Faced with budget cuts, some cash-strapped state universities are stepping up their recruitment of higher paying out-of-state undergraduates, a move that critics say is unfair to the states’ residents and could affect in-state minority applicants. The University of California system and the University of Washington in Seattle have openly declared their intention to boost their bottom lines with more out-of-state students, and admissions data for this fall reflect their efforts.
Other schools are probably making similar efforts, but, since it’s not a popular move, “it’s not something they would send out in a [news] release,” said Dan Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
The monetary incentive is great. Out-of-state tuition can be several times that of in-state. At the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, for example, tuition and fees for 2011-12 are about $11,837 in-state, and $36,001 for out-of-state students.
“There are concerns that states are reneging on their promise—that states are inadvertently creating another roadblock for minority students,” said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. The trend is recent, a result of the economic downturn, and “direct consequences are very difficult to quantify,” he said.
Universities may end up with the same number of minorities, but they’re not necessarily state residents or underprivileged, he said. The concern is “you get more affluent minorities,” he said.
State universities face varying regional, budgetary, and legislative conditions. But most are coping with growing pressure as more students want to go to college—seeing it as crucial to surviving a tough economy—and state lawmakers cut higher education funding. In 2010, state and local appropriations for higher education hit the lowest level in 25 years: $6,451 per full-time equivalent, according to State Higher Education Executive Officers, or SHEEO. The group blamed enrollment growth, inflation and the failure of state and local funding to keep up.
Apart from furloughs, layoffs, fat-trimming and dipping into reserves, state universities are turning to other remedies, including seeking more say in how they use their dollars, raising tuition—in some cases drastically—and bringing in more out-of-state students.
In California, educators are bracing for draconian state funding cuts, following several years of state budget turmoil. After three years of “wholesale” cutbacks, “the magic bullets have all been spent,” said UC system president Mark G. Yudof, adding that tuition is likely to rise again. In the state of Washington, higher education faced funding cuts of almost half a billion dollars over two years but won passage of a bill that paved the way for possible double-digit tuition increases.
The new law also reins in UW Seattle’s out-of-state admissions trend. The university enrolled 351 fewer in-state freshmen in 2010 compared with 2006, and 410 more nonresidents. UW will be required to enroll at least 4,000 in-state freshmen starting in the 2012-13 academic year.
Alarm over the out-of-state growth has escalated as competition has sharpened to get into many state schools, especially flagships. UC-Berkeley accepted only 21 percent of its applicants for the fall. Within the California State University system, there are campuses that accept one-tenth of their applicants, officials say.
“There’s some great students not able to get in due to space,” said Karl Smith, associate director of the office of admissions at UW Seattle, where the admissions rate fell from 68.8 percent in 2004 to 56.7 percent in 2010. “Most flagships are not designed to accommodate everyone,” but students can still get into great places, he said.
At the Seattle campus, the number of in-state minority acceptances has risen, while Whites have fallen. Offers to African-Americans rose from 210 in 2006 to 223 in 2010; American Indians, 92 to 135; Asian-Americans, 1,657 to 1,708; and Latinos, 371 to 453. Offers to Whites fell from 4,028 to 3,585. Meanwhile, offers to non-residents grew steadily, from 4,503 to 6,572.
For this fall, the University of California’s nine campuses offered admittance to 511 more in-state students than the previous year—but also 1,819 more out-of-state students and 1,773 more international students.