Admissions game a tough balancing act for public institutions
Public institutions are admitting more out-of-state students to balance budgets in the wake of decreasing state and federal support, meaning fewer potential seats for in-state students.
Because out-of-state admissions standards are often higher than those for in-state students, increasing the number of out-of-state enrollees also raises the institution’s incoming freshman class profile, which boosts the overall school profile in a rankings-driven climate.
- But parents and state representatives are taking notice at the decreasing number of in-state students admitted, and they’re not happy.
In some places, demographics changes and lower numbers of 18-21 year-olds in the state force institutions to look elsewhere for students. New England schools serve as extreme outliers, with over 70% of students from some institutions in the region coming from outside of the state. And the University of Maine recently began specifically targeting students in neighboring states to fill the gaps with a tuition match program.
But in some states, like Alabama and California, the issue is less one of population and more about trying to find new ways to increase the bottom line. States like North Carolina have put hard caps on the number of out of state institutions public universities can enroll.
For families who pay taxes in a state but whose children are shut out from the state institutions — particularly the often desirable flagships — because of these types of quota games, the practice of admitting more out-of-state students is problematic. Governing reports most states "spend over $1 billion each on their public colleges and universities." And since the institutions by mission are to serve the students of the state, the balancing act between revenue, prestige and access can’t tilt against those they were built to educate.
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