But with an 18 percent cap for out-of-state students, UNC-Chapel Hill remains an exception to the trend.
The share of in-state students at 74 public universities declined between 2004 and 2014. The University of Alabama experienced the largest drop of 36 percentage points. Other schools such as the University of South Carolina, University of California at Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles and University of Oregon, experienced declines greater than 20 percentage points.
Daniel Byrd, director of policy research at the Los Angeles-based Campaign for College Opportunity, said state legislatures are to blame for this change.
“The reason why they’re doing it is because of inconsistent state funding,” Byrd said. “They’re going to try to enroll more out-of-state students to pay for in-state students.”
Since the 2008 recession, he said many states have reduced the amount of money allocated to the universities. 67 of the schools studied by The Washington Post experienced declines — South Carolina decreased by 12 percentage points, and UC-Berkeley by 14 percentage points.
But Jenna Robinson, president of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said UNC-system schools are able to continue their out-of-state enrollment caps because North Carolina spends more on its students than other states.
According to a report from the Pope Center, North Carolina is ranked fourth in the nation in terms of per student expenditures, and 43 percent of the UNC system’s revenue comes from the state.
Robinson said the state pays universities the difference in cost between an in-state and out-of-state student — embracing a commitment in the state constitution to lowering the cost of higher education.
“Out-of-state students are not, in general, a huge moneymaker,” she said. “So an out-of-state student might be paying $20,000, but then the (General Assembly) — for that in-state student — is paying $12 (thousand).”
Tuition for in-state students at UNC-CH is $8,562, and $33,644 for out-of-state students. Ashley Memory, senior assistant director of admissions at UNC-CH, said North Carolina takes pride in its service to the state’s students.
And some UNC-system schools remain below the enrollment cap. UNC-Wilmington has 13.1 percent out-of-state enrollment, and Appalachian State University has 9 percent.
But Mary Spiegel, associate provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions for the University of Alabama, said in an email that an increase in out-of-state students has been beneficial for the campus.
Out-of-state students carry the messages of the University of Alabama back to their home states, she said.
While schools like the University of Wisconsin at Madison have lifted their caps on out-of-state enrollment, Byrd said a California bill aims to implement one — and threatens to withhold funding otherwise.
But for the cap to be sustainable, he said the state will need to allot more money to the schools.
“The biggest thing is for the states to invest more in their higher education system — give the system the money they need to enroll the in-state students,” Byrd said.