(The New York Times, 30 July 2006)

Some states suffer student brain drain while others are magnets. Tuition, state policies and even skiing conditions factor into the collegiate popularity contest. A new report from the Department of Education shows how many first-time students left—and how many entered—each state to study for a degree or certificate in fall 2004.


Students in: 15,369 Students out: 4,195

Indications that cactus is the new ivy: 11,200 more first-time students entered Arizona than left. The appeal? Great weather, a hot economy and relatively low tuition (at the University of Arizona, $4,764 for residents, $14,970 for non). Students who reside in one of the 15 states participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange pay only one-and-a-half times the in-state tuition.


Students in: 32,057 Students out: 23,588

”The University of California attracts the best and the brightest because it was designed for the best and the brightest,” says David A. Longanecker, executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. So a large proportion of Californians stay home. But while the number pouring into the state in 2004 remained high, it was down 47 percent from 2000. The state has coped with a budget crisis and overcrowding with a series of increases in out-of-state rates, to about $25,000 a year at Davis, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. That matches private college prices.


Students in: 9,722 Students out: 14,580

Students in the state with the second highest median income–$86,000 for a family of four, slightly less than in New Jersey—can shop the nation for the perfect college, then load their books into their BMW’s and go. What about Yale, you say? About 350 Connecticut undergraduates enrolled at Yale last school year, half as many as from New York. ”Some students just want to get away from home and try to fly on their own,” observes Edward M. Elmendorf, an official with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.


Students in: 25,525 * Students out: 12,513

The average high temperature in Gainesville in February: 70 degrees. The average number of sunny days per year: 210. Any more questions?

* The report says in-migration is 32,299; the state says that number is based on incorrect data it submitted.


Students in: 13,380 Students out: 23,841

A lack of choices drives out Illinois students, says Diane R. Dean, an assistant professor at Illinois State University in Normal and a principal investigator for a state study on student migration due out this fall. ”Everything revolves around Chicago or Champaign-Urbana.” Also, she says, ”There is a steadily declining number of choices for the average student, because institutions below the top tier are increasing their selectivity to increase their rankings, and students aren’t getting in.” Neighboring states actively recruit Illinois’s average students, and some offer tuition reciprocity, Ms. Dean says. In May, the University of Illinois at Urbana dropped a plan to let in more out-of-state students after parents and guidance counselors objected to taking places away from Illinois students.


Students in: 27,300 Students out: 18,499

Iconic colleges like Harvard and Wellesley don’t go out of style, making Massachusetts—a state that educates more students in private than public colleges—a perennial importer. But it’s not the Athens of America any longer. ”We do not have as many students from other states coming to private colleges here, and it’s in part because of what some of those other states are doing in keeping students home,” says Richard Doherty, president of the state’s Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have improved their grant aid, while Massachusetts has done the opposite, prompting its own to defect to other states, he says.


Students in: 5,010 Students out: 2,247

Mississippi holds onto 93 percent of its students, the highest percentage in the country, partly because the median income for a family of four is $46,570, and many can’t afford to leave. Fifteen community colleges and eight public universities around the state offer rock bottom tuition ($4,110 at Ole Miss) and live-at-home opportunities, and educate about 70 percent of resident students.


Students in: 5,624 Students out: 32,208

Geography may be responsible for the sound of students being sucked out of New Jersey, in the largest outflow in the country. With hundreds of colleges on its fringes, out-of-state institutions can be closer than in-state ones. The University of Delaware captures most of New Jersey’s departing high school seniors, followed by New York University, Drexel, Penn State and Boston University. Not everyone is alarmed. ”A lot of people don’t feel it’s a major problem because we are among the highest in the nation in the number of bachelor’s degrees” held by residents, explains Jeanne M. Oswald, deputy executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education. ”It’s not as if we don’t have a highly educated workforce,” she says, noting that there’s no shortage of graduates wanting to live and work in New Jersey or commute to Philadelphia or New York. All this might be just as well considering that the state university system is bursting at the seams. Last year, about 20,000 students applied for 10,000 slots at New Jersey’s public colleges. Montclair State University and William Paterson University have had to house students in motels. The State Senate is considering a $2.7 billion bond initiative to finance expansion at both public and private colleges.


Students in: 36,633 Students out: 30,816

In the 1990’s, two factors helped New York outstrip Massachusetts as the state that attracts the most out-of-state students. ”’Sex and the City’ and ‘Seinfeld’ basically said that if you’re not in New York City, you’re nowhere,” says Abraham M. Lackman, president of the state’s Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities. And Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s cleanup efforts emboldened college-seekers. ”People started to look at New York as an out-of-state destination,” Mr. Lackman says, ”and when they went to the Barron’s guide, they discovered the Hamiltons, the Colgates, the Marists.” New York’s 147 private colleges absorb most of the surge, awarding 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in the state and about 70 percent of all master’s and doctorates.


Students in: 16,716 Students out: 6,856

Local colleges with national recognition like Duke and Wake Forest draw out-of-staters. Cheap public tuition–$4,600 a year for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—keeps North Carolinians home. ”Many states have provisions in their constitutions that say that tuition should be as close to free as possible,” says Travis Reindl, director for state policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. ”Nobody takes it seriously anymore except North Carolina.”


Students in: 14,238 Students out: 15,458

Turn-offs to would-be Ohio students: steadily increasing out-of-state rates ($19,018 for its flagship university) and Ohio’s image as an old economy state struggling to find its way in the 21st century (read: a poor location to begin a career). Some 8,000 fewer out-of-state students enrolled in 2004 than in 2000. Yet 87 percent of residents stay for college because, says Darrell Glenn, director of performance reporting for the Ohio Board of Regents, ”we’re a big state, and you don’t have to leave to see something different.” Internal enrollment is actually increasing slightly as two-year colleges grow and Ohio State improves its academic reputation.


Students in: 31,880 Students out: 19,034

This popular state has something for everyone: 102 private colleges (elite ones like the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore, or mid-tier liberal arts cocoons like Allegheny College and Ursinus College), 19 state colleges, 14 community colleges and 16 theological seminaries.


Students in: 17,624 Students out: 19,081

Out-of-state enrollment is down in a big way: 38 percent fewer first-timers in 2004 than in 2000. They may have been deterred by tuition increases of almost $7,000 at flagship campuses, thanks to budget cuts and legislation in 2003 that made public colleges free to set their own prices. More Texans are leaving, too. Graduates in the top 10 percent of their high school class get first dibs at state schools. That means less room for strong students from good schools who rank lower—or at least the perception that their chances are diminished.


Students in: 4,336 Students out: 2,849

With about half of all Vermonters originally from somewhere else, locals think nationally when it comes to selecting a college: 58 percent go out of state. How does under-populated Vermont lure replacements? ”Skiing is one thing,” says Donald R. Vickers, president of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

Read this article at the New York Times.