November 20, 2015

Out of State Students Increasing at Public Colleges

In-state, out-of-state, there’s nothing wrong with either decision. Just make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. 

There are many reasons that choosing an out-of-state college may make sense for your student. In fact, many public colleges are seeing an increase in the number of students willing to attend school away from home. However, the financial aid game that is leading to higher out-of-state enrollment may also be harming in-state students.

Consider the Costs

Most people know that out-of-state tuition can be almost double the cost of in-state tuition, plus the cost of living away from home will also be a factor. Travel expenses for weekend and holiday trips home will add up. However, a great scholarship from an out-of-state school may offset these costs and more. The important thing is not to be tricked into a more expensive out-of-state program just because of a scholarship if it is still going to end up costing you more out of pocket in the end.

Financial Aid Availability

Unfortunately, in recent years the tendency for public colleges to offer merit aid to out-of-state students has increased. This money is being used to draw in the most talented students in a bid to rank higher among public schools. This tactic has long been used among the most well known private universities for years.

Students who do qualify for merit aid need to consider whether the school has programs that are actually in line with their personal goals. The bad news is that a lot of these merit aid offers still come with a significantly higher net price to the student at the end of the day, and may not put them at a school that is not really a good fit for them.

The Long Game

The other bad news about the shift toward out-of-state enrollment is that the merit money being used was once intended to help those in need, or with an inability to go to school elsewhere. It offered an opportunity for local in-state students to make it through school at the lower in-state tuition rate. Studies have now shown that as this merit aid is being used to lure in out-of-state students there is less and less room for in-state students who do need real aid, and who are trying to attend school locally to save money.

Parents and students should pay attention to trends in enrollment at the schools they are most interested in by doing a little bit of research. Some schools have admitted that their goal is to draw in out-of-state students at the higher tuition rate merely to fuel economic growth at the expense of equally qualified in-state students. Many people are arguing that this is a poorly designed marketing ploy that harms students and our nation’s educational system by putting too much emphasis on the money to be made, and not enough on the primary goal of educating students so that they can get better jobs in the end.

The current increase in out-of-state enrollment at public colleges is simply a reflection of what has been happening at private schools all along. It is their way of gaining notoriety and making more money off of students by presenting them with money up front and charging more in the end. Realistically, unless a particular school has a very specialized program that can not be found anywhere else, most students will be better off staying in-state for their studies.

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