Efforts inch up out-of-state enrollment

Colin Morris

Credit: DKS Editors

It’s no accident that out-of-state enrollment grew by a higher percentage than in-state with this year’s surge of more than 4,000 new students. Out-of-state recruitment is crucial to public universities for revenue and diversity, and it’s a task Kent State’s Department of Admissions is taking seriously.

Last year, it added five counselors to its staff of 13, exclusively to recruit students from select regions out of state. Associate Director of Admissions Mark Ledoux said the new additions to the staff is paying off, a claim supported by official enrollment data released by the Office of Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness last week.

“(We’re) committed to expanding recruitment out of state,” he said. “(The counselors) travel out of state to high schools and market Kent State and follow up individually.”

This year, the university’s 3,616 students paying out-of-state tuition constitutes 9.4 percent of the total student population.

According to RPIE’s most recent data, Kent State’s per-student operating cost at the main campus in the 2006-2007 year was $6,630 per semester. Out-of-state tuition for full-time undergraduates was $7,931, while in-state students only paid $4,215 – more than $2,000 short of cost.

Provost Robert Frank said Kent State, which has a percentage of in-state students hovering around the low 90s, has other sources of income protecting it from the imbalance of cost and tuition.

“Our budget isn’t constructed that way,” he said. “Historically, Kent State’s always had a significant percentage of in-state students. … We have lots of sources of revenue besides tuition.”

As with other universities, those other revenue sources consist largely of state funding, private development grants and research contracts.

Consider George Mason University, a public school near Fairfax, Va., that had concerns about in-state enrollment revenue, which similar to Kent, doesn’t cover operating costs, growing faster than out-of-state enrollment. George Mason’s Provost Peter Stearns calls out-of-state recruitment “a fiscal priority.”

“There’s a two-to-three thousand dollar gap,” Stearns said. “We close that gap with out-of-state tuition and payments from the state, which have dropped precipitously in recent years.”

With less funding from the government, public universities like George Mason are forced to make up the difference with other sources of income, including out-of-state tuition revenue.

“We’ve increased our budget for out-of-state marketing in our top feeder states (near Virginia),” Stearns said, “but also Florida, Texas and California, which has shown results.”

For Kent State, Frank said the out-of-state students are welcome, but not because they’re needed to cover costs.

“It’s always great to get out-of-state students because they pay more,” Frank said, “but the number increase is advantageous to the university in other ways.”

Frank cited diversity as a major benefit of students from out of state.

Selling Kent State

One of the recently added admissions counselors, Joy Loper, said it’s her job to bring in students outside Ohio. She’s qualified to talk to high school students about taking the leap to study out of state. Originally from northwest Ohio, she graduated from Western New Mexico University in 2005.

She said her job covers Pittsburgh and the greater Southwest states, visiting high schools and college fairs, as well as writing postcards and letters by hand to build personal connections.

“You get past the spot where you’re not just an admissions counselor,” she said, “but someone they trust.”

She said there’s more to her job than being a road warrior.

“Going out on the road is just the top of it,” she said. “For me, it’s more about relationship building, and I imagine the other counselors feel the same way.”

Contact faculty affairs reporter Colin Morris at [email protected]