27 July 2011

Commentary in the Chronicle on In-State Tuition Reform

I have a commentary in this week's issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and since being put online over the past weekend has led to a lot of reaction, including several requests to republish.  To preempt some of the misdirected critique that I've already seen -- the piece does not call for the end of in-state tuition, the argument is more nuanced than that, and the piece does not call for the end of state subsidies for college attendance by in-state students.

To see what the commentary does argue, see it in full here, and feel free to come back here to discuss and debate!


  1. This is a topic that is long overdue for discussion. Our recruiting program here at UNL has dramatically increased the focus on out of state students for exactly the reasons you outline. Many of the commentators blasted the lack of market research supporting your proposal, but I'm not aware of any market research supporting the status quo, either (I haven't looked either, I admit). Most important decisions here at UNL appear to be made without market research of any sort, even though it is clear that we're operating in a national market.

    Although I can't find any reference to such a policy on-line, I was told by senior colleagues here that some neighboring states provided in-state tuition to Nebraska residents in order to increase enrollments, while Nebraska did not return the favor, to its obvious detriment! There are some regional "tuition exchange" programs that appear to do similar things, although I couldn't get the details from the Midwest one that Nebraska appears to belong to.

    I heartily agree with the notion that it is important to allow merit to determine access to higher education, not economic status. Thinking broadly about the alternatives seems to be long overdue.

  2. -1-Drew

    Thanks ... tuition exchange, interesting! Of course that just compounds the fiscal problem if in-state tuition is subsidized.

    I have had a number of comments about the need for market research, and I am all for it. But there is an obvious response to this comment -- here at Colorado 33% (roughly) of out-of-state students who are accepted actually enroll. And this is at the $29k out-of-state rate.

    You don't need a degree in economics to assess the impact of cutting out-of-state tuition in half on out-of-state applications and acceptances ... of course sustaining good "marketability" depends upon having a product people are willing to pay for ...

  3. Roger,

    I know you probably think this is sacrilegious, but I doubt many of the students at CU or their parents or the taxpayers care enough about "research performance" to pay any more in tuition to support it.

  4. Seems to me it's not unreasonable to require that a university being funded by state taxes offer a subsidy to state residents. After all, they've been effectively footing the bill, they ought to be getting something for their tax dollars.

  5. -3-Stan

    Thanks, though the proposal I put forward would not require anyone to pay more tuition -- the state could still subsidize in-state students as much as it desires.


    Thanks, but it is not the university that offers the subsidy, but the state.

  6. One problem with the concept of providing subsidies directly to students is that you are effectively encouraging them to move somewhere else where perhaps said students can obtain a higher benefit/cost ratio education than a school in Colorado.

    Linking the subsidy to a Colorado school in turn makes the effect the same as the existing system.

    The real problem isn't the subsidy per se, it is the value of the education obtained and the longer term effects on the economy/population of Colorado.

    While I do not know any details of how the various Colorado universities are run, I'd bet the nationally famous party ranking is at least somewhat related.

  7. In Louisiana academically successful students are offered very generous scholarships to go to state schools.
    Texas largely permits its state schools to set their own tuition rates, and do so with an eye towards the market.
    There may be other creative solutions that could be well applied in Colorado. Maybe tax the dope festival? ;^)