For years, cost has been one of the main problems limiting students from a college education. In particular, students settle for a school other than the best one into which they are accepted due to high price tags. Much of this problem has to do with out-of-state tuition being higher than in-state tuition. This pressures students to remain in-state, even if out-of-state schools offer better education.
According to U.S. News and World Report, 28 states do not have a top-50 university and 18 states do not have a top-100 university. For residents of these states, finding a high-quality college education may not be an option, as the differences between in- and out-of-state tuition can be substantial. Take, for example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. U.S. News and World Report ranks it as the 30th-best university in the U.S. and the fifth-best public university in the United States. Its in-state tuition is $7,694 per year, but its out-of-state tuition is $28,446 — that’s nearly four times as high.
These high differences in tuition costs discourage students from attending the best school. Not only is this price discrimination unfair, it hurts these individuals in the long run. This can lead to lower-quality education, and, therefore, lower-paying, less successful careers for these individuals. Lower-quality educations also hurt the economy, as a lesser educated workforce is usually a less productive workforce.
Instead, the practice of discriminating against students by charging more for out-of-state tuition should be stopped. This will level the playing field, improve fairness and lead to a better education system. Under such a plan, all students in the country will have access to the best schools. This will also produce more competition among schools, driving costs down and quality up. Under the current system, the best public university in each state has an advantage in attracting in-state students. Thus, there is little incentive for these schools to drive down the cost of attendance or to improve its quality of education further due to a lack of competition from comparable schools. Removing these schools’ cost advantages against out-of-state schools for students will give these schools a greater incentive to lower their costs and to improve.
Currently, states are afraid to practice such measures as they worry about their students having costs unfairly slated against them. If just one state charged the same price for in-state and out-of-state students but the others did not, then the students of that state will have to compete with students from out of state to go to that state’s public schools, but will still have to pay out of state tuition if they themselves go out of state. This could lead to these students failing to get into their state’s best public school and not having the money to go to other states’ best schools, leading to a decline in the average education that state’s students receive. The way to get around this problem is to have all states stop their price discrimination with a federal law.
States may worry that this would lead to students, and therefore money, leaving their states as students go to other states for college. This would largely be counteracted by students from other states coming to that state’s own schools. If states want to attract more students and money into their own states, then they should improve their academics at their universities to attract students from other states. This could also solve other problems, such as the controversy of whether to charge undocumented immigrants in-state or out-of-state tuition. Instead of wasting time having this debate, just getting rid of out of state tuition should solve this problem. It’s long overdue that we pass tuition equality, but late is better than never.
Michael Puskar is an LSA sophomore.