Public colleges seek funding boost from out-of-state students

Enrollment policies geared toward out-of-state students may hurt residents seeking to apply in-state

Public colleges and universities are increasingly recruiting out-of-state students to make up for budget cuts to higher education, Lauren Camera reports for U.S. News & World Report.   

The latest annual report from advocacy group Young Invincibles found that almost all states have been spending less on their public higher education systems than they did before the Great Recession. According to the analysis, states reduced per-student spending by an average of 21% between fiscal years 2008 and 2014.

To weather the budget cuts, public university systems have been relying on revenue from out-of-state students who pay significantly more in tuition than in-state students.

Last school year, the University of Alabama had nearly twice as many freshmen from out of state than from Alabama. Similarly, more than half of students this past fall at both the University of Iowa and the University of Oregon were from out of state.

A recent state audit charged that the University of California (UC) system was admitting too many out-of-state applicants at the expense of in-state applicants.

The audit found that from academic years 2010-2011 through 2014-2015, total out-of-state enrollment at university campuses increased by 82%, or 18,000 students, while resident enrollment decreased by 1%, or 2,200 students. The supplemental tuition that non-residents paid in 2014-2015 generated $728 million, marking a growth of $403 million, or 124%, from 2010-2011. The system also relaxed admissions for non-residents, which, the audit said, hurt residents' opportunity for enrollment.

UC President Janet Napolitano called the audit "unfair," arguing that if the system had not increased out-of-state enrollment, then the lost revenue would amount to a $2,400 annual tuition hike for all in-state undergraduate students.

Enhancing recruitment efforts for out-of-state and international students

California residents paid $13,400 in tuition and fees for the current academic year, compared with $38,108 for non-residents.

While public institutions have increased tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students, the financial burden tends to fall most heavily on residents who want to enroll at in-state schools. These students also face a more challenging admissions process.

Also see: Future students, future revenues

"Students don't really travel very far when it comes to enrolling in college," says Elizabeth Akers, a fellow with the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy. "In the case of the University of California, the question that should be being asked ... is whether or not there is sufficient access to education for the people of California."

Proposed solutions include implementing out-of-state enrollment caps and a federal-state matching policy that would encourage states to better invest in their higher education systems (Camera, U.S. News & World Report, 4/1).

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