A good education is an investment. However, many prospective students might not be willing or able to pay the outrageous cost of tuition for universities outside their home state. This system of jacking up out-of-state tuition unfairly excludes students looking for the experiences only a specific university can provide.
Luckily, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is addressing this issue. Throughout 2018, the Nebraska Commission of 150 engaged in a dialogue about the future of UNL. The members of this commission, which includes over 150 faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members appointed by Ronnie Green, recently released their report outlining a refined vision and new goals for the school.
One such goal was to be the first university to have one base tuition for all students, both in state and out of state. This would be a huge step toward expanding accessibility to prospective nonresident students and putting UNL on the map as a destination for students outside the state of Nebraska.
The university should work toward achieving this goal and lead the way for other institutions by getting rid of higher prices for out-of-state tuition. An equal tuition for all would improve accessibility and affordability while also encouraging more nonresidents to attend UNL.
The gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition is unfair to nonresidents. While UNL has the second lowest gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition in the Big Ten at about $15,795 annually, this gap is still far too high. Students who want to come to Nebraska from outside the state have to pay three times as much as residents for the exact same education.
This difference between in- and out-of-state tuition rates makes a four-year degree from the University of Nebraska $63,180 more expensive for nonresidents than for Nebraskans. Scholarships can only go so far, and this high price tag excludes many nonresidents who can’t afford the difference.
By setting one baseline tuition rate, UNL could attract a wider spectrum of students to admit. UNL is currently under the national average in ethnic diversity, and Nebraska residents make up 82 percent of the undergraduate student body. Admitting students from more diverse states would likely help accomplish this goal.
Aside from diversifying campus, creating a single base tuition rate would also help students whose home states can’t provide the opportunities UNL does.
In many cases, students have to go out of state to find the right college for them. For example, students from South Dakota make up three percent of UNL’s undergraduates. This is likely because South Dakota lacks a university of the same size as UNL, so students seeking the experiences of a large university choose to travel south for school. However, that also means they are subject to higher tuition rates despite their own state not having the resources they need.
One of the reasons universities don’t currently set one tuition rate is that out-of-state tuition compensates for the fact that these students are paying taxes in states other than Nebraska. The extra money they pay for tuition is necessary for bolstering budgets that can’t be supported by federal funding and in-state tuition.
Because of this, dropping out-of-state tuition will likely result in tuition rises for Nebraska residents. While it might be said that an increase in tuition for native Nebraskans is an unreasonable price to pay for more nationwide inclusivity, the opinions and perspectives of students from outside the confines of Nebraska are required to be a world-class institution. Currently, UNL is maintaining the status quo without having a robust number of out-of-staters rather than simply decreasing out-of-state tuition.
While there are alternative methods to lure out-of-state students, evening the tuition is almost certainly an effective option. Though other Big Ten schools have been able to draw in nonresident students despite the extra cost, Nebraska has yet to prove it can do so without taking new approaches to appeal to nonresidents. It would be nice to imagine students coming to Nebraska simply for our academic and athletic prowess, however UNL needs to find a new way to attract out-of-state students in order to have a dynamic and diverse student body. Equalizing tuition would likely be an effective option to get more out-of-staters.
Out-of-state tuition is a clear form of exclusion that survives due to its profitability. UNL has an opportunity to not only improve accessibility and affordability, but also be the first college with one inclusive tuition. This would be a wonderful step toward UNL becoming a world-class institution with a diverse student body that is accessible to all students, not just those who are already here.