A new study just released by Inside Higher Ed gives truth to what Californians have sensed is the focus of its state’s higher education institutions. Struggling with a continuing budget crisis and resulting financial cuts, California higher education has been looking for a solution. The new survey of top admissions officials at colleges across the country says that they and schools nationwide have indeed hit on a perfect money making solution.
A study of over 400 top admissions officials revealed that admissions directors are recruiting more students who can pay higher fees, and this increased funding focus is now the top goal for college admissions directors. The new report confirms what Californians have sensed in light of current financial woes for state higher education: colleges and universities have increased out-of-state and international recruitment efforts for students who can pay full price plus added fees as non-resident students.
Where’s the Money?
Recruitment of full-pay students – specifically those who do not need financial aid – is a main goal of public higher education, known for its original promise of access. The funds generated from the full-pay sector is seen as a strategy for providing financial aid to low-income students. This strategy is particulary geared to students in master’s and doctoral programs at state public institutions.
Another interesting fact revealed in the new study points to just how strong the interest in full-pay, non-resident recruitment actually is. Four percent of four-year universities report that the higher paying students they are admitting have both lower grades and test scores than do the other admitted students.
While community colleges report that their major commitment remains to serve lower income students, a sizeable minority of community colleges did report that increasing full-pay students was an important strategy.
Admission experts do see these financial needs recruitment efforts as a challenge to the values inherent in offering public higher education. According to Jerome A. Lucido, executive director of the Center for Enrollment Research Policy and Practice, at the Univerisity of Southern California, people who get into admissions work “believe in a set of values,” in promoting diversity and opportunity in education. Yet, he says “those values are less and less a consideration” when schools are under pressure and need to balance their budgets.
While higher funds from full-pay students help support lower-income students, admissions directors need to be careful not to devalue core principles inherent in public education. Are increasing out-of-state and international recruitment efforts promoting the commercialization of state colleges and universities? This is one question admissions directors need to address.
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