Does getting admitted to your state public college need to be this hard?

(Originally published Sep 2014. Apologize that I could not recreate the graphics.)

With Chirag getting closer to college, we’ve been more attention to college admissions, and hearing friends cite example after example of inexplicable rejections for some amazingly talented teenagers. And, more to the point, a growing number of kids being forced to go out of state.

An article in yesterday’s (Oct 8, 2014) WSJ (“Colleges’ wider search for applicants crowds out local students“) got my attention. As did two others in the San Jose Mercury news (out-of-state increase and in-state harder). These articles recognize that years of shrinking state support have forced schools to rely less on tax revenues and more on tuition and study the dramatic impact that the recession of 2008 has had on public 4-yr colleges and universities (see chart below):

  • State funding for 559 public schools has dropped by 23% over 5 years since 2008
  • 10% of the 559 schools decreased in-state admissions by 10% and grew out-of-state admissions by 10%; UCB and UCLA decreased in-state admissions by a more dramatic 23%
  • On average, switching from in-state schools to out-of-state schools increases tuition by $12,000 (or, put in % terms, by a whopping 144%). In the example cited, instead of spending ~$50,000 for tuition in a UC, the kid from Malibu will spend $182,000 at Brown. Based on the article, the $132,000 difference drops to $120,000 — I would assume, thanks to scholarships that this very talented young man picked up. Still, that is a 100+% increase in tuition costs!
  • Some schools have tried to maintain in-state admissions levels while increasing total enrollment to admit more out-of-state students
  • With an increase in the # applicants (in California’s case, 17% in the last 5 years) even holding numbers implies a smaller % of the graduating class is being admitted.
Data from WSJ article
UC-Admissions

Things that had me scratching my head:

  • If, as the report shows, schools swapped 10% of in-state kids for out-of-state kids, and are getting a 100% increase in revenue, aren’t schools making money in this process?
  • If many more of our kids attend schools in other states, isn’t society as a whole paying more?
  • Aren’t more kids being denied the opportunity to attend college for financial reasons?
  • Is this a case of a pennywise pound foolish economic policy being driven by the states? Shouldn’t the federal government address this growing issue?

An, admittedly simplistic, idea:

  • Increasing in-state tuition (so its between the current in-state and the typical out-of-state) — so, increase in-state to $25k/yr (simplistic approach: average of in-state $13k and out-of-state $36k since schools are apparently swapping in-state for out-of-state students 1 for 1) to more than square things away
  • $25k is much lower than $43k to attend another excellent public university like the University of Michigan

PS: I came across this CA petition to be handed over to Gov. Brown: http://bit.ly/1nwX3SN. Yours to sign, if you are so inclined.

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