A growth in out-of-state residents attending public universities is crowding out poor and minority students and making it more difficult for people from those backgrounds to get ahead, a new report argues.
The increase in the percentage of non-resident students enrolling at state flagship universities has "a significantly negative relationship" with the number of students from low-income and "underrepresented racial groups" enrolled, write Bradley R. Curs, an associate professor at the University of Missouri, and Ozan Jaquette, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, in a new research draft presented this week at an American Educational Research Association meeting.
State universities have hiked tuition in response to consistent cuts from legislatures in recent decades. Though some states limit how much in-state tuition can increase, those limits do not typically exist on non-resident tuition rates, leading students from wealthier backgrounds to feel more comfortable applying to those schools than their peers from less-wealthy households.
"Non-resident students are typically more affluent than resident students because only affluent households can afford non-resident tuition prices," Curs and Jaquette write. "Therefore, growth in non-resident students may crowd-out enrollment opportunities for students from low-income households."
Because public universities are increasing non-resident enrollment to help fill a gap left by declining state financial support, Curs and Jaquette argue higher education budget cuts are leading to lower socioeconomic and racial diversity, since minorities are more likely to come from low-income backgrounds.
The new findings add to a March 2013 paper the duo submitted at the American Educational Research Association conference.
For every 1 percent decline in state revenues, the research institutions in their sample increased freshmen nonresident enrollment by .76 percent, from 2001-2011. They found in the March 2013 paper that doctoral institutions were even more likely to boost out-of-state student enrollment, increasing it by .9 percent for every 1 percent decline in state revenues over the same period.
This strategy appears to be limited to in-demand flagship universities with strong national profiles, the authors concluded. So while the University of California-Berkeley could easily boost out-of-state enrollment, for example, the UC Merced campus may have a bit more trouble.
"[D]eclines in state appropriations may have the unintended effect of compelling institutions to prefer non-resident students over resident students," Curs and Jaquette wrote in the March paper. "Given that non-resident students are less likely to remain in the state upon graduation, the decline in state support for higher education may have negative effects on the number of college-educated workers entering the labor force."
CORRECTION: The paper was presented this week at a meeting of the American Educational Research Association, not a meeting of the Association for Education Finance and Policy.