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Nebraska College Reaching Out to Potential Students in Iowa


Earlier this week, seniors at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs got a letter explaining that starting next fall, they can get half-price tuition at the University of Nebraska at Omaha just 13 miles and one state border away.

UNO’s new Metropolitan Advantage plan is designed to lure students from Pottawattamie, Mills and Harrison counties across the border from Iowa. Under the plan, students from those counties would pay about the same amount to attend UNO as they would pay for in-state tuition at one of Iowa’s public universities.

The short commute to the campus west of downtown Omaha could also allow some Iowans to save between $6,000 and $7,200 annually by not having to pay for room and board.

“I debated between Iowa and Iowa State, but I figured why not save a little money and stay at home,” said Josh Kuhl, 19, a UNO sophomore studying business who lives in Carter Lake.

Cross-border recruiting is becoming more popular for colleges in many states where younger populations are expected to decline.

Out-of-state students, who often pay higher tuition, fill seats in college classrooms and help round out budgets that don’t always get full funding from taxes.

Some states have made reciprocity deals to reduce nonresident tuition for students who cross borders. Some Midwestern schools, including Western Illinois University and University of Wisconsin-Platteville, also offer reduced-cost tuition to select Iowa students without requiring reciprocity.

The Iowa Board of Regents, which governs Iowa’s public universities, has thus far declined any major reciprocity pacts, mainly because the Iowa system doesn’t need deals to lure students from other states, officials said.

“We certainly reach across state borders. We just don’t discount to do so,” said Michael Barron, director of admissions at the University of Iowa.

Enrollment in each of the state’s three regents universities was up this fall, but 10-year projections show a systemwide decline of 2.3 percent. Census projections also show the percentage of Iowans under 18 is expected to dip from 25.1 percent in 2000 to 22.4 percent in 2030.

Similar population trends were a factor behind UNO’s new offer, said David Cicotello, the school’s enrollment director.

“If you’re going to be entrepreneurial about attracting students to your school, this is the state of the art in higher education,” Cicotello said about the Metropolitan Advantage plan. “We have taken cost out of the equation and presented UNO’s programs and proximity.”

Iowa students currently pay the nonresident rate of $456 per credit hour at UNO. Under the new program, they’ll pay $232 per hour, or about 150 percent of Nebraska’s resident tuition.

A 15-credit-per-semester load at UNO would cost roughly $6,960, compared with $6,380 at ISU, using 2008-09 tuition rates.

UNO needs to recruit an additional 100 Iowa students to break even on the Metropolitan Advantage offer, Cicotello said. The offer is good only for the University of Nebraska’s Omaha campus, not the flagship campus in Lincoln.

Ginger Morgan, a guidance counselor at Council Bluffs Lincoln, said she thought many high school seniors would consider the UNO deal because of the money they could save.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students, and it may be a deciding factor for some students,” Morgan said.

Kuhl, who graduated high school in 2006, had already applied to UNO when his mother, Lori, was diagnosed with cancer.

That cemented his decision to attend college in Omaha and live at home, he said. The new UNO tuition deal will cut his tuition nearly in half. “I think it’s outstanding,” Kuhl said.

Information from: The Des Moines Register,

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