We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
For an undergraduate student it takes just one inspiring professor to make a world of difference in his/her education and success in life beyond college. The "blue collar ivy" schools do not lack for exceptional educators. The issue becomes one of a "two body problem," that is, how does a particular student "bump into" the right instructor. In my case, I was fortunate to find mine.
They may be "blue collar ivies" and let's hope that they are worthwhile, but in my experience over the past 20 years, hearing from some of our former employees, and children of friends, nephews, and children of co-workers, I have seen the University of Maine in Orono, despite its best efforts and excellent teachers and programs, run up against the culture of partying and failing- there's just not enough studying. I know so many kids who have failed out of the school and have not encountered any that have even graduated. I'd like to see some statistics on their graduation rates. In my opinion, it's better to go with a small private school that offers scholarships to offset the cost.
I think you would best be served to examine the rankings according to the individual school for example the MSU architecture school is at 61 in the nation, while the UM business school is way way way down the ladder. Each potential student needs to commit to a specialty before entering college. They can search for the best programs. Then if they have to change their mind from one major to another they at least know what level they are moving from and what level to which they are moving. Some liberal private schools are wonderful (Hilsdale) but others are a huge waste of money (Evergreen). Even amongst the Catholic schools some are waay ahead in a fashionably designed curriculum while others may be older and more conservative, but offer a higher quality program. Georgetown business anyone?