Before Chicago native Julie Fine visited the University of Missouri campus, she had no idea where Columbia was, or what she would find there.
“I pictured tumbleweeds and Dorothy,” she said.
But she came, she saw, she enrolled. Now the junior majoring in journalism leads campus tours for new students — and more and more of them, like her, are from out of state.
About 35 percent of MU’s freshmen this fall are coming from outside Missouri, more than double the 17 percent of 10 years ago. And this year, for the first time, MU received more applications from out of state than in Missouri.
With state governments cutting higher education funding, and tuition making up an ever-larger part of schools’ budgets, universities across the country are trolling for out-of-state students.
“It’s a national trend,” said Mike Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
And, as so often is the case, it’s a trend fueled by money.
Twenty years ago, tuition was a quarter of MU’s operating funds. Today, it accounts for 60 percent.
Nonresident students typically pay twice as much as residents, or more. Tuition at MU for a Missouri resident taking 14 credit hours is $9,272 a year. For an out-of-state or international student, it’s $22,440.
“It helps us balance our budget,” said Vice Provost Ann Korschgen. “If we had not brought in more out-of-state students, maybe we would be laying off people.
“It’s extra millions of dollars. Huge.”
MU’s 10,634 out-of-state applications this year are up 2,300 from the year before, Korschgen said.
Overall, out-of-staters now make up 30 percent of MU’s student body. University leaders expect that percentage to keep rising.
But, Korschgen said, MU will have room for all Missourians who want to attend.
“We don’t turn away anyone who meets Mizzou’s admissions standards, not in state or out of state,” she said. “We don’t have a waiting list for admission, and we don’t have a cap on it, either.”
At least one state has been talking about a cap. In California, lawmakers have proposed limiting nonresident enrollment to 10 percent to ensure room for residents.
Last fall, out-of-state students, including international students, made up 23 percent of the freshman class on the University of California’s 10 campuses.
Again, the financial motivation is strong: Out-of-state tuition in California is nearly triple in-state tuition, and California schools have struggled more than most to make ends meet.
At the same time, with tuitions at the state’s public universities tripling in the last decade, thousands of California students have gone elsewhere in search of lower college costs. In 2007, 22 percent of the state’s high school graduates enrolled in the University of California system or California State University. By 2010, the number had slipped to 18 percent, The Associated Press reported earlier this year.
Thousands of them are slipping across the border to the University of Oregon, which last year had 4,500 students from California. Overall, the university has seen its out-of-state enrollment jump from 5,828 in 2001 to 10,555 last year, and the out-of-state percentage of the student body grew to 43 percent.
California is one of MU’s primary targets, too, along with Texas, Colorado and Minnesota. But MU is making its strongest play in Illinois, where three of its seven full-time out-of-state recruiters work, two of them in Chicago.
“The Mizzou name is exploding in Chicago,” said Derek Kessen, president of MU’s Chicago Alumni Association. “I see an MU logo somewhere or on someone every day here.”
Chicago pub owner Mike Janusch has watched the clientele bellying up to his bar, Sedgwick’s, tilt more and more toward MU. On most football game days, fans wearing black and gold pack the place, sometimes 300 strong, to raise their mugs for Tiger touchdowns.
MU got 6,200 applications from Illinois this year, almost two-thirds as many as it got from Missouri residents.
At other schools, too
Other schools in Missouri and Kansas are boosting out-of-state enrollment, too.
According to the Kansas Board of Regents, enrollment of in-state students at the state’s six public universities declined by 1.7 percent from 2005 to 2010. At the same time, out-of-state students increased by more than 25 percent.
As at MU, nonresident applications to the University of Kansas exceeded resident applications this year.
“Out-of-state applications are up everywhere over the last three or four years,” said Matt Melvin, KU vice provost for enrollment management. “Applying online makes it easier for students to apply to six, sometimes a dozen, different schools.”
Melvin said that while most KU students hail from Kansas, the university is busy recruiting internationally and out of state. In 2010, non-Kansas residents made up 25 percent of KU’s freshman class.
Out-of-state interest in Kansas State University also has been growing.
“We have experienced record applications and enrollment from out-of-state students for the last six years,” said Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and the dean of students at K-State. He said K-State has increased its international undergraduate enrollment from 200 to about 600 over that time.
Those students, he said, must show that they can pay full price and remain financially independent while attending K-State before they are admitted.
Across the state line in Missouri, 27 percent of freshmen at public and private colleges last year came from other states.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City has seen a 12.6 percent increase this year in applications from out-of-state students, not including those students from nearby Kansas counties.
UMKC’s Border Schmorder program allows students from 11 Kansas counties, including Johnson and Wyandotte, to pay in-state tuition, so they don’t count in the out-of-state numbers.
Over the last 10 years, UMKC’s student body has gone from 14 percent out of state and international to 33 percent.
But UMKC isn’t recruiting out of state as hard as some other schools, university officials said. Instead, it’s relying more on its recent high ranking for its Bloch School of Business, and the interest that the school and its Conservatory of Music and Dance are getting around the country to pull in more students, said Jennifer DeHaemers, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management.
The school, though, is doing some recruiting in the usual hot spots: Texas and Illinois, China and the Middle East.
‘Like an arms race’
Beyond money, there’s this: Kansas and Missouri just aren’t generating as many bodies for their universities’ student bodies.
Graduating classes in Kansas and Missouri are shrinking, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. The commission predicted several years ago that 2009 would produce the largest graduating class in this region and after that, the class size would decline by about 5 percent each year until 2015.
KU has started prospecting in California, Tennessee and Kentucky, Melvin said.
“There is only a finite amount of people in Kansas, so it is incumbent on us to start looking to where we can get the maximum penetration” to reach the college-ready population in surrounding states, he said. “We call it enlarging our enrollment zone. It’s like an arms race.”
Out-of-state recruiting offers another benefit, administrators say: Some out-of-state students stay after graduation, raising families and starting businesses.
The hope, K-State’s Bosco said, is that those transplants will help counter the brain drain that occurs when Kansas and Missouri students leave the state.
At MU, about a third of out-of-state students become Missouri residents, Korschgen said, and “about 30 percent of those ... will then stay in the state, so we are importing intellectual capital.”
For her part, Fine, the junior from Chicago, has decided she’s not ready to leave Missouri when she graduates.
“I’m going for my master’s degree at Mizzou,” she said.
She’s not sure where a job hunt might take her, but “I’m definitely not opposed to staying here in Missouri. I love it here.”