Tuition Rich, Mission Poor: Nonresident Enrollment Growth and the Socioeconomic and Racial Composition of Public Research Universities
Abstract

Many public research universities fail to enroll a critical mass of low-income and under-represented minority (URM) students. Though founded with a commitment to access, public research universities face pressure to increase tuition revenue and to recruit high-achieving students. These pressures create an incentive to recruit nonresident students, who tend to pay more tuition and score higher on admissions exams, but who also tend to be richer and are less likely be Black or Latino. This paper examines whether the growing share of nonresident students was associated with a declining share of low-income and URM students at public research universities. Institution-level panel models revealed that growth in the proportion of nonresident students was associated with a decline in the proportion of low-income students. This negative relationship was stronger at prestigious universities and at universities in high-poverty states. Growth in the proportion of nonresident students was also associated with a decline in the proportion of URM students. This negative relationship was stronger at prestigious universities, universities in states with large minority populations, and universities in states with affirmative action bans. These findings yield insights about the changing character of public research universities and have implications for the campus climate experienced by low-income and URM students.


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