My former student Paul Fain, a staff writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education, had a long story in the New York Times’ “Education Life” supplement on Sunday. It focused on some new trends for flagship state universities. First, they are increasingly popular among top in-state students. Makes sense. Why wouldn’t a smart Atlantan, for example, pay $7500 to attend the University of Georgia as opposed to $37,500 to go to Emory University?
With the demand shooting up this way, the schools have gotten harder for residents to get into: even more so, because the supply (of places) has not only not increased, it’s actually decreased. Here’s why. Facing declining subsidies from state legislatures, these universities are filling more of their incoming classes with out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition.The upshot is that in-state students are trending higher-quality, the budget-helping out-of-staters lower.
The situation at the University of Delaware is an interesting counter-example. Since I’ve been teaching there, out-of-staters have accounted for between 60-65 percent of the student body—tying UD with University of Vermont for the highest percentage at any state school. The twist at UD is that by longstanding agreement, we are required to admit any in-state applicant who projects to graduate, so we can’t pursue New Jersey lucre at Delawareans’ expense.
So at UD it’s the fixed number of out-of-state spots that have gotten increasingly competitive, leading to an SAT and preparation gap between the (smarter and smarter) out-of-state students and the Delawareans, whose average level stays pretty flat. (Let me quickly point out that some of my best all-time students have been from Delaware, usually from the much maligned “slower” lower Delaware, for some reason.) Figures for the last two recessionary admissions cycles haven’t been released yet, but you’d think this trend would be exacerbated, with more Delawareans applying to and choosing the budget-priced UD, leaving fewer spots for out-of-state folks, meaning that the ones who get in are likely to be regular Einsteins.
When my sabbatical is over and I get back on campus in the spring, I’ll scope it out and report.