MD

2013-02-07

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February 7, 2013 - 9:40am

The Working Ethic: Out-of-state bias

BY CHARLENE LERNER

Throughout the country, public universities use resident tax dollars for funding. This fact partially explains the stark differences between in-state and out-of-state tuition prices, since residents in the state help pay for the university all along. Yet many states continue to pull resident tax dollars away from their public universities, while out-of-state students are charged more and increasingly sought out by public universities.

However, research has shown that out-of-state students are being sought out not because of a lack of state funding, but rather because they boost the quality of the student body. Even so, they are held to higher admissions standards than in-state applicants.

So, what we’re seeing is disproportionately higher tuition and higher acceptance standards for out-of-state students. But if both out-of-state and in-state students receive the same quality of education at the end of the day, how is that fair? Even if an out-of-state student receives financial aid, they still pay significantly more than in-state students.

Quality of students on campus is something we should strive for — it enhances classroom learning and enriches our community by cultivating differing views and backgrounds. However, this doesn’t make it right for public universities to seek out-of-state students while continuously burdening them with a higher price for their education.

What if out-of-state students were instead rewarded for their contributive presence? If public universities offered non-financial compensation to their out-of-state students, would that bring us fairness? Better housing arrangements, recruiting opportunities, amenities and special classes could be offered to these students. Yet somehow, when we start listing benefits like that, our logic starts getting iffy. Those things won’t provide for the right sense of equality, and they might instead act as unwanted dividers among students.

For a few years, there has been talk about our university going private. Do you think that would balance out the differences between standards for in-state and out-of-state students?

Charlene can be reached at lernerc@umich.edu.