Phi Beta Cons

A Cap on Out-of-Staters Disappears

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has eliminated its limit on out-of-state students, previously capped at 27.5 percent of the student body. Because out-of-staters pay about $20,000 more than in-state students, this is one way to cope with the recent $250 million cut in the university’s budget.

But there’s more. Removal of the cap will lead to a higher-caliber student body because the school can draw from a large pool of applicants—from around the country and the world. That is attractive to the university because it enhances reputation. Removal could even boost its position on the U.S. News list of best colleges, where it is currently No. 11 among “best public universities.”

Nearby University of Michigan has had no cap for years (it is No. 4 on the list). In 2014, more than half of all Michigan students were from out-of-state. The biggest group came from China. 

Of course, this move has political ramifications. If few students within the state can get into the flagship, why should their parents pay taxes for the school? It’s a question that they are asking in Virginia, which currently has no cap, and it’s periodically raised in North Carolina, where the cap is 18 percent.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...


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