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University of Washington to Close Budget By Accepting More Out-of-State Students

Public higher ed institutions across the U.S. are dealing with huge deficits as state budget shortfalls are leading to slashed education funding. Needing to overcome a likely cut of $200 million in state funding, the University of Washington in Seattle is turning away more in-state residents so that it can benefit from the higher tuition paid by out-of-state students.

By Douglas Fehlen

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A Financial Fix

State cuts to funding for higher ed have led to tuition hikes and cost-cutting measures at public colleges and universities nationally. Countless institutions have been engaged in a delicate analysis of how to best offset these losses while maintaining education programs and not overburdening students.

At the University of Washington, officials have proposed another kind of fix to address an expected cut of $200 million in public funding: This fall, the university will enroll more out-of-state and international students. But just how does this help solve the funding crisis? Non-Washingtonian undergrads that attend the UW pay about three times as much ($25,329) in annual tuition and fees than do residents ($8,701). By accepting more out-of-state students, the school stands to meet its operating budget while leaving academic programs largely intact.

Hard Choices

Reportedly a difficult decision for the university, allowing more out-of-state students did harm the chances of residents getting accepted into the UW. With the change in admissions for this year, about 3,850 in-state students are expected to enroll in classes at the school, a decrease of about 150 from last year. In terms of percentage, residents will make up about 70% of the freshman class, down from 73% last year.

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Naturally, many residents who didn't get accepted into the UW were disappointed with the school's decision. Many have expressed frustration with the university and suggested that they were unfairly overlooked in what was strictly an economic admissions decision. Media reports about the university's decision have profiled applicants who didn't make the cut, many who are honors students and also active in extracurricular activities.

An Act of Necessity

Admissions director Phillip Ballinger understands students' frustrations, but he insists that the university wasn't in a position to do anything else. According to Ballinger, the university would have had to cut more in-state residents if not for the admissions adjustment. As he explains the additional out-of-state students, 'People think that they're taking the place of residents students; they're not. They're subsidizing resident students.'

While some public resentment remains surrounding its decision, the University of Washington's tactic of increasing out-of-state enrollment is not totally unprecedented. Last year at the University of Colorado - Boulder, 43% of freshmen were from out of state. At the University of Oregon, 47% of individuals accepted into the school were not from the state. And given that public funding is unlikely to return in the foreseeable future, other institutions are likely to consider the strategy going forward.

Wondering why colleges and universities are feeling a financial pinch? Learn more about massive cuts in public funding for higher ed.

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