By Marian Wang, ProPublica
As we detailed last week, many public universities, suffering from state budget cuts or hungry for prestige, have made it a priority to attract out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition, and those who will help boost the schools’ place in college rankings.
But a newly released survey by Inside Higher Ed of admissions directors directly about their priorities, allowing them to respond anonymously. The survey, of course, is of admissions directors — so it’s focused more on what type of students schools are going after in the recruitment stage, and less on the students who gets financial aid as a sweetener to prompt enrollment.
Still, it’s a reflection of some of the same priorities — including a strong interest in out-of-state students and international students, who typically bring in more revenue, even with modest discounts.
For instance, 80 percent of admissions directors surveyed at public four-year universities agreed or strongly agreed that they were likely to increase their efforts to recruit out-of-state students. The percentage was slightly lower — but still 66 percent to 72 percent, depending on the type of public institution — for international students.
The survey also has some telling results about the popularity of so-called merit aid, which universities use to give discounts to particularly appealing students.
About two-thirds of admissions directors at public universities said that they would likely increase their efforts to recruit students with merit scholarships. Most also said they didn’t see a problem with using institutional resources on merit aid — even though as we noted, investing resources in merit aid often means giving it to students who don’t need it, and not having much left over for those who do.
Over the long term, state schools have been giving a growing share of their grants to wealthier students, and a declining share to the poorest students, as we reported. They’ve also been serving a shrinking portion of the nation’s needy students, leaving community colleges and for-profit colleges to take on more of that responsibility.
Asked about first-generation college students, the responses from admissions directors indicated that they were also a target population, though perhaps less so relative to out-of-state or international populations: 62 percent of admissions directors at public research universities said they’d likely increase recruitment efforts for first-generation populations, and that figure was 55 percent for master’s/bachelor’s degree public institutions.