Out of State, Out of Funding
A growing number of states are adopting new legislation that is forcing some Black institutions to choose between public dollars and loyalty to legacy students
GREENVILLE, S.C. — As public colleges and universities in the South compete for limited state dollars, the legislators and taxpayers who allocate and provide those dollars are asking higher education officials to be mindful of one thing: pay for home-grown college students first.
It’s a trend that is exacting a particularly heavy toll on historically Black colleges and universities, which often use out-of-state tuition to line their coffers and whose out-of-state alumni loyally send their offspring for postsecondary education at these institutions. In many cases, those alumni left the South because the jobs they wanted weren’t available to them, says James Ammons, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. It is that tradition, coupled with a historical context that doesn’t necessarily fit other schools in the region.
“Any discussion you have about out-of-state enrollment, you have to have the historical context and the possible danger of some alumni not being able to send their children to their alma mater because of these restrictions,” Ammons says.
In North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida — three states where too many out-of-state students can result in funding decreases — administrators are grappling with providing access to those non-residents without sacrificing state funds. In many cases, it’s a losing battle. Competition for those few slots is high.
“What we have is an admission standard. We don’t make exceptions to it,” says Harold Martin, vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. “There’s nothing we can really do for them.”
At North Carolina A&T, about 17 percent of the school’s nearly 7,400 students are from outside the state’s borders, Martin says. Of particular interest to admissions officers, Martin adds, is the percentage of non-resident freshmen.
In 1986, the North Carolina Board of Governors made it a policy that no more than 18 percent of entering freshmen in the fall term could be from out of state, says Roy Carroll, vice president for academic affairs for the University of North Carolina system. That mandate, if unheeded for two straight years, could result in penalties in state allocations the following year.
“At the time the board placed that limitation, the [state] General Assembly was very much concerned with whether or not we had an adequate number of places for students from the state,” Carroll says. “The rule had a greater impact on places like North Carolina A&T because at that time, they probably were running 20-something percent out-of-state — probably closer to 30 percent with the entering class. It had an impact in terms of out-of-state enrollment.”
Last fall, they enrolled 19 percent of their freshmen from out-of-state, exceeding the university system’s benchmark. Martin projected that the university’s magic number this fall would be about 17.5 to 18 percent, low enough to avoid any funding repercussions. Martin says those students pay about $13,000 a year in tuition, more than double what state residents pay. As the number of non-residents decreases, so too does the revenue from out-of-state tuition.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, however, Martin says. As the total enrollment at A&T edges up, that means more access for out-of-state students.
“The receipts portion of our budget is impacted by the number of out-of-state students,” he says. “There’s going to be an impact in that regard.”
The Alumni Factor
Another issue for A&T is the number of alumni whose children become “Aggies” because of tradition or the university’s various, high-profile degree programs such as engineering.
“Large numbers of minority youth all over the country are looking for an institution that has a quality program,” Martin says, adding that the institution values the high percentage of alumni who send their sons and daughters to the land-grant university.
Carroll says that’s not uncommon for schools with national reputations, like A&T and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
“Part of the problem, of course, with a place like A&T is that they have large numbers of alumni who have moved out and they want their sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters to come back to [the] school,” Carroll says. “We don’t have any evidence that it’s been necessary for A&T to turn away large numbers of out-of-state applicants.”
Martin wasn’t sure precisely how many out-of-state applicants had been denied admission since the ban went into effect, but says that because the admission standard is higher for these students than for in-state residents, some out-of-state applicants have been turned away.
At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, about 10,000 potential students from outside the state’s borders apply for admission, says Jerry Lucido, associate provost and director of admissions. Only 15 percent of those applicants gain admittance. The university gets a total of about 7,000 applications from North Carolina residents. Last fall, 82 percent of the freshman class came from in-state, while 18 percent were not state residents.
The African American freshman population at UNC has leveled out, to about 11.7 percent in 1999. That means 400 out of about 3,400 first-year students last fall were Black, according to statistics from the Office of Institutional Research.
“The story at Chapel Hill is more that academic indicators have been rising very steadily,” Lucido says. “We’ve been able to maintain that diversity despite that competition.”
The story is similar in South Carolina, where performance-based funding determines how much money public colleges and universities will get each year. The state’s commission on higher education uses any combination of performance indicators to score schools in various areas, from minority enrollment to class size. Another indicator is the priority on enrolling in-state students, which is a percentage expressing the ratio of in-state undergraduates to total enrollment.
Under the performance funding model passed by state lawmakers in 1996 and phased in over the past three years, colleges and universities set a goal for in-state enrollment and work to achieve that goal. The schools receive a score from 1 to 3 for each indicator, with 3 being the highest. The average score for each institution determines how much new money it gets the following year, so any expectation that isn’t met can have a negative impact on funding.
“The entire idea here is to provide educational opportunities for our citizens, and the commission is very supportive of that,” says Charlie FitzSimons, spokesman for the commission. “Even those institutions that have what appear to be specific missions, those institutions always work toward providing opportunities for all South Carolinians.”
Leroy Davis, president of South Carolina State University, a historically Black school in Orangeburg, says two performance indicators represent a double-edged sword for his university. Roughly 18 percent of S.C. State’s 4,750 students are non-residents. The university’s benchmark for out-of-state students is 20 percent. Another performance indicator measures the average SAT score, an area where South Carolina students as a whole have performed miserably, placing last nationwide, according to fall 1998 statistics from the South Carolina Department of Education.
Davis says the pool of South Carolina students who score well on the SAT is “very shallow” and that competition for those students is high. The only way to increase the SAT average is to recruit outside the state, Davis says.
“Our score could be impacted negatively by exceeding the 20 percent ceiling, so that is a possibility,” Davis says. “You’re asked, on the one hand, to improve the SAT scores, but you’ve got to be careful about recruiting out-of-state students to do it…. It’s a contradiction, really.”
Robert Barkley, acting admissions director for Clemson University, says they’ve learned to work within their out-of-state enrollment cap. Because Clemson is located close to large cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, and Knoxville, their benchmark is a bit different. Roughly 29 percent of Clemson’s 13,053 undergraduate students in 1998 were from out-of-state, just under 29 percent, according to university statistics. About 7.5 percent of those students are African American.
“The general guideline that we’re operating on is 30 percent,” Barkley says. “We’re not as restricted here in South Carolina as they are in North Carolina.”
The Wages of Success
At Florida A&M University, about 23 percent of the roughly 11,000 students are from out-of-state, says Ammons. The Florida legislature recently considered a bill that would limit non-resident enrollment to 10 percent, but that measure failed. Instead, state colleges and universities will get no state support for non-residents who are “alternative admits,” or who did not meet the first-time enrollment requirements, Ammons says.
To offset that loss in revenue, the university may be allowed to keep the revenue generated from that alternative admit student’s tuition, which is roughly $7,000 a year. FAMU must first ask the state that they be allowed to keep those funds. That money normally would be redirected into a pool for distribution to the whole state university system. Ammons says it’s still unclear how the change will impact the university, financially or enrollmentwise. The measure that failed could be brought before the state legislature again, and with it the questions of restrictions to access.
“These are some issues that we’re continuing to study and look at,” Ammons says. “I do believe that it has been shown that if issues come up in one session, there’s a great possibility that it may come up in another session.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com