This past week, Wayne State University in Detroit announced that it will extend in-state tuition to admitted students from the Great Lakes states — Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and Ontario, Canada beginning in January 2014. Wayne State offers in-state tuition to veterans and undocumented students, and the new policy will give the same offer to a wider range of individuals. Students affected by the policy can now save an average of $13,000 for 30 credits a year.
Ninety-five percent of the students at Wayne State are from Michigan, and enrollment has been steadily decreasing since 2009. The new tuition policy was implemented in the hope to attract more students to the university. Wayne State Provost Margaret Winters told the Detroit Free Press that the lowered tuition fees may draw more students to the university “beyond our normal recruitment area, and become better known in other states.” Winters also added that the new policy keep the university competitive: “All our competition has spread their areas more widely. We needed to remain competitive with them.”
In addition to drawing students to Wayne State, the lowered tuition rates will also draw more people to the city of Detroit. In the last several decades, Detroit has been experiencing economic decline and a rapid decrease in population. In the last decade alone, population has decreased by about 25 percent. By enticing more potential students to Wayne State, a wider range of individuals can gain exposure to the city. Increasing exposure to the city can simultaneously increase awareness of Detroit’s thriving culture beyond the common misconceptions and stereotypes of the Motor City. As new students live, learn and engage with Detroit, they can form ties with community organizations, take part in local internships and contribute to the city’s economy.
Though Wayne State’s new tuition policy is an excellent way to invite more students to the area, the lack of similar policies nearby may undermine the university’s efforts. A successful program implemented in western states called the Western Undergraduate Exchange allows students to apply to more than 140 colleges and universities at a reduced tuition rate. The success of the program lies in the ability to bring together several institutions, so that they all benefit from building an educated workforce and increasing the diversity of their student body. Adopting a similar program in the Midwest would allow more students to seek affordable education outside of their home state, and would strengthen the program at Wayne State.
Despite the lack of other institutions participating in a collective program, Wayne State’s efforts to provide affordable education to a wider range of students is notable. College and university prices across the country have been steadily increasing. Here at the University, in-state tuition has increased about 40 percent since 2004. The constant rise in tuition prices sends a clear message: that institutions will maintain a rigid structure with little regard for student’s needs. Wayne State is sending us a new message. With prices constantly increasing and higher education becoming less accessible, Wayne State is taking the initiative to solve these pressing issues. Hopefully, more institutions can follow their example to provide solutions for the steadily increasing cost of higher education.