Are Residents Losing Their Edge in Public University Admissions? The Case at the University of Washington

Grant Blume, Marguerite Roza via a kind Deb Britt email

There is a longstanding implicit bargain that comes with state-supported higher education: subsidized prices for in-state students, and resident preference in the admissions process.
News reports now suggest that public universities across the country are shifting more spots to nonresidents (who pay higher tuitions) in order to plug budget gaps, prompting critics to worry that residents are losing their advantage in the admissions process.
Do residents still have an advantage, or are admissions standards leveling for the two groups? Or, are admissions actually now favoring out-of-state applicants?
This case study examines admissions data at the University of Washington in order to quantify the effect on admissions standards for residents versus nonresidents. Like many other state flagship universities, the UW has suffered from constrained state revenues during the recent recessionary years. The findings suggest that Washington residents have indeed lost their edge in UW admissions, and in fact may have been at a disadvantage in 2011.

One thought on “Are Residents Losing Their Edge in Public University Admissions? The Case at the University of Washington”

  1. I’ve made the comment elsewhere that as States and their taxpayers fail to support their public colleges and universities, the extraordinary affirmative action bias in accepting in-state residents becomes far less tenable, perhaps unconstitutional. It’s hard to make a diversity argument when 80% of your student body is in-state.
    Further, perhaps arguments can be made that colleges will be encouraging out-of-state residents because they pay more, but that is at best a short-term solution to budget restrictions. I would argue that as state support for public colleges and universities decline, like in Wisconsin, both the academic and financial burdens colleges and universities place on foreign and out-of-state residents cross the line to being unconstitutional as a burden on interstate commerce. Even now, I might want to argue that the burden is too great to constitutionally sustain. Foreign and out-of-state students pay exorbitantly more than in-state students, far in excess of the support given by taxpayers through the state budgets.
    From the UW System Fact book, non-residents pay between 2 and 3 times the amount of tuition that in-state students pay, 3 times for the Madison campus, and yet, the State supports the UW System at about 17%, far less than the 35% just a decade ago.

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