The past few weeks have seen a data release , a study and a few lengthy articles that together should get students looking to apply to flagship state universities a bit more concerned about the potential for changes in acceptance rates over the next year or two. Added to ongoing pressures that have taken acceptance rates lower at most competitive colleges over the past few years are a number of issues have started to percolate again. These issues, combined with the timing of elections, could result in changes in focus at state universities that could serve to make admissions much more difficult to out-of-state students.
The Jack Kent Cook Foundation has long focused on the the increasing difficulty in-state students have gaining admission to their local public universities as out-of-state students and their higher tuition levels crowd out the more needy in-state students who these schools conceptually serve. More recently, Aaron Klein of the Brookings Institute published a report entitled "The Great Student Swap" highlighting the continued mix shift from in-state to out-of-state students at top flagship colleges .Klein cites 55% growth in out-of-state students since 2002 as well as mentioning that 48 out of 50 states have seen a move of some magnitude away from in-state students in the same time period .This growth has led to a decline of in-state students at many flagship universities. While there are many reasons for these moves, most are not nefarious behavior by state university systems . That said, the mix shift does potentially put flagship state schools in a bad light. Some of the flagship schools reporting significant declines in the time period analyzed by Klein were the University of Maine which saw in-state enrollment decline from 80% to 54%,UMASS Amherst which saw a decline from 87% to 70%, University of Michigan which went from 65% to 53% and SUNY Stony Brook which saw in-state enrollment go from 91% to 77%.
On top of the recent Klein article is the fall enrollment data released by the National Student Clearing House Research Center which highlights a moderating yet continued decline in enrollment nationwide with a few states, such as Michigan ,reporting particularly ugly numbers (4.1%). It seems likely that the pressure seen by a number of states will result in actions to offset declines .The actions that states can take tend to focus on either costs or more aggressive efforts to reach new students . One thing is certain however, the actions will occur in a difficult economic environment and a political environment where elections are taking place. We feel this may make the optics related to some choices ( ramping in-state-students) too unappealing for schools to consider.It is worth mentioning that a number of states have moved to limit out-of-state enrollment or simply to encourage in-state enrollment at the expense of out-of-state candidates. These actions have proven to make well regarded flagship schools like UNC Chapel Hill and UTEX-Austin even tougher for out-of-state students and may potentially do the same at already highly selective schools like UCLA and Berkley .
A recent series of articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education focused on the increasing impact of politics and elections on education policy and universities. While a large part of the articles focuses on University of Wisconsin - Madison , which has seen it's non-resident freshman percentage increase from 32.9% to 45% in the past five years the point of the article is that higher education being targeted by politicians during election years is now a national phenomena.
While the decline in state funding has helped lead to out-of-state student growth at many flagship universities, taking increasing numbers of out-of-state students while state residents suffer in a more difficult economic environment puts schools and politicians in a difficult spot . It is our belief that this may result in increasing pressure to focus on in-state residents during the current admission (and election) cycle at the expense of out-of-state students and is therefore an issue out-of-state families need to factor into their thinking when applying.
We keep an eye on legislative activity ,the frequency of topical local news items and do word scrapes of relevant state websites but would mention that families can and should do some of these things themselves to make sure they are not investing too much time on a school that is less likely than it might initially appear from an acceptance standpoint. For those that don't want to do this, we can help.