HELLER: The University should accept more out-of-state students

Out-of-state students bring tremendous benefits to the University — we should have more of them

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Every year, more students from out-of-state apply to the University than Virginia residents. Raymundo Mora | Cavalier Daily

The University is bound by Virginia state law to maintain a two-thirds majority of Virginia residents over non-residents — the overall acceptance rates for the Class of 2023 were 36 percent for in-state and 19 percent for out-of-state students. Every year, more students from out-of-state apply to the University than Virginia residents, and each year, they face an increasingly competitive application pool that imposes a quota on their matriculation. Unfortunately, the University is missing out by not taking on more out-of-state students, and ought to increase the number of seats it offers them. In order to do this, the University ought to lobby the commonwealth of Virginia for the freedom to accept more out-of-state students. 

One justification for taking more Virginian students is that domicile residents are entitled to it because their taxes help fund the University. Yet today, state funding appropriations account for only about 8.3 percent of the University’s budget, a decrease from 22.6 percent of state funding just twenty years ago. With fewer Virginia tax dollars going into the University, the argument for favoring their admission is becoming obsolete. After all, if the state is providing barely any funding, why should the school continue to support a law that favors in-state residents? 

This is especially crucial when one realizes that out-of-state students can pay well over double estimated cost of in-state attendance, amounting to far more revenue provided to the University by the equivalent number of in-state students. More out-of-state students can cover more scholarships, research grants and even professorships. These students can even bring in more revenue allowing in-state tuition to remain as low as it already is. Financially, the advantages of bringing in more out-of-state students to the University are tremendous. 

Those advantages won’t just stay at the University — having more out-of-state students will benefit the entire Commonwealth as well, which is why state legislators should support the repeal of the quota. Out-of-state students at the University could potentially remain in the state in the future, contributing to the economy and benefiting their adopted homes within Virginia. There is already a high migration rate among college graduates into Virginia, and more out-of-state students getting their foot in the door surely will work to improve that. 

Moreover, higher numbers of out-of-state students will contribute to a more diverse student body, and the more they number, the greater the effect they will have on the school. Out-of-state students  — including international students — expose Virginians to new cultures and traditions. They give Virginia residents the opportunities to learn about new places they would not otherwise, and build more expansive social and professional networks. The geographic diversity of in-state students has often been called into question — surely this diversity could be augmented by bringing in more students from all over the country.

Furthermore, another reason to increase out-of-state enrollment at the University has to do with that dirty word in college admissions — rankings. Out-of-state students offered admission at the University also consistently out-perform in-state students on standardized tests and average high school GPA. If their numbers were to increase, so too could the averages for students as a whole — so long as those grades remain at current levels — which in turn could lead to an increase in the University’s position in college rankings. This would start a feedback loop that would encourage more impressive applicants to choose to apply to the University — both from in-state and out-of-state. As the University increases in the rankings, more impressive students will want to apply for the prestige factor, which only goes on to increase the University’s rankings further. These increases will benefit in-state students the most, as they will still be paying reduced cost tuition for a more prestigious school than they would get otherwise if they were to pay the cost of private school. 

Improved position in the rankings actually does benefit the students too. Years of research have shown that the prestige of a school directly affects future earnings and outcomes of its students. Whether or not this is fair is certainly up for debate, but until anything changes, it greatly benefits the University students to go to a school that is higher ranked. This is even more important given that the University has slipped in some undergraduate rankings, falling behind schools such as the University of Michigan, which is comprised of a higher percent of out-of-state students than the University. Of course that might just be coincidence, but there’s reason to suspect that the correlation isn’t completely empty either. 

Perhaps it’s time for Virginia to abolish the mandate for a quota on out-of-state admissions. Of course, increasing the number of out-of-state students does not explicitly have to come at anyone’s expense. Given that college admissions is not a zero-sum game, adding more out-of-state students to the class can be done in a way that maintains the same number of in-state students. Out-of-state students would also pay for themselves through their higher tuitions — both the Commonwealth and the University clearly stand to benefit from increasing the enrollment of these students.

Matt Heller is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.

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