Monday, December 17, 2012

Resident preference in UW admissions is threatened

It used to be that Washington state residents enjoyed a decided preference in admission to the University of Washington; that preference is now gone. As state financial support for public universities faltered in recent years, the UW, like some of its peer institutions around the country, plugged budget gaps by filling more spots with higher-paying nonresidents.

In 2010, residents made up 73% of the freshman class, dropping to 66% in 2011, and then nudging up to 67% in 2012. These findings come from a new paper published by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell.

In “Are Residents Losing Their Edge in Public University Admissions? The Case at the University of Washington,” researchers Grant Blume and Marguerite Roza examine UW admissions data from 2011 and 2012 to try to quantify the difference in admissions standards for residents versus nonresidents. While the applicant pools for the two groups differ, the study analyzed admissions data in order to compare standards for the two groups. While the findings are nuanced, it appears that for students on the margin of being accepted in 2011, out-of-state applicants had a slight edge over in-state applicants.

By 2012, after the legislature mandated a minimum of 4,000 resident spots for freshmen, the admission standards for both residents and nonresidents had leveled such that residents had no disadvantage, but still enjoyed no preference either.

Financial pressures on state universities create strong incentives to admit higher-paying out-of-state students. However, as the authors suggest, there are other ways state universities can fill budget gaps while maintaining a preference for in-state students.

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This study is part of the “Rapid Response” brief series, designed to bring relevant fiscal analyses to policymakers amidst the current economic crisis.