Keep colleges open to non-Virginians, students say

Keep colleges open to non-Virginians, students say

Robin Hertel and Rebecca León

Contributing Writer

Virginia’s public colleges and universities should keep their doors open to out-of-state students and should not charge them excessive tuition, student leaders told state officials this week.

That was the message when the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia met with its Student Advisory Committee to discuss the pros and cons of out-of-state students in the commonwealth’s four-year public institutions.

The discussion was triggered by a recent increase of $5 per credit hour in out-of-state student fees. While that represents only a 1 percent boost, many fear that the tuition hikes will not stop there, forcing out-of-state students to reconsider coming to Virginia schools. That would hurt the state’s colleges and universities, members of the advisory committee said.

They said out-of-state students contribute to both the academic and social atmosphere of a college campus.

“With fewer non-Virginian people, the more unrealistic our environment becomes,” said Sam Protich, an in-state student at the University of Mary Washington. “There would be less cross-pollination of ideas.”

Others on the advisory panel agreed that out-of-state students enhance the college experience by adding diversity of thought both inside and outside the classroom.

Besides diversity, out-of-state students offer something else: money. They typically pay twice as much as in-state students to receive a college education in Virginia.

According to statistics from SCHEV, the proportion of out-of-state students attending Virginia schools has decreased in recent years.

Between 1999 and 2010, the percentage of out-of-state student enrollment declined at seven of the 15 four-year public schools in Virginia. The largest drop was at Radford University, which in the past decade has lost nearly half its out-of-state undergraduate enrollment.

VCU, on the other hand, more than doubled its percentage of out-of-state student enrollment in that time period. About 10 percent of VCU’s undergraduates are from out of state.

Statewide, the percent of undergraduate students from outside Virginia dropped from 19.6 percent in 1999 to 18.8 percent in 2009. Out-of-state students make up about one third of the undergraduates at the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary.

Legislation introduced in this year’s General Assembly sought to cap the number of out-of-state students being admitted to Virginia institutions. House Bill 1026 triggered passionate feedback from representatives of the seven state schools who attended Monday’s meeting with SCHEV.

Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, wanted to restrict most public colleges and universities from admitting more than 25 percent of out-of-state students. The bill failed in committee for the fourth time since 2006. When asked whether they would support such legislation, members of the Student Advisory Committee said “no.”

“Schools need to operate autonomously,” said Brittany Anderson, an in-state student at Virginia Tech. “They should be able to shape their student bodies in a way that fits their university and in a way that has been working for them.”

The general attitude on the advisory panel was that in-state students must put their best work forward when forced to compete with out-of-state students. Student leaders agreed that no one was entitled to a spot in the state’s higher education system; acceptance should be based on academic caliber.

Kristen Twiford, an out-of-state student at the University of Virginia, left the panel with a thoughtful question regarding the changing populations of in-state and out-of-state students.

“Would the academic experience be the same if the balance was different?”

Sidebar/chart

Virginia’s out-of-state students – by the numbers

Four-year public colleges
and universities
Out-of-state undergraduate students Out-of-state undergraduate tuition In-state undergraduate tuition
College of William and Mary 32.9% $39,466 $19,302
Christopher Newport University 5.6% $25,032 $17,090
George Mason University 12.7% $30,820 $15,724
James Madison University 29.1% $27,066 $14,934
Longwood University 5.2% $25,821 $16,521
Norfolk State University 18.8% $25,260 $13,201
Old Dominion University 8.4% $27,294 $14,844
Radford University 6.3% $23,538 $13,874
University of Mary Washington 18.7% $26,302 $14,574
University of Virginia 34.1% $39,962 $17,962
University of Virginia’s College at Wise 4.9% $27,046 $14,518
Virginia Commonwealth University 10.2% $29,084 $15,452
Virginia Military Institute 41.3% $35,530 $17,982
Virginia State University 32.4% $22,558 $14,224
Virginia Tech 25.5% $27,702 $14,429

Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

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