Enrollment Trends Mixed for Out-of-State Students

Admissions of out-of-state students at public, four-year Virginia higher-ed institutions was down this year.
Enrollment change at Virginia public four-year institutions, fall 2016. Admissions of out-of-state students was down.Data source: SCHEV

Enrollment increased modestly at Virginia’s public four-year institutions this academic year, but the number of new undergraduate, out-of-state students declined by 5%, Tod Massa, director of policy research, reported to the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) today.

Normally, the precise mix of in-state and out-of-state students at Virginia’s public universities is an arcane matter of little interest to anyone outside of SCHEV and the universities themselves. But this year is different. Some state legislators are irate about runaway tuition increases and just about everything else about the way Virginia’s universities are operated. Del. David Albo, R-Springfield, has introduced a bill, HB 1410, which would require 75% of the undergraduate students at state universities (excepting only Norfolk State University, Virginia State University and Virginia Military Institute) to be comprised of Virginia residents.

The bill would impact three universities below the 75% threshold: James Madison University (72% in-state), the University of Virginia (66%) and the College of William & Mary (62%).

And that’s just for starters. Albo’s bill also would prohibit Virginia public institutions of higher learning from using tuition revenue from Virginia students for financial aid, and would allow no more than 5% of non-Virginians’ tuition revenue to provide financial assistance to non-Virginia students. Such restrictions would undermine the business model of institutions like the University of Virginia that use higher tuition revenue to fulfill a promise not to turn away any student for reasons of financial need.

Members of the SCHEV board are taking Albo’s bill seriously. Revelations last year that the University of Virginia had cobbled together a “strategic investment fund,” which is capable of generating $100 million in revenue, stirred a backlash. UVa officials, critics charged, had kept the revenue source under wraps while jacking up tuition and seeking more money from the General Assembly.

Legislators have long been concerned about the ratio of in-state to out-of-state students, especially in Virginia’s elite universities. Admitting more out-of-state students displaces in-state students, the thinking goes. Massa’s enrollment statistics gave ammo to both sides of the controversy. On the one hand, the number of continuing out-of-state students increased by 367 this  year and the number of new out-of-state transfer students increased by 72. On the other hand, the number of first-time out-of-staters fell by 377. The net gain in out-of-state students was 62 out of some 216,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

The decrease in new out-of-staters was not an aberration. Massa suggested that Virginia institutions are suffering from “market challenges” — tough competition in an environment in which students and their families are pushing back against high tuitions. While Virginia enrollments rose slightly this year, they increased less than SCHEV had forecast. Financial aid is a big driver of student acceptance rates, and Albo’s legislation would limit the flexibility of Virginia universities to provide it.

Board members also fretted about unintended consequences of Albo’s legislation. On average, out-of-state students pay 160% of the average cost of education. In effect, they are subsidizing Virginia students. Capping the percentage of out-of-staters would pressure universities to increase the tuition of in-state students.

Update: SCHEV is following nearly two dozen bills in the General Assembly this session. You can view the key legislation at the council’s higher-education legislation tracker.

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5 responses to “Enrollment Trends Mixed for Out-of-State Students”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    hmmmm…….. has Albo cleared this with his (R-conservative) buddies who were reported on earlier?

    ” The Red Tape Reduction Act, sponsored by Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, and Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, would require every new regulatory requirement be offset by eliminating two existing regulatory requirements until the regulatory baseline has been reduced 35%. Once that threshold has been met, new regulations would be offset by a one-for-one reduction.”

    this is comical.. and it really does demonstrate the state of Conservatism these days. It’s CLEARLY not like a core philosophy that they hate all regulation! I mean I bet the hairdresser stuff came from them!

    and WHERE did the 75% in-state ratio come from? was it just out of thin air or what?

    Oh. I think, I’m starting to get the picture.. When these guys go to Richmond every year – they actually need something to do and what better way to impress your constituents than to say you’re getting rid of “bad” regulation done earlier by annoying “liberals” and yeah.. and name it something catchy like ” Red Tape Reduction”! Now, I have the picture!

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Albo and others, especially from Northern VA, are responding to common constituent complaints that this or that particular child could not get into William and Mary or UVA, despite that child’s obvious superiority to others who did – from in state or from out of state. This bill has been around for a while in various forms.

    That said, these are state universities and I would be happy to see the legislators engage in this discussion as long as the bill is accompanied by the appropriate budget amendments to 1) compensate for the lost out of state revenue and 2) beef up financial aid to replace the tuition dollars which have been turned into transfer payments. Or as long as the GA is willing to take responsibility for managing the schools away from the Boards of Visitors and dive into a cost-cutting, efficiency battle with the schools. Neither of Albo’s proposals address the issue of cost.

    And yes, Larry, the urge to legislate and regulate has always been bi-partisan. Some person yesterday, the name escapes me, mentioned to VPAP readers that the General Assembly process is always a bit perilous, especially if you don’t pay close attention. That quote from a court decision is more than 150 years old, as I recall.

    1. LocalGovGuy Avatar

      That is my real concern when I bring up state funding in comments. If you want to really, really put the cost of higher ed at Virginia’s elite schools (U.Va., W&M, VT) out of reach for most Virginia residents, enact this bill without increasing state appropriations to higher ed.

      If this bill was enacted, the schools would have to make up for lost out-of-state revenue (hurts U.Va. and W&M) as well as tuition shifting (which would also ensnare VT). So, if you think those schools are filled with upper middle class and upper class kids now, just wait. They will be almost exclusively filled with those kids (who can pay the full in-state tuition bill) if this legislation is enacted and state appropriations aren’t increased. (And from both the Governor’s Office and Speaker’s Office, it sounds like we’re going to see CUTS to higher ed, not increases.)

      This would be a back breaker for middle and lower class families trying to get their kids into these schools. Whether the schools would ever admit it, they would focus on admitting “which families can pay the full bill.”

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Hey Steve – thanks for donating a bundle to VPAP.. I do donate but I’m a piker compared to you.

    and on the “bipartisan” legislate and regulate – the difference is Liberals forthrightly OWN it.. a legitimate role for govt whereas their counterparts are invariably conflicted by it…almost schizophrenic .. bad, bad bad… except for college enrollment numbers, vaginal probes , tax-credits for private schools, stop Tesla from direct sales, prevent 3rd party solar, and a few other “things”!


  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    We have a bad way of funding higher ed and it hurts taxpayers as well as those who really need financial help because we give the money as a lump sum at budget time and package it as “help” for both the middle and lower income when the reality is probably that the low income is a small percentage.

    what we’re really doing is primarily subsidizing the middle class and the colleges are basically playing to the Middle Class to maintain the subsidies.

    the problem is Higher Ed gets the money as a lump sum and decides how to spend it and sends the students off to get loans… to pay for the ever increased price – higher than health care costs !

    What money we take from taxpayers for higher ed should be severely means-tested and just like MedicAid – strict rules to qualify.

    It’s obscene that we cannot pay for people who are genuinely destitute .. handicapped folks.. and kids and sick and elderly – ..because we’re trying to maintain a subsidy for the middle class and say MedicAid is breaking us.

    I’m not unsympathetic to the middle class but this system is a perversion and encourage and emboldens the higher ed to just abuse the state and students and want MO and MO Money… or else they’ll stick it to those middle class folks.

    we cannot continue like this. It’s unsustainable.

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