Colleges Squeezing Out Less Profitable Home State Students

A change in funding at state colleges and universities is starting to change who makes up the student body. In-state students, even with perfect grades and impressive lists of extra-curricular activities, are being passed over in favor of out-of-state students willing to pay three times the tuition.

A scathing report last month accused the California State University system of admitting too many out-of-state students, and reducing opportunities for California residents to attend college in their own state.

When students move into states and squeeze out local students looking for an affordable education, access to the middle class, and increased opportunities—all promises of a public university – are lost.

California isn’t alone.

As college costs and student debt increase, schools nationwide are looking farther and farther away to fill the student body with higher paying out-of-state students to help sustain operations.

When colleges look out of state to fund their education, they go against their mission as a public good. Tuition-dependent schools are in essence privatized, relying on students rather than public funding to provide an education.

In Oregon, the state legislature, following a national trend since the recession, decreased higher education funding by 33.5 percent between 2008 and 2015. It’s the sixth highest cut in the country. Per student, the state reduced spending 32 percent between 2002 and 2012.

Without funding from the state, schools now rely increasingly on tuition for their operating budgets. In 2001, Oregon’s schools received 47 percent of their funding from the state; today the state provides 19 percent. To make up the difference, schools have shifted their funding from 45 percent from tuition to 73 percent.

This year, the University of Oregon’s student body is 35 percent out-of-state students and 14 percent international students. The remaining 51 percent are Oregon residents, much lower than the average of 73 percent at Oregon’s other public universities.

It isn’t just that the University of Oregon is so much more appealing to more students outside of Oregon. The University of Oregon needs out-of-state students for its bottom line – out-of-state students pay three times the tuition as Oregonians.

Twenty percent of the student body is from California alone. The school hired two full time recruiters based in California to encourage students to come to University of Oregon and pay full tuition.

Having more Californians in Eugene is not a problem – the problem, as in California, is that fewer are able to attend college in their home state. Between 2005 and 2009, the share of less lucrative Oregonians making up the freshman classes at the University of Oregon dropped from 79 percent to 59 percent.

Oregon and California aren’t alone in this trend. Out-of-state students outnumber in-state students at the University of Alabama, the University of Michigan, and the University of Iowa.

When colleges look out of state to fund their education, they go against their mission as a public good. Tuition-dependent schools are in essence privatized, relying on students rather than public funding to provide an education.

If Germany Can be Tuition Free, Why Not Us?

There was some very exciting news coming out of Germany this week, when the country announced that it is scrapping tuition and fees for its universities. Organizing is widely credited with building the public will and political momentum for free college. In fact, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, of the Hamburg Parliament, told reporters this week, “Tuition fees are socially unjust.”

Free or low-cost higher education is typical in most of Europe.

In Germany, tuition is a mere fraction of what American students pay. But with Germany, which has been taking heat for pushing austerity measures that have unnecessarily constrained the economy, leading on this important issue it, brings hope that we can keep building the momentum in the U.S.

And it’s beginning. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy has unveiled a plan that will help folks who are already burdened with student debt. His plan calls for state tax breaks for interest on student loans, but more importantly, it would create an authority in the state that would allow students to refinance their debt at market interest rates. Additionally, he’s working to create the Connecticut Financial Aid Pledge, which would offer assistance to help qualifying Connecticut students graduate without debt.

This is a step in the right direction, but the U.S. is still miles away from the free college tuition. Students, teachers unions, and communities have been working for nearly ten years in Germany to win free schooling. Here in the states it’s just recently risen to be part of the national conversation.

Nascent coalitions like the Higher Ed Not Debt that the Alliance works alongside, will continue to push for fully funded education, and to ensure that our young people don’t enter the workforce carrying student debt. We need other states to step up to the table to match and beat this proposal.

Because, as the Minister for Science and Culture in Lower Saxony said this week, “We got rid of tuition because we don’t want higher education which depends on the wealth of the parents.”

Money in Politics: The Best Tax Break Half a Million Dollars Can Buy

The first in a series of articles exploring the influence of corporate money over our political system.

When Microsoft filed pay disclosures with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, it reported a $670,000 bonus for company CEO Steve Ballmer. But the company didn’t mention how Ballmer spent the bulk of that check – on a $425,000 campaign contribution to oppose a state income tax for the very wealthy. Continue reading “Money in Politics: The Best Tax Break Half a Million Dollars Can Buy”