Recipe for competing as a public university

Schools are recruiting high-achieving students from out-of-state

Public universities are experimenting with new measures to bring in more students and increase revenue, Laura Pappano reports for the New York Times

The funding climate is rough for public institutions. So colleges and universities that once relied on a greater share of state appropriations are stepping up their efforts to stay afloat.

The University of Alabama (UA) the fastest growing flagship in the United States, has excelled in recent years at attracting more students, with enrollment reaching 37,665 this fall—an increase of nearly 58% from 2006. The university is also enrolling more high-achieving students with strong GPAs and ACT scores.

To do this, UA is taking steps such as hiring recruiters to scout out-of-state and full-paying students, increasing its digital presence, and increasing merit aid.

Instead of making cuts to staff and faculty, UA increased its tuition and fees and invested in new buildings and renovations on campus. UA's 2014–2015 financial statement drew a line between facilities and recruitment, stating that "The university must have campus facilities that are competitive to meet student enrollment goals."

Institutions including Arizona State University, Oregon State University, and Utah State University have also sought to drive up enrollment by boosting their online programs, expanding their campuses, and investing in satellite campuses.

Some critics fear that these recruiting tactics are preventing low-income students from in-state from access to top public universities. But higher education leaders argue that they are doing what must be done with fewer financial resources, as well as injecting new talent into the local economy (Pappano,New York Times, 11/3). 

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