By: Steve Cohen, Forbes
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The college admission season is gearing up in full- force, and it promises to be just as crazily competitive as last year. Understandably, families are searching for any small edge they can find. One of best-kept secrets in college admissions this coming year is that many top state universities will be admitting more out-of-state applicants than they ever have.
This opens up a whole new group of schools that were formerly much more difficult to get into. We're talking about great schools , sometimes lots more openings, and for a few campuses, slightly easier academic standards!
For example, at the University of Illinois last year, fully 27% of its freshman came from out-of-state. That was up from 19% just five years ago. (And it doesn't include the 17% of the freshman class who were foreigners.) Similarly, the University of Washington had an entering class in 2010 of 27% out-of-staters. This too was up from 19% just three years earlier.
The University of Virginia tries to maintain a student body comprised of 30% out-of-state students. But last year it edged up to over 33%. And the University of Michigan is up to 40% out-of-staters, compared with 37% five years ago.
Even colleges that shunned out-of-state students for years are showing a marked receptivity. The University of California's top campuses – Berkeley and UCLA – have doubled and even tripled the number of out-of-state kids. At UCLA, the total percentage of out-of-state kids is still relatively low: only about 7% of last year's entering class. But at Berkeley, it was a whopping 19% and wit will grow to 20% this year, according to Janet Gilmore, a spokesperson for the University. Five years ago, the percentage of out-of-state students at Berkeley was only 5%.
At most of these world-class universities admission is still very selective. The acceptance for out-of-state students was only 30% last year. But that was still better than what California residents experienced, which was a 21% acceptance rate. And it even got a tad bit easier for out-of-staters compared to previous years. Five years ago out-of-staters applying to UCLA were admitted only 21% of the time, compared to their California counterparts who saw a 23% admit rate.
At Berkeley, 39% of out-of-state applicants received the proverbial fat envelope, compared to only 24% of California residents. And compared to five years ago, when out-of-state kids saw a 22% acceptance rate at Berkeley – compared to in-staters 25% — the trend is looking good for out-of-state applicants.
What's driving this statistically significant advantage? Money mostly.
As states continue to weather the financial crisis, they are trimming state budgets. And expenditures to their prestigious state-run universities have taken a hit. Consequently, schools have consciously – and sometimes publicly – increased the number of higher-tuition-paying out-of-state students.
Admission officers readily admit that the higher out-of-state tuitions help subsidize in-state kids. But admission deans at all top colleges seek geographic diversity – as well as many other types of diversity beyond racial – in putting together their entering class.
“Very interesting students from outside the Commonwealth enhance the educational experience for everyone,” said Greg Roberts Dean of Admission at the University of Virginia. “We're committed to serving Virginians, and we have to find that right balance.”
Michael Muska, the Dean of College Relations at Brooklyn's Poly Prep – and formerly a senior admission officer at Brown and Oberlin and co-author of Getting In! – reinforces the point: “Good colleges are not looking for the well-rounded kid; they're looking for the well-rounded class. That means they want a few super-scholars for each academic department, top athletes for each time, wonderful musicians, dancers, actors, and journalists. And they also want diversity: racial, economic, geographic,”
Among the most sought-after groups on many top campuses are “first-gen” kids – children who will be the first generation in their family to go to college. Virginia's Roberts made the point clearly, “One of the benefits of using the Common App is that we are opening ourselves up to more kids.” And many of those first-gen kids our outside of Virginia.
Out-of-state families typically pay two-to-five times what in-state students pay for tuition. At the University of Illinois, in-state students pay annual tuition of $14,414. Their out-of-state roommates pay $28,556.
At the University of Michigan, Michigan residents pay $12,634 in annual tuition. Non-Michigan residents pay $37,782.
At UCLA, California residents pay $12,686 in annual tuition. Out-of-staters pay $35,564.
For most families, these out-of-state tuition costs are sizeable, especially when one has to add room, board, books, and travel, and general living arrangements to the total. But compared to good private colleges and universities that can cost $40,000 (USC, Brown) or even more than $50,000 (Amherst, Middlebury, Claremont McKenna, George Washington,) the hefty out-of-state tuition premiums seem like a bargain.
Even across the internet, one can hear parents plotting their next move: let's get Kim into a great state university. She'll pay out-of-state tuition the first year, but establish legal state residence in the college's town. Then, sophomore year, she'll pay in-state tuition for the rest of her time at state U.
Sorry, no go.
State legislatures have passed laws, and the colleges themselves have instituted rules that make it incredibly difficult for students admitted as out-of-staters to change their residency – for the purpose of paying lower tuition.
But there is one other little-known secret that is worth passing along. Many of these fine universities use what is known as “rolling admission.” That means that they evaluate a student as soon as the application is complete and submitted. And the earlier one applies, the better the chances of getting in. As the semester wears on and procrastinating seniors get their applications in later in the fall, the odds of admission get tougher.
This out-of-state tilt probably won't last forever. But for now, it is an outstanding opportunity for kids and their bill-paying families.
Steve Cohen is co-author of the just-updated best-seller Getting In!
The Top 30 State Universities That Love Out-of-State Students