Sen. Kissel: UConn should “serve Connecticut students first, out-of-state students second”

February 24, 2014

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant
UConn Looks Beyond Borders For New Students

Balancing The University Budget With Out-of-State Students

By KATHLEEN MEGAN, [email protected]
The Hartford Courant
7:36 PM EST, February 23, 2014

Faced with rising costs and growing competition, UConn will add thousands of additional students in coming years, with many of them coming from out of state.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Wayne Locust, UConn’s vice president for enrollment planning and management, but he said that percentage could climb to 37 or 38 percent on the Storrs campus, partly because the number of Connecticut 18-year-olds is projected to decline.

From the mid-’90s to the early 2000s, the percentage of out-of-state students in Storrs grew from 20 percent to about 30 percent, where it has hovered for the past decade. UConn now has plans to increase the number of students in Storrs by 5,000 over the next decade and chances are that will mean a higher percentage of out-of-state students.

“For us to continue our growth and remain competitive, we’re going to have to reach beyond the borders of Connecticut,” said Locust, “as well as continuing to attract Connecticut’s high-achieving students.”

“We’re going to have to recruit out-of-state students and be aggressive about that,” Locust said.

Nationally, out-of-state enrollment at many public universities has grown as schools — faced with cutbacks in state support — attempt to balance their budgets with students whose tuition rate is typically two to three times higher than that of in-state students.

In Connecticut, legislators have mixed opinions on how large a share of UConn’s enrollment should go to out-of-state students.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said, “People will say that it can be a positive and that having a nice mix of students from a variety of states can be beneficial to the learning experience. … My feeling is that the institution has a mission to serve Connecticut students first, out-of-state students second.”

Kissel said he wouldn’t want UConn’s percentage of out-of-state students to go any higher than it is now. “In my heart of hearts, I would prefer to see the ratio a little less,” he said.

This year, the percentage of out-of-state freshmen at he Storrs campus is about 28 percent. The percentage of out-of-state freshmen has ranged from 26.6 to 30.7 percent over the past decade.

Sen. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, said she doesn’t object to having about 30 percent of the students from out of state if they stay in the area after graduating. “I think it really depends on if they are staying in the state and contributing to the state’s economy,” said Mushinsky.

Locust said that about 18 percent of out-of-state students remain in Connecticut after graduation; two-thirds of UConn grads overall remain in the state.

Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury, co-chairwoman of the higher education committee, said she doesn’t have the same concerns that others do about a Connecticut taxpayer-supported institution serving non-residents. “I think our students need to be exposed to different ideas and people from around the country,” said Willis. “Hopefully they’ll add to our economy … They’ll come to stay and work.”

But she, said, “I think they are at a tipping point. I wouldn’t want to see them get any higher.”

Cutbacks Can Mean More Out-Of-State Students

Bradley Curs, a University of Missouri associate professor with a specialty in higher education policy, said the increase in out-of state enrollment is happening at “the more prestigious [public] institutions.’

“My guess is that they have the ability to attract out-of-state students better,” said Curs. “Students are drawn to large flagship universities. They have the resources and the demand to change their enrollment practices.”

On average, he said, the percentage of out-of-state students in large public universities has gone from about 20 percent in 1995 to about 25 percent now.

“I think the institutions on the coasts have increased more than the ones in middle,” he said. “I think being in the Northeast too, the students are just more mobile.”

Curs said his research has shown that the primary driving force behind this move is to offset the cutback in state appropriations with the higher tuition payments made by out-of-state students. He said some institutions have also gone out of state because of a shrinking pool of 18-year-olds in state.

Among institutions that are considered UConn’s peers, the percentage of in-state students enrolled are: the University of Massachusetts, 73 percent; University of Maryland, 69 percent; and University of Delaware, 40 percent.

Scott Jaschik, editor of the online journal Inside Higher Ed, said “if you are in the Northeast, it can be very wise to diversify your base … not just getting more New York state and Massachusetts [students] … it would be healthy to have a non-New England base.”

The topic of out-of-state enrollment can be “very sensitive,” he said, because state tax funds finance the universities. “People want their kids to get in,” he said.

Questions From State Legislators

In Connecticut, the General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigations Committee recently took a close look at the overall affordability of UConn, including an examination of enrollment trends.

Kissel, co-chair of the committee, said he was hearing from constituents about students with high grades who were getting into competitive private colleges, but “amazingly, not getting into the University of Connecticut.”

Those constituents were wondering whether UConn was “subsidizing itself by bringing in more out-of-state students who have to pay much higher tuition” and therefore squeezing out Connecticut residents.

UConn’s out-of-state students pay more than three times the tuition paid by Connecticut students: $28,204 this year for out-of-state students, compared to $9,256 for in-state students. In 1996, out-of-state students across all UConn campuses accounted for 33 percent of net tuition revenue, compared to 43 percent last year, according to the program review report.

With Connecticut’s fiscal problems, state support for UConn fell about 22 percent from 2008 to 2013.

But Locust said the higher tuition paid by out-of-state students “is not a true consideration for us at this stage. We like the fact that we do get more revenue from out-of-state students who pay a premium, but that’s not a consideration at this stage.”

UConn officials also say that qualified Connecticut residents aren’t getting pushed out by out-of-state students, but they note that UConn is much tougher to get into now.

Since1995, applications have increased by 125 percent, while the average SAT scores of freshmen have climbed more than 200 points to 1,233 last fall. Nathan Fuerst, director of admissions, said that the academic quality of in and out-of-state students is about the same: In the current freshman class, in-state students’ average SAT score was only three points higher than out-of-state students’.

In addition, UConn says that since 1998, enrollment of in-state undergraduates across all its campuses has grown by 41 percent or an increase of 5,246 students; that compares to a 125 percent increase in out-of-state undergrads during that same period, or 2,494 more students.

Curs said his research has shown that as out-of-state enrollment grows, the proportion of low-income students declines at an institution. He said non-resident students tend to more affluent. “You’re trading a more affluent non-resident for in-state students who tend to be less affluent, more likely to be from low-income background,” he said.

He said his next study will look at whether out-of-state students tend to be better students than in-state students.