Thinking globally


Special to the Journal


Journal Staff Writer

LANSING -When the state cuts funding to public higher education, universities generally react by raising tuition. But a second option is to increase the number of out-of-state and international students who pay more to attend.

For example, Michigan State University charges about $12,000 for undergraduate state residents, But out-of-state and international students pay $32,000 $33,000 each year.

Michigan ranks 9th in the nation in the number of international students enrolled in the state’s 15 public universities, but only 45th in out-of-state enrollment.

At Northern Michigan University, the fall 2012 stats showed about 17.74 percent of students as out-of-state, according to Cindy Paavola, director of Communications and Marketing at NMU. The resident tuition for NMU, with between 24-36 credits, is $8,709.44. Out-of-state and international students pay $13,605.44, which includes the same number of credits as in-state students.

“Out-of-state and international students significantly help the local economy,” Paavola said. “And a lot of their spending doesn’t necessarily have to do with the university.”

She added that recruiting has been important in the recent recession and helps keep in-state tuition low.

“If they (out-of-state and international students) weren’t there and enrollment numbers dropped, we still have to cover the costs, so that creates a budget deficit and would push us to have higher in-state tuition,” Paavola said.

NMU also recruits in a style different from other universities, focusing more on “one-on-one” recruiting and looking at individuals instead of mass groups, Paavola said.

According to numbers provided by Paavola, NMU has remained fairly constant for the past 10 years as far as the percentage of in-state and out-of-state students. In 2011 81.4 percent of students were in-state, 17.4 percent were other states and 1.25 percent were international students, compared to 10 years ago when 84 percent were in-state, 15 percent out-of-state and 1.0 percent non-U.S.

According to Business Leaders for Michigan, based in Detroit, 9.4 percent of students in state universities come from other states.

About 30,000 out-of-state students are enrolled but they cluster at a few universities.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, 34 percent of University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s students are from another state, followed by Michigan Technological University with 20 percent and Northern Michigan University with 18 percent. By comparison, 98 percent of those at Oakland University are Michigan residents.

Michael Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said high tuition is the biggest factor that influences out-of-state enrollments.

“Each state has their own regional universities with lower tuitions, so why do they want to pay premium fees if they are not going to MSU or U-M? It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

Boulus also said that location is a factor because universities close to the borders find it easier to recruit out-of-state students.

“For example, Michigan Tech is a good engineering school close to Wisconsin, so there are many Wisconsin students studying there.”

At Michigan Tech, 614 of 1,400 out-of-state students are from Wisconsin. For the same reason, 819 of 1,600 Eastern Michigan University’s are from Ohio.

And Illinois is the state that sends the most students to all universities in Michigan, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.

The proportion of some universities’ in-state students has been shrinking, but not because of the increasing number of out-of-state and international students.

“The high school graduation rate is declining much faster than the enrollment rate does, so we don’t have enough in-state qualified candidates,” Boulus said. That means a larger percentage of in-state applicants get accepted.

He said that he encourages universities to enroll more out-of-state and international students.

“Our universities have the capacity for more students. At the same time, they bring the university more funds and let the students appreciate different cultures and languages,” he said. “The difficulty is how they can convince students and their parents to choose them.”

Paavola said there is a good mix of international students at NMU, which has a positive affect on campus by allowing students and NMU staff the opportunity to learn from each other’s cultures.

“We have world class academic programs at NMU,” Paavola said. “But the difference between us and other universities is that we pride ourselves on a lot of individualized student attention, allowing students to play a huge role in designing their own programs.”

This ideology appealed to Wenfei Kou, an international student from China who came to NMU in 2011 and will graduate with a degree in finance and risk management this spring.

“I had several reasons for coming to NMU,” Kou said. “The first being the tuition, which is very reasonable. Also, my university in China has a relationship with NMU, so I was able to transfer all of my credits.”

Once Kou graduates in May, he plans to go to graduate school at NMU and acquire a job working in his field.

“Every aspect of being at NMU is great,” Kou said. “There’s little crime, everyone is friendly and there is always something to do and people to meet.”

With more than 1,600 students coming from other states, Western Michigan University provides the Presidential Gold Scholarship for $9,000 or the Presidential Silver Scholarship for $7,000 to non-residents who qualify academically, according to Tony Ringuette in the admission office. And the university’s policy allows those from out-of-state to become eligible for Michigan residency after 12 consecutive months of living in Michigan and pay in-state tuition.

Similarly Central Michigan University also provides scholarships to outstanding out-of-state students who then pay the same tuition as in-state residents. The university said that opens the market to more nonresidents.

Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240. Her email address is Edith Zhou writes for Capital News Service at Michigan State University.Her email address is