Why Top Students Are Being Rejected by In-State Colleges
Their places are being filled by students who pay higher tuition rates.
WSJ has an interesting video short examining “Why Top Students Are Being Rejected by In-State Schools.”
It uses the example of a California high school valedictorian with straight A’s, impressive AP exam scores, and athletic and extracurricular achievements who was rejected by both Berkeley and UCLA but accepted at Brown. Why was he accepted by an impressive—but much more expensive—Ivy League school but not his own state’s “public Ivies”?
The answer was the one I anticipated: Most if not all states have been steadily decreasing the number of admissions offered to in-state students at the reduced in-state tuition rate and instead filling those slots with out-of-state and international students who pay a much higher tuition rate. That phenomenon has accelerated greatly since 2008.
While depressing, it isn’t surprising. The driving issues were already visible to those paying attention when I started teaching at Troy State in 1998. The costs of higher education were going up for a variety of reasons and yet the amount of support from the state budget was declining. Even back then—almost two decades ago—we were joking that we were becoming a “state-affiliated” rather than a “state-supported” institution. While there were some attempts at belt tightening, the main response was a steady rise in tuition and fees passed on to students, which far exceeded the rate of inflation. Even at not-so-prestigious schools, paying for college was suddenly much more challenging than it had been in my day.
Meanwhile, the explosion of the college rankings phenomenon and the related notion that the best way for parents to give their kids a shot at success was to get them into the best school possible has created frenzied competition for limited slots. In my own state, it’s insanely competitive to get in to the University of Virginia or William and Mary, the flagship public university and liberal arts college. Essentially, kids need an above 4.0 GPA and impressive extracurriculars to get in (unless perhaps they’re a star athlete in one of the revenue sports). Admission is like winning the lottery, though, because they provide a near-Ivy League prestige education at still relatively affordable prices.
Given the pressures involved, one would think that as a matter of public policy the overwhelming number of seats at these public Ivies would be reserved for graduates of that state’s high schools, with just enough out-of-state and international students admitted to provide cultural diversity. But the legislature can hardly slash funding while simultaneously making it impossible to make up the difference somehow.