became a Golden Gopher

In Wisconsin, UW-Platteville turns out to be the most affordable college to go to. For me, UW-Platteville was too far out in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to be in a bigger city that had more to offer…

My choices boiled down to UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, and the University of Minnesota. I think I applied to MSOE too, but the guy to girl ratio was terrible. It is 75% dudes

I may not be entirely accurate, but after racking through my brain I recall these three main points that helped me decide on the University of Minnesota. Well, and the fact that I was pursuing engineering.

My friends

Three of my good friends from high school decided to go to Minnesota.

I’m going to come out and state that basing your college decision on where your friends are going is a terrible idea. Case in point – two of the three friends transferred back to colleges in Wisconsin after our freshman year.

If you pursue going to college, the decision should be all about you. College is likely going to be the biggest expense you incur other than a mortgage. Both of which I hope you can hack after checking out more of the content my blog.

Proximity to my hometown

UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee ended up being a little too close to home for me – both within an hour and a half. I wanted to get out of the house and be on my own.

Fast-forward 11 years – I’m still in Minnesota and its been quite good to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love going back home to visit my family. But I needed to spread my wings a little and see what I was capable of doing on my own.

I’m happy I did so – two college degrees, a beautiful wife, and a sweet baby girl… Not too shabby 🙂


Finally, I did look at the cost of the colleges I applied to. Admittedly, I was not frugal nor did I put much effort into my overall personal finances. But, I did investigate the cost for college – as most people do because of the high cost.

Of my top three choices, UW-Milwaukee was the most affordable engineering school, followed by Minnesota and then UW-Madison.

You may be asking how is Minnesota cheaper than UW-Madison for an out-of-state resident?


At the time I went to school, it was cheaper for a Wisconsin resident to go to Minnesota than it was for an in-state Minnesota resident to go to Minnesota.


The Most Affordable Engineering Schools

So which colleges should you consider if you are interested in engineering?

One study I found shows eight Big Ten schools in the top 25 most affordable engineering schools: University of Iowa, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers.

The Big Ten appears to be a sweet spot for anyone that is looking to obtain an affordable engineering degree. The schools from the Big Ten missing from this list are Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, University of Illinois, Indiana, and Penn State.

I know that Michigan, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois have top-notch engineering programs. I don’t know much about Michigan State or Indiana…

I’m glad my Golden Gophers are on that list. Minnesota is also ranked in the top 30 overall as an engineering school.

Another study I found states that the top ten paying undergraduate degrees were all engineering degrees. That is crazy… Additionally, the average starting salary is north of $60k.

Starting off with such a high salary can really put you ahead. If you have a great deal of debt, you can still live like a college student and eliminate your debt.

Related: Last student loan payment made.

Even if you are debt free – don’t succumb to lifestyle inflation. Begin investing for your future so you have more flexibility to choose what you want to do later in life.

Other Ways to Hack Engineering School

After completing college, I thought back to the different paths I could have taken. I took what I guess is the normal path – directly into a four-year college.

No community college, no AP credits that transferred – I came into college with a clean slate.

More to come in future posts about how to hack college. For this post, I wanted to focus on affordable engineering schools and my sharing my journey to help you pursue your dream of becoming an engineer.

Did the cost of a particular college influence your decision on where to go?