In 2015, a report on America's public universities by the New America Foundation found that the schools were using non-need-based aid to recruit out-of-state students.
Since then, there has been a torrent of criticism heaped at state universities found to be engaging in this practice. In late March, the state auditor of California issued a scathing report charging the University of California because it had recently been admitting far too many out-of-state students to the detriment of in-state ones, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Ultimately, public universities need to court out-of-state students under the current system. If this system changes sometime in the future, perhaps this current need will change, as well.
There is no doubt that a host of factors has led, at University of California and many other places, to increasingly accept applications from out-of-state students. The steady, three-decade decline in state funding for higher education led to the need to increase tuition for in-state residents and an increased share in nonresident students. At the University of California, the share of nonresident freshmen as a proportion of the total student body jumped from 4 to 18 percent between 2005 and 2016, Hans Johnson reports in The New York Times.
Naturally, steady increases in tuition have left average Americans who want their children to go to college frustrated for many reasons. People cite elaborate building projects and administrative pay increases across college campuses as examples of waste and inefficiency in the system.
But young Americans are still flocking to colleges and universities across the nation every year, and these same colleges often compete for out-of-state students who can afford to attend them, as they often boost test scores and overall revenue to the schools. This creates pressure on the system, so that the concerns of low-income, in-state students are effectively sidelined.
The current public university system in the U.S. thus ensures that courting out-of-state students needs to be a priority for universities in the face of a lack of funding from elsewhere. They typically pay much higher tuition than in-state students to go to school, which enhances the competition for out-of-state students among universities.
Regardless of the competition between universities -- which is something that is certainly not easily fixed -- universities still need to be held accountable if they are blatantly lowering the chances of in-state, low-income students with high grades of getting into their schools. Especially since, at the same time, they are seeking out-of-state students with lower average grades. This is allegedly what happened at the University of California, according to the state auditor, The Sacramento Bee reports.
But unless higher education is reformed at the federal level, the need to court out-of-state students for mainly financial reasons will continue.