The University of North Carolina (UNC) System Board of Governors gave permission to five public universities, including East Carolina University, to increase the cap on out-of-state acceptance for new classes.
UNC System Vice President for Communications Jane Stancill wrote in an email statement the cap on out-of-state students as incoming freshmen was increased from 18% to 25%. Another five universities, not including ECU, were given the opportunity to increase their out-of-state cap in 2021, Stancill wrote, and the same policy was extended to five more universities this year.
“The policy was meant to strengthen the institutions and attract more talent to the state, while not diminishing opportunities for North Carolinians,” Stancill wrote. “The policy was a success.”
Stancill wrote she expects the population of high school graduates in North Carolina to decline in the coming years, and the UNC System universities will allow more out-of-state students to accommodate for the decrease.
NC’s public institutions are in high demand outside of the state due to low costs and high quality education, Stancill wrote.
The new out-of-state cap was only implemented in universities meeting the demand of students within the state, Stancill wrote, so admissions competition will not be affected by the change.
“It (admitting more out-of-state students) makes sense for our universities to admit additional, qualified out-of-state students in order to maintain healthy enrollment and attract new talent to North Carolina,” Stancill wrote.
Financial Aid Counselor for ECU Summer Edwards said out-of-state students pay higher tuition because in-state residents have a taxpayer benefit from the state of North Carolina.
“When it comes to overall financial aid, it is extremely hard for the financial aid office to package together enough financial aid to totally offset the cost of out-of-state tuition, especially when students are living on campus,” Edwards said
Students coming to the university from out of state usually have to find some other way of paying for their education, such as private loans or using their savings, Edwards said.
Out-of-state students are put at a disadvantage when it comes to scholarship options, Edwards said.
“When donors set up scholarships at the university, they get to outline certain qualities they are looking for in a scholarship recipient,” Edwards said. “Most of the donors have chosen the student must be an in-state student, so that is another kind of barrier because we don’t have those scholarship reserves for out-of-state students.”
There are also certain state grants that are only available to students that are in-state residents, Edwards said.
In-state and out-of-state students, however, receive financial aid only based on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Edwards said.
“For institutional funds like ECU grants or federal funds like Pell Grants or Stafford loans, it does not matter if the student is in or out of state,” Edwards said. “Financial aid is only based on the FAFSA outcome.”
Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director for Undergraduate Admissions Stephanie Whaley said out-of-state students provide more diversity to universities.
Students from outside of NC can have unique lived experiences, personalities and skills not seen as often in in-state students, Whaley said.
“The fact that we have the ability to recruit more out-of-state students really helps us to diversify our incoming class,” Whaley said. “Definitely, the increase in the out-of-state cap is a huge gift to us from the (UNC) System because that gives us a little more creativity in trying to recruit our first-year classes.”
In-state students are still prioritized in freshman admissions, Whaley said, and public universities in NC will almost never turn away a qualified in-state applicant.
The out-of-state cap was increased due to a dip in applicants inside the state, Whaley said, and the number of high school graduates is expected to sharply decrease in 2026, 18 years after the 2008 recession.
“In 2008, our country went through a recession, and family size in our country began to shrink,” Whaley said. “2026 will be the first year we see the results of this.”
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