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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

Nonresident Applications Drop 19.5 Percent at CU

Applications from nonresidents are down 19.5 percent

February 24, 2009

By Berny Morson - Rocky Mountain News

Out-of-state student applications to the University of Colorado's Boulder campus are down sharply, a victim of the recession, school officials say.

The 19.5 percent decrease from last year could mean trouble for a school that depends on the higher tuition out-of-state students pay. At $223 million this year, out-of-state tuition is the biggest income source for the Boulder campus - almost as much as resident tuition and state funding combined.

School officials cautioned Monday that the drop in applications does not mean the number of freshmen - resident or non resident - will be down next fall.

"I don't want to press that panic button," said chief financial officer Rick Porreca. The applicant pool is large enough to produce an adequate freshman class, he said.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, vice chairman of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee, said the financially strapped state has no money to bail out CU if out-of-state revenue declines.

"This is an early warning sign," Pommer said. "I think you have to take this very seriously."

Boulder campus admissions director Kevin MacLennan said the recession is also battering in-state students. Colorado resident applications are down 6 percent.

"Students are waiting to see how the finances come together (for their families)," MacLennan said. "These are kind of unprecedented times in terms of what families are dealing with in terms of the challenges."

More parents of applicants are asking to speak to the financial aid office, MacLennan said. The economy was a major topic among high school counselors he met with Monday.

Overall, applications from residents and nonresidents are down to 19,165, from 22,453 at this time last year.

The nonresident applications dropped from 14,239 to 11,456. Resident applications are down from 8,214 last year to 7,709.

The figures could change as new applications come in, MacLennan said.

At Colorado State University, nonresident applications are up slightly, from 6,239 to 6,416 over this time last year.

The University of Northern Colorado is seeing a decline in nonresident applications to 916 from 1,080 at this time last year.

CU officials and some lawmakers have been concerned for several years that research institutions like CU, CSU and UNC are becoming too dependent on non- resident tuition as state funding declines as a percentage of the total budget.

At CU, out-of-state undergraduates pay $26,756 a year in tuition, compared to $7,278 for residents. Tuition is even higher in professional schools, such as engineering and business.

The percentage of out-of-state students has edged up from 31.4 percent in fall 2006, to 33.9 percent last fall.

The number of applications last year was a record and produced a record class of 5,833 freshmen.

So far, this year's number of applicants is similar to the one that produced the 2007 freshman class - a record at the time of 5,555 students.

A decline in the number of out- of-state students to 2007 levels would cost CU $25 million at a time when the CU system is being asked to absorb $8 million of the state's recession-driven cuts.

"We would be in a difficult spot (if that happens), but I don't want to say we're absolutely headed there now," Porreca said.

© Rocky Mountain News