Michiganís premiere public universities are attracting more students from outside the state ó and even the country. And while Michigan could use an influx of young talent, more space at schools like the University of Michigan and Michigan State University should be saved for qualified Michigan students.
Some of Michiganís 15 state universities are reporting record enrollments, and thatís a good thing for the stateís future economy. Grooming the talents of the next generation of Michiganís workforce is essential.
But these blooming enrollments, especially at U-M and Michigan State, are increasingly bolstered by students who come from outside Michigan. While some point to this trend as positive, it shouldnít come at the expense of shutting out in-state students from the best Michigan universities.
A recent survey of Michigan university graduates by the Detroit Regional Chamber found that 63 percent stayed in Michigan six months after commencement, but only 25 percent of those grads were from outside the state. Itís much easier to keep young people who grew up here, and preserving talented youth is the goal.
We understand the financial crunch many of these institutions are under, with state aid dropping significantly over the past decade. And Michigan schools have shouldered a greater burden than many of their counterparts nationwide.
A student coming from outside Michigan pays at least double the tuition of an in-state student. So the potential is there to choose students based on their ability to plump a schoolís bottom line.
Yet even though funding has lagged, universities get about a quarter of their resources from the state. This school year, Michigan invested about $1.4 billion in higher education, with U-M receiving nearly $280 million and Michigan State $250 million.
Thatís still a large sum coming from taxpayers. And itís why these state schools should ensure qualified Michigan students have a fair chance to attend.
Judging from the enrollment numbers in recent years, however, space for those Michigan students is becoming increasingly scarce. According to a report last year from the Senate Fiscal Agency, in 2011 out-of-state students comprised nearly 24 percent of the student body at Michigan State. At U-M, about 47 percent were non-resident students. Both schools have seen a gradual uptick in non-resident students the past five years.
Rick Fitzgerald, associate director of public affairs at U-M, says Michigan students are consistently accepted at twice the rate of non-residents. Out of the 10,000 residents who applied for admission this fall, 54 percent were offered admission; out of the 37,000 out-of-state applicants, 27 percent were let in. ďWe want the best possible class of students,Ē Fitzgerald says.
Other state universities are seeing an increase in students outside Michigan, too, but their figures are much smaller than the stateís largest schools. For instance, Central Michigan University has about 6 percent of its students coming from other states or countries. At Eastern Michigan, itís 11 percent. And those schools are in a position to grow their enrollment. U-M and Michigan State arenít.
Mike Boulus, who heads the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, argues the influx in out-of-state students isnít a bad trend, as it increases diversity and the talent pool at respective universities.
Boulus also says Michiganís universities have faced cuts double the national average. So it shouldnít be surprising if schools turn to students that bring more tuition dollars.
Plus, the pool of qualified state students is shrinking. Boulus says the K-12 population is declining, plus an alarming number of students donít appear to be prepared for college-level work; Boulus estimates around 54 percent are not ready for college, based on college entrance exam scores.
And as the state measures universities for performance in key areas in exchange for additional funding, there is more pressure for schools to attract the best classes they can.
Since the state doesnít dictate to universities what percentage of students must be Michigan residents, perhaps it could add that category to performance funding metrics. And the regents and trustees at these universities need to make sure prospective Michigan applicants are getting first dibs.
Universities seek the best possible mix of students on their campuses, but that mix should not become a roadblock to the brightest Michigan students having a shot at the stateís top schools.