MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
It used to be that if you were a high school senior and you had good grades, a decent SAT score, played a sport or an instrument, maybe did some volunteer work, that was enough to pretty much guarantee you a spot at your local state university. Well, not anymore. That's because so many public universities are cash-strapped these days, so they're courting out of state students because they pay higher tuition fees than in-state students.
We're joined by Barmak Nassirian. He is with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. And welcome. Thanks for coming in.
Mr. BARMAK NASSIRIAN (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers): Thank you.
KELLY: So let me start by asking you, how widespread a trend is this?
Mr. NASSIRIAN: I think it's fair to describe it as a national trend. Most public institutions have experienced better than two years of budget cuts by now. They are often very restricted in terms of how much they can increase tuition for their in-state students. So out-of-state applicants have become particularly appealing to them just as a matter of balancing their budgets.
KELLY: So this is a trend across the country, not focused in any particular area?
Mr. NASSIRIAN: I would say it's a very detectable trend. Obviously, it has variations. Some places are significantly more selective than others, but in general, the one statement that I do think is true is that most public institutions are far more selective today than they were 10 or 20 years ago.
KELLY: And we're talking about this trend of state schools increasingly looking to out-of-state residents because they pay more money. Can you give us any sense of to what degree that's happening? Is this a tiny thing around the margins or is this a big deal, a big trend?
Mr. NASSIRIAN: This is a feature of the dysfunctional ways in which the publics are funded�
KELLY: The public universities are funded�
Mr. NASSIRIAN: �the public universities are funded by their respective states, because of course precisely at the point where families who have arguably paid into the system with state taxes for years, sometimes decades, it's at the point that they need these institutions the most that the institutions are least able to meet the demand. Why? Because the states tend to fund these institutions on an annual basis, and Governor Schwarzenegger�
KELLY: In California.
Mr. NASSIRIAN: �in California has proposed a fairly utopian idea of restoring higher education back to what it used to be 30 years ago, when 10 percent of the state's budget used to go to higher ed.
KELLY: Let me ask you about academic standards and how that factors in here. Is it true that students applying from out-of-state are going to be held to a higher academic standard than those applying in-state? How does that work?
Mr. NASSIRIAN: That has been true always and it remains true clear across the board. In-state applicants have better odds of being admitted to their respective state institutions. So what we are talking about is not so much that public institutions are going to now favor out-of-state applicants. It's just that they will take larger numbers of them than they have historically.
KELLY: So bottom line, if you're a student polishing your resume and sending it off with your application, hoping for admission to your state university, any tips, anything they should be doing to help guarantee or help insure their success with that application?
Mr. NASSIRIAN: Well, I mean at one level the advice I can given them is fairly obvious and perhaps even trite - you know, study, study, study. Be as well prepared as you can be, academically and otherwise, because that is the coin of the realm when it comes to admissions. In good times and bad, better prepared students, students who can document their progress over time, will be viewed more favorably.
And as much as we are disappointed with the overall budgetary situation when it comes to public higher education, it remains true that in the United States, any student who seeks to access higher education still can do so, and the last thing I want to do is to give any sense that that has fundamentally changed, because there is a place for everybody who seeks one.
KELLY: Be flexible and look around...
Mr. NASSIRIAN: Absolutely, do your homework.
KELLY: That's Barmak Nassirian. He is associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions officers; he joined me in our studios in Washington. Thanks so much for coming in.
Mr. NASSIRIAN: My pleasure.
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