Both middle class students wishing to forego the life-ruining nature of college loans and wealthier students who find they are suddenly unable to afford neither the Ivies nor private colleges are increasingly turning to state universities as their first choice. But the surge in public school popularity threatens to undermine the whole idea of education for the people.

Though many state schools deliver academic rigor and course offerings commensurate to the best private colleges, state universities have perennially been short on cache. Now, record enrollment in many state systems are erasing their second-rate status. Oregon's eight public universities saw a record 85,546 students enroll last fall and Public Ivies like the Universities of Texas, Berkeley, Michigan and Wisconsin are expecting a tidal wave of applications this spring.

The problem is that budget cuts loom large for state universities that do not always have robust endowments like Harvard and Yale. And continuing to offer quality education in the face of steep cutbacks is making their transformation to elite status slow and difficult. The good news is that Presient Obama's proposed stimulus plan earmarks new federal funds for state higher education systems to weather the fiscal strain.

Gaston Caperton, President of the College Board, is likely the foremost expert on the road to college in the United States. He continues the conversation on what students today need to consider as they weight their higher education choices. Let us know you how you see public schools competing with elite institutions moving forward. Is Penn State the new Princeton?