STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
We're spending time this week looking at higher education and the economy. More students are choosing state universities for an affordable education, and many can do that even if it is not their state. The tradition was that state residents get an education cheap while out-of-state students pay a lot more, but there's stiff competition to get the best students. So now some public universities are cutting or even eliminating out-of-state tuition. NPR's Claudio Sanchez has more.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Southern Illinois University Carbondale is by all accounts a pretty good school - with 20,000 students, a dental school and a medical school - but in the last few years SIU has been losing students.
GLENN POSHARD: We're sending more of our students out of state than almost any other state in the nation.
SANCHEZ: SIU President Glenn Poshard.
POSHARD: Many Southern Illinois students are attracted to schools in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri simply because their tuition is lower and being accorded in-state tuition from those states.
SANCHEZ: So beginning next fall, out-of-state students attending SIU will pay $5,700 in tuition, the same as Illinois students. That's a huge savings, about $10,000 for nonresidents. It's about competition, says Poshard.
POSHARD: It is about economics, in a sense, but it's also about having a mixture of students from all over the country, from all over the world.
SANCHEZ: Last year, over 100 public colleges and universities were members of regional agreements that eliminated or cut nonresident tuition. Students from Alabama and Georgia, for example, pay a lot less to attend the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Consider the case of Cal-State University, East Bay. It has cut tuition for students from Oregon, Washington, Montana and a dozen other Western states, says Kim Geron, political science professor at the Hayward California School.
KIM GERON: I mean they're recruiting in Colorado, you know. I mean not that they're recruiting large numbers, but their tuition is lower than if they went to an in-state school in Colorado.
SANCHEZ: Geron says nonresident students pay only $4,700 a year, rather than the $11,500 they would have paid otherwise. But some say that means California students are losing out.
LILLIAN TAIZ: We are turning away 10,000 students this year and we'll most likely do it next year, given the current trends in funding.
SANCHEZ: Lillian Taiz is president of the California Faculty Association. She says there's been a surge of out-of-state students at most of the 23 Cal-State campuses. Cutting or eliminating out-of-state tuition may make sense for some parts of the country, she says, but not California, not now.
TAIZ: So at a very moment when we are turning our own students away, whose families are paying taxes in-state and helping to keep the system afloat, to import students from other states simply doesn't make any sense.
SANCHEZ: California has a budget deficit of more than $40 billion, and the state's colleges are facing unprecedented cuts. So California students aren't just getting bumped from four-year schools; Taiz says many aren't even finding seats in the state's overcrowded community colleges.
TAIZ: It's a really strange, perverse kind of policy when you have thousands and thousands of students in-state who need the access and who without the access are really not going to help the state flourish.
SANCHEZ: Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.
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