According to Andrew Rotherham at Time, a new hot issue in higher education involves public universities trying to pad their coffers in these cash-strapped times by admitting more out-of-state applicants, who must pay higher tuition rates, at the expense of the local kids they should be educating. This issue has obviously been made more pertinent by two recent changes in the American economy and culture:
1.) The belief that every high school graduate should attend college.
2.) The Great Recession has made every tuition dollar count more than ever before.
So everybody feels that have to go to college. But colleges, stricken by the recession, aren't getting enough money. They can, obviously, raise tuition rates (as they have traditionally done) or focus on getting more of the students who are obligated to pay more - the vaunted out-of-staters.
I was an out-of-stater myself as an undergrad, going to the University of Wyoming despite having grown up in Texas. This was back when dollars were a-plenty (the glory days of 2003) and I was given a good deal on tuition because my father was an alum (class of '76!). The university was not at full capacity (at least my freshman year) and I never thought that my admission denied access to a native Wyomingite.
The campus was, in fact, chock full of other out-of-staters. Geographic diversity was achieved.
Eight and a half years have passed since I committed to moving to Laramie to embark on my college education, and those years have been unkind to the wallets of students, parents, and university administrators. Simultaneously, the drive to spend one's money on college has only increased.
Colleges and universities are crowded by students hoping to avoid future recessions by getting degrees that will make them marketable and competitive in a globalized world. As a high school teacher, I notice that the hallways are plastered with posters encouraging students to apply for college.
You can do it! Even if you think you can't! There's financial aid to help! Apply for scholarships!
For many high school seniors, such as the ones in my U.S. Government classes, money and time are tight. Is it fair that they now have to compete with out-of-state students who are able, or are at least willing, to pay more? A college class that is filled to capacity by an out-of-stater means a local student cannot take it until the next semester, extending his or her stay by another semester.
More semesters means more money spent, which means more student debt. If ten additional out-of-staters in a high-demand class fill it to capacity and force ten local students to possibly delay graduation, has the State been derelict in its duty to focus on educating its own citizens?
Sadly, we are all complicit in this current conundrum: Most of us have supported the "everyone must attend college" line, supported filling public universities to capacity, and supported increasing state funding for higher education. Then the Great Recession hits and we want to cut back, like turning off a spigot.
The cuts have been painful. When all is said and done and the economy slowly rebounds, will we open the spigot once again for university funding or remain cautious, being more realistic about the goals and expectations of higher education (for our state's own citizens and our neighbors)?