Monday, May 25, 2015

Public Universities and Sneaky Tuition Hikes

So you live in a state with one of the 147 public universities that teach well but also have a solid national reputation for research. They are the top of the public university food chain, and most have not just great reputations here in the United States but internationally as well. And if those national public universities are a bit too high up the academic ladder for you, perhaps you can avail yourself of the next tier of state universities where admission standards are somewhat more flexible (and even in-state tuition is less). You want your kids to take advantage of the lower tuition charged to in-state residents, and while that’s still pricey, it seems a whole lot less expensive than those chi chi private schools or even the public universities in nearby states where you don’t get that benefit.
But today the financial aid that’s available and even the number of open slots in the freshman class at those desirable schools are severely more limited than they were just a few years ago. If state legislatures continue to apply austerity to public university budgets, since raising the in-state tuition too much is often a hot political potato, what would happen if they effectively forced their state schools to accept fewer of their own low-tuition-in-state residents and replaced them with full-freight students from other states or the international marketplace? Effectively, they would be getting a whole lot more money from tuition even though a whole lot their own local students would be left out. And while no one seems to be talking about this practice, the reason such state institutions were created in the first place – preparing resident students for life – would be almost completely ignored.
Some states seem to care about their own. North Carolina, for example, limits the number of out-of-state students on their prestigious U.N.C. Chapel Hill campus to 18%. Other states… not so much. High population growth California, for example, apparently does not. “Not coincidentally, in-state enrollment [at U.N.C.-CH] has remained robust. In 2000, U.N.C. admitted 32 international students as undergraduates. At U.C.L.A., by comparison, the number was 43. Twelve years later, U.N.C.’s international freshman enrollment had risen slightly, to 48. U.C.L.A., by contrast, enrolled 1,046 international freshmen in a single year, almost 25 times more in little more than a decade. [U.C.L.A.’s International Student Center is pictured above.] The number of in-state slots at U.C.L.A. barely changed, even as the number of in-state applications surged…
“The pattern at elite national universities [reflects that] the majority of additional students were from other states. Instead of extending their traditional mission of providing an affordable, high-quality education to local residents, national universities focused on recruiting students from other states and nations, many of whom paid much higher tuition rates. As a result, the number of in-state spots relative to the college-going population as a whole declined significantly at national public universities.” Kevin Carey writing for the May 18th New York Times. Those full-freight students also become generous donors after graduation. Second level colleges have more openings, but they are not at the best that such states have to offer.
We all know about how national universities with high profile sports programs (that generate lots of television cash and ticket sales) use recruiting to have the best athletes where they need them most, but there’s another kind of recruiting goin’ on. Take the Crimson Tide, for example. “The University of Alabama’s football program has an aggressive nationwide recruitment machine, and its coach, Nick Saban, has led the team to three national championships in the last decade. Less well known is the university’s equally ambitious recruitment program for nonathletes. With 30 full-time admissions officers across the country armed with millions of dollars in scholarships, the university has more than quadrupled its class of out-of-state students since 2000, to the point that they now represent the majority of all freshmen arriving in Tuscaloosa. Many if not most of the undergraduates bleeding Alabama crimson in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday afternoons come from somewhere else.
“Alabama accomplished this in part by substantially expanding the total number of students it enrolls, including in-state students. Other public universities have made space for out-of-state students by allowing fewer in-state ones to attend. The University of California, Berkeley, enrolled 384 fewer in-state freshmen in 2012 compared with 2000, while out-of-state American students grew by more than 300 and the number of international students increased eightfold. This happened at the same time that in-state tuition and fees increased to $13,200 from $3,964. (Out-of-state and international students pay more than $36,000 per year.) Purdue University cut annual in-state slots for incoming freshmen by more than 500 students, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by more than 300, and Auburn and Michigan State by more than 200, with each enrolling hundreds of additional out-of-state and international students in their stead.” Carey. Ouch!!!!
With soaring student loans (and the path to discharging this sort of loan close to impossible), other forms of financial aid all-but-non-existent, with tuition increases even for in-state students flying way beyond the rise in inflation and now with a reduction in freshman slots for locals, it seems pretty clear that most state legislatures just do not have a problem betraying their own children in the name of keeping taxes low for their richest state residents. Hey, those job creators, who really don’t create jobs (but the words sound good), really need to keep their taxes low because… er… they… er write the biggest campaign contribution/SuperPac checks to elect those legislators. They have no problem paying for their own kids’ education, by the way, private public or international. But exactly what do we owe our own children? What’s the morality here? How do you think our future will suffer with such short-term (??) bandages?
I’m Peter Dekom, and I wonder how legislators can actually look at themselves in the mirror after voting against their own residents’ children!

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