I recently came across an article on The Huffington Post‘s blog with the headline, “Here’s Why the College Admissions Process Is Bonkers.” Now, I must admit, when I hear or read the word “bonkers”, images of a favorite childhood sweet come to mind:
However, given the context of the headline, I felt it safe to assume that the author meant bonkers to mean out of control, crazy, and/or a situation full of actors acting in the most irrational of ways! Before reading on, I tried to guess which aspect of the college admissions process the author felt was bonkers. Perhaps it was the mania surrounding test prep? The belief that an ivy league college or university is a “best fit” school for everyone? Parents dishing out untold sums for expensive college counseling services? College candidates applying to 15 or more schools? The pressure on students today to do it all (see, for instance, this earlier post)? There were countless angles the author could have taken. However, my guesses all fell short of the backbone of the article, which turned out to be the declining numbers of in-state students being accepted by their state universities.
In-state schools are appealing to many because they’re relatively close to home and, of course, because the cost of in-state tuition is usually significantly less than attending an out-of-state school. The article’s author attributes the drop in in-state applicant acceptances to these vast differences between in and out-of-state tuition costs: “Maybe the University of California system weighed the annual out-of-state tuition fees ($36,900) versus the in-state fees ($12,200). Gee whiz, I wasn’t a math major, but I can guess which students you’d rather admit.” She goes on to lament these developments, saying that the though California may be in the midst of a financial crisis, that it shouldn’t take it out on California’s students, “forcing them to attend colleges out of state and pay higher tuition when we, the residents, are paying taxes to support ‘our’ university system.” She has a good point and, unfortunately, these trends and troubles aren’t unique to California.
Furthermore, these developments aren’t new. For example, back in 2009, The Washington Post published an article on the subject that included lines such as, “Many of the nation’s top public universities accepted non-resident students in greater numbers this year, hoping to increase — or at least sustain — a pool of incoming freshmen who pay two or three times the tuition charged to locals” and “It’s a matter of fiscal realities.” Likewise, a 2011 article from The Daily Beast suggests that “one of the best-kept secrets in college admissions this year is that many top state universities will be admitting more out-of-state applicants than ever before.” A 2014 article from The Hechinger Report also brings into the equation international students, informing readers that “international students have become so important to the bottom line that the National Association for College Admission Counseling, last year voted to let universities and colleges pay commissions to recruiters who bring in international students — despite the fact that paying commissions for domestic students is banned.”
Many argue that there are also benefits associated with these trends (e.g. more diversity on college campuses), but whatever your opinion may be on the realities of the in-state/out-of-state admissions numbers, you should at least come to terms with them. That is, when thinking about where to apply, be aware of the fact that, in general, out-of-state students are gaining an edge in the admissions process at your in-state schools.