The UNC Board of Governors might slacken a long-standing rein on admitting out-of-state students to UNC-system campuses next year, joining a nationwide debate among universities on nonresident enrollment.
A number of public universities have recently increased their nonresident student population — many in response to decreased state funding.
At last week’s Board of Governors meeting, members were presented with five proposed changes to the UNC system’s out-of-state policy.
John Sanders, former director of UNC-CH’s School of Government, said he thinks the proposals could be a product of UNC-system budget cuts — which are expected to top $500 million since 2011 once a state budget is finalized.
Peter Hans, the board chairman, said financial woes are not driving the members’ discussion.
Hans said admitting more out-of-state students would not increase the UNC system’s state-appropriated funds, though it is a common speculation.
“The university (system) doesn’t receive four times as much money for an out-of-state student, even though tuition might be that much higher at UNC-CH, for example,” he said.
But Sanders said less state support encourages universities to seek funding elsewhere.
“The motivation so far as I see … is to enable the (UNC system) to charge out-of-state students a higher tuition rate and to make money that way — that they’re not getting from other sources,” he said.
Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the University of California system, said in an email UC campuses have benefited financially from an influx of out-of-state students.
“This extra revenue (from higher nonresident enrollment) … goes to subsidize the education of California students,” she said.
UC-Berkeley is one of several peer institutions without an out-of-state enrollment cap.
At the University of Michigan, 42.6 percent of last year’s freshman class was made up of nonresidents — a number that has stayed consistent over the last five years.
The Board of Governors has mandated the UNC system’s 18-percent out-of-state cap — from which the UNC School of the Arts is exempt — since 1986.
Hans said the system’s priority is, and always has been, educating in-state students.
But he said board members recognize the advantages out-of-state students confer.
“There is increasing awareness that admitting bright, qualified out-of-state students — who study here and then live here after graduation — can be a very positive influence on economic development,” he said.
One proposed change would raise the systemwide cap to 22 percent, which would have allowed UNC-CH to admit 204 more out-of-state students to last year’s incoming freshman class.
The cap has given UNC-CH admissions officers a few headaches — nearly 1,900 qualified applicants from outside the state were denied admission last year.
All five possible changes would increase total system enrollment, so the number of in-state students admitted would not be affected.
A 22-percent systemwide cap would be hard to administer across campuses, Hans said.
“We would have to figure out which schools get what proportion of the nonresidents allotted,” he said.
Historically minority institutions, including North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and UNC-Pembroke, were highlighted in two of the proposals.
“(These schools) have additional capacity for students,” Hans said. “We want to find ways of strengthening those schools, and (raising the cap) is one option we can consider.”
Hans said out-of-state policy discussions will continue at board meetings this year, but he said there is no guarantee adjustments will be made.
“North Carolina students will always remain our top priority.”
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