Succeeding with a Shrinking Prospect Pool

Whichever news sources you might follow for your higher ed news, you have probably heard that that the pool of high-school graduates is down. The number of applications, generally, is actually increasing, but those applications are hard to yield. The same person applying to your school is applying to a historically high number of competing schools. How do you entice them? We’re noticing that more colleges are starting to answer that question with tuition policy change.

To wit; schools like the University of Maine at Orono are instituting policies that might allow neighboring states (note: out-of-state applicants) to pay in-state tuition (The Flagship Match program). That can mean savings in the realm of almost $15,000 dollars a year. As arguments go, that’s pretty convincing.

It’s not an easy decision to make though. The University of Maine claims to be the first in the country, and others are still making the case for the change themselves. Still early in the decision process is the state of Tennessee. Senator Todd Gardenhire is advocating a bill that would allow students from any state bordering Tennessee to pay in-state tuition rates (credit to WTVC for coverage of the story).


People + Data- the second best combination ever?   photo credit

What’s fascinating is that discussion surrounding this bill represents the strength of partnering the human and the analytical elements of higher education. Clearly, the program is expected to improve Tennessee universities’ out-of-state appeal, but there are some hesitations at the implications. Imagine if a significant portion of your out-of-state students (major contributors to net tuition revenue) suddenly were paying at in-state rates. Clearly, it is not a policy change to be introduced without planning ahead. Therein lies the role of data (potentially). By how much might the new policy affect overall tuition revenue? Can all institutions afford it? At the same time, think of how much a policy change like this could boost accessibility and institutional draw amongst a dwindling high-school graduate pool.

The practice of tuition-remission for neighboring states certainly appears to be in its infancy, but we’re definitely keeping an eye on things. Expect more when developments occur. What do you think? Could a policy like this help your institution bolster its yield, or do you think it would shift the institutional revenue too greatly?