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Ohio's Public Universities Expand Out-Of-State Recruitment

Ohio State

As the number of graduating high school students shrinks and state funding becomes shaky, Ohio public colleges and universities seem to be turning to out-of-state students to help fill the gaps. The percentage of non-Ohio students attending public schools is rising. 

The number of students attending Ohio State’s Columbus campus has grown by about 6,500 students in the past decade. But the number of Ohio students on campus has remained flat, about 43,000. Those new students come from outside Ohio.

Since 2006, OSU has tripled its non-Ohio students.

“It was very intentional on our part,"said Dolan Evanovich, OSU’s vice president of strategic enrollment planning.

With state funding cuts, many public colleges around the country are looking to out-of-state students and their higher tuition.

But Evanovich said revenue is not driving OSU’s increase in non–Ohio students.  

“We wanted to make sure that we would be offsetting the demographic decline in the state of Ohio.”

Other Ohio public schools more freely admit money plays a big role in their recruitment. Out-of-state students, who can pay more than double what in-state students pay for tuition, provide added revenue.

“If we don’t look to other options, the choice is to shrink.”

Caroline Miller is vice provost for enrollment management at University of Cincinnati. Since 2006, the number of non-Ohio students at UC has increased by 58 percent. Today, out-of-state students make up about a fifth of the student body.  

While Miller said international and distance learning students account for much of that increase, she said in the last couple of years, "There's been a focus on domestic out-of-side students. There's small growth there, but hopefully an opening market."

The University of Cincinnati is not alone. Both Ohio University and Miami University increased out-of-state students by 46 percent in the past decade.

Ohio State aggressively recruits outside the state.  In addition to its international efforts, it has regional recruiters in L.A., Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and New York.  OSU leaders say they want a diverse student body, including students like junior James Elli.

“I always wanted to get out of Minnesota just because the area never really bode well with me," Elli said. 

Elli said OSU wasn’t his first choice, but he qualified for $15,000 a year in scholarships. That reduced his tuition almost to in-state levels.  He likes the university’s diversity.

“Because if I went to Minnesota it would’ve been just like I was going to school in my backyard. And I feel like a lot of Ohio students might feel, too," he said. "So knowing that I’m experiencing that with people that are like me, out of state, it’s nice to know.”

There is some risk to recruiting out-of-state students. It’s twice as expensive. And students might leave after a year or two. UC’s Caroline Miller said, “What you have to hope is that the increase in the tuition that they pay and the likelihood they retain gives you payback.”

University leaders also fear out-of-state students will leave Ohio after they graduate.

Out-of-state recruitment seems to have paid off at Miami University. Even though it’s an Ohio public school, 40 percent of its students are from out of state. Michael Kabbaz is vice president of enrollment management.

“There’s no doubt that the belief that in a tight economic time, when it comes to state funding or without it being able to increase tuition, that the revenue has to come from somewhere and in an institution that is mostly driven by tuition revenue," Kabbaz said. "So the idea increasing our out-of-state students certainly provides support for us to be able to keep costs down overall and certainly for our in-state students, as well.”

Out-of-state students make up 28 percent of OSU’s enrollment.  Ohio State’s Dolan Evanovich will recommend non-Ohio students not exceed 35 percent of the incoming freshman class.

“Really balancing that access of the Ohio students to make sure we’re not displacing qualified Ohio students," he said. 

In case you’re wondering, OSU in-state tuition stands at about $10,000. Out- of-state tuition is about $26,000.